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Stopping tulip bulbs being eaten

Voles ate a lot of my tulips last year. I buy and plant 100's of them and am busy planning what to buy this year but about 60% of them get eaten hence I want to solve this problem as I cannot put them all in pots. I have been told they won't eat them if
A) I mix them with oyster shells, garlic and cayenne pepper flakes
B) soak them briefly in tonic water
Has anyone tried either of these methods and if so was it successful?



  • a1154a1154 Posts: 1,106
    No, never heard of that and it doesn’t sound too hopeful. I too an overrun with voles. I don’t dislike them, but I do wish they were less destructive. I have given up growing beans and peas as they are eaten immediately. I find other things to grow they don’t touch. They haven never eaten anything in the onion family, so I ok growing allium bulbs, maybe you want to experiment.  
    If it must be tulips, maybe find out when they are eating them? As soon as they are in, or do you get a good showing, then happens over summer? Are you taking them out after flowering and finding them nibbled, or you just get one season then they are gone?
  • wrighttwrightt Posts: 234
    They just disappear it I plant 100 I only get about 25 come up. they can get eaten when they come up by other creatures but I have falcons and owls who can turn their heads and I  move these around quite a lot. I know voles like them so I suspect they eat them under the ground as most of them disappear where the voles are. I have no problem the beans and peas as I grow them in modules and then plant them in  raised beds.
  • wrighttwrightt Posts: 234
    I forgot to say I will try both methods this year and will update everyone if either works or not.
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,422
    It might not be practical for 100s but maybe try planting a few clumps in those fine mesh pond-plant baskets then sink them into the ground? Or would the voles just eat straight through them to get at the bulbs?
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • wrighttwrightt Posts: 234
    I tried doing this but .as soon as they got though the wire mesh they vanished and I found that they can make a hole in pond baskets and special tulip baskets and eat them before they start growing 
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,422
    Oh well.  I hope your methods work for you. If they don't like the smell/taste of alliums, maybe the garlic will put them off.
    If you have an out-of-the-way space, could you grow them in plastic pots and then plunge the pots into the border (or plant out the tulips like you would if you'd bought potted ones in the spring) when they're about to flower? More work though.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • wrighttwrightt Posts: 234
    Yes but I do not want to keep planting plastic into the ground and I grow 100s of them so will need loads and loads of pots. So I will try the mixture and the tonic and see which one works.
  • HelixHelix Posts: 631
    We have a big vole problem so much sympathy.  I’ve been trying to get narcissus poeticus to naturalise in a grassy area and plant about 50 each year of which maybe 5 survive!

    This year an apple grower told me that they don’t like guanumus, which is a fertilizer made of fish guano.  So we have been using a handful of that instead of blood fish & bone in planting holes.  So far nothing has been eaten, but a bit early to tell.  Not sure what the brand would be in the UK but I’m sure it exists.  And it stinks!
  • wrighttwrightt Posts: 234
    I have neve had a problem with Narcissus just Tulips which they seem to prefer.
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,384
    What type of tulips are they?  For most of the fancy ones, a 40% return in the 2nd year would be quite good, voles or not.  'Botanical' (aka 'species') tulips are reliable if happy with the conditions and will multiply.  That is explained quite well on this page, which also lists some of the best types of cultivated varieties for reliably 'coming back':
    Apologies if you knew all of this! :)

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
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