A Cunning Plan

It’s bulb planting time.

As regular readers will recall, I’ve had little success with bulbs to date. Every single one that I’ve planted since we’ve been here has been eaten by mice. And for me that’s rather a shame, for a garden bereft of spring bulbs is a sorry thing indeed.

The tally of mice having scuttled the wrong way around the back of terrace bed now stands at 42 and yet still the damage goes on. Over the summer all of my new acquisitions and everything I’ve moved has been undermined. Sometimes I can just push back a rootball and the surrounding soil and all will be well. But bulbs and tubers are invariably consumed. My theory is that rodents are attracted by the newly disturbed soil. Hence the cunning plan. I sunk a test wire mesh cage back in Spring and so far it does seem to have gone undisturbed. Workshop production has been stepped up.



Mike’s latest design.


The AW2015 version achieves a level of sophistication again. It sports a strengthened upper edge and even a lid.

The plan is to bury the bulbs inside the cage and then, just under the soil surface, attach the lid. I can bend the little prongs under the top edge of the cage itself to make sure that it stays on tight, protecting the bulbs on all sides until they start to grow. And then in Spring we can carefully remove the lids with minimal disturbance to the soil.


Could it work? Might I even have bulbs blooming in the garden next year?

Just call me Baldrick.


2018-04-22T19:01:44+00:00October 3rd, 2014|Tags: , |


  1. Jo October 3, 2014 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    It will be interesting to see if it works, if it does, Mike may need to patent the design. This could be the one which makes your millions.

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Wouldn’t that be nice! Thanks Jo.

  2. Helen Johnstone October 3, 2014 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    My understanding is that narcissus are poisonous so they should do alright but you will probably tell me your experience is otherwise!
    You could also grow in pond baskets and then once they have started to shoot plant them out in the border. Personally I find the iris reticulata challenging to get to flower in the border so I plant them in pots. They need very good drainage and a summer bake or they just rot away so it might not all be down to the micekins.

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      There are daffodils around here, planted by my predecessor, so I’m sure that’s right. But nothing else. Thanks for the tip on the iris. If the cages don’t work I will be left with no option but to plant everything in pots!

  3. Julieanne Porter (@GwenfarsGarden) October 3, 2014 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    This sounds like a very cunning plan, and will be interesting to see how it goes. What a shame you have to go to such lengths though.

    PS. Love the description of the AW2015!

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      If any future resident goes around here with a metal detector they’ll have a whale of a time..

  4. Suzanne Dutchess County, NY, USA October 3, 2014 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Yes this should work! Now what about the tops being pecked by the darned pheasant! I remember it fancies the frittalarias.

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:07 pm - Reply

      He does. But I still have the cage that I put over the top to protect them.. it’s not pretty though.

  5. marigold jam October 3, 2014 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Brilliant idea – would it work with badgers I wonder?! You could be onto a winner if so.

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:10 pm - Reply

      Not sure about badgers. They’d probably be able to scratch off the lid. Apparently there was a sett here in the past, but I’ve never found it.

  6. Mark and Gaz October 3, 2014 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    Clever idea and cross fingers it will work (most likely it will)!

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      I hope so. Not sure what the next solution will be..

  7. Amy at love made my home October 3, 2014 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    A cunning plan indeed, but…… why are you going to remove the lids? The bulbs will sprout out through them and if you want to move them you can just dig the whole thing up in any case? Just wondered. Anyway, I really hope that it works and that you have a beautiful display!! xx

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      The gaps between the wire are not very big. I’d like to have used chicken wire but mice can get through that. Smaller bulbs will probably be OK, but something like a tulip would most likely have its growth restricted. If it works then in future I’ll probably have to ‘re-pot’ the bulbs but as you say, all I’ll need to do then is dig up the cage.

  8. Marian St.Clair October 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    Fingers crossed for you! I’ve just found voles in my hostas, so I know how you feel.

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:18 pm - Reply

      Oh no! The slugs put an end to my hosta aspirations long ago, so that’s a problem I don’t have 🙁

  9. SeagullSuzie October 3, 2014 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    I agree that spring bulbs are lovely, so it’s worth the effort you and your inventive husband are going too, I really hope it works after all this!

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks Suzie. Who knew that living in the country would be such a bloomin’ pain?

  10. Rosie October 3, 2014 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Great idea! I do hope it works on keeping those pesky mice away from your precious spring bulbs:)

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rosie. Me too, we’ll keep on trying.

  11. Simone October 3, 2014 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    Mike needs to get that on Dragon’s Den! It seems like a great idea!

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      If it works, definitely! I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in Spring.

  12. Alison October 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    I think your cunning idea just might work! I’ll be crossing my fingers for you.

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      I do hope so. Mice are such a problem. Thanks Alison.

  13. Joanne October 3, 2014 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    Looks like a super idea, I really hope it works for you.

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm - Reply

      Looks like we could be keeping B&Q in business for a little while yet.. wire mesh and wire clippers 🙁

  14. Charlie@Seattle Trekker October 3, 2014 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    I have a similar problem so I am really impressed with your information-tip. I am going to test this to see if I can get it to work as well.

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      I hope it works for you too Charlie. We must compare notes. Those mice/voles are such a pain. It’s cost me a small fortune in bulbs so far.

  15. wherefivevalleysmeet October 3, 2014 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    Sounds a neat idea – good luck with Mike’s ingenious little cages.

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rosemary. It’ll be so good to see bulbs poking up next year.

  16. Anna October 3, 2014 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    How cunning 🙂 I will keep my fingers crossed for the future wellbeing of your bulbs Jessica. Squirrels are the problem here and similar Heath Robinesque devices have been most effective. The only drawback being the human memory which has not been programmed to remind me to cover up at this time of year as aforesaid squirrels are now burying conkers in last year’s containers.

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:37 pm - Reply

      Oh, don’t get me going on squirrels. They’re out every day digging up the lawn. I put a couple of small terracotta pots with alpines in them on the soil of another large pot, to keep them off the ground. And blow me if the little blighters haven’t climbed up and got at them there.

  17. Janet/Plantaliscious October 3, 2014 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    I have faith! I think that’s a genius idea, Mike should patent it!

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      Wouldn’t it be ironic if the mice earned us an income one day..

  18. Haggiz October 3, 2014 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    I love that I’ve been absent for four months and return to find you are still full of enthusiasm and plans to beat nature! Jx

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      Not much changes round here does it, although ‘full of enthusiasm’ may be stretching it a bit..
      Welcome back Julie x

  19. 1secondhandrose October 3, 2014 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    Fantastic! I’m confident it’ll work :o) Patent it QUICK!
    Rose H

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      Fear not. I’ll have plenty of witnesses if anyone tries to nick the idea!! Thanks Rose.

  20. Freda October 3, 2014 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    You do have cats I take it?

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 10:04 pm - Reply

      Nope, no cats.

  21. Virginia October 3, 2014 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    They look like they should work, but I wonder, as you mentioned having to take off the lid to accommodate the growth of tulips, whether Mike had tried making an alternative lid with a smallish central hole to either substitute as the stalk grew or to put on in the beginning for tulips? AW2016,17 &18 coming up!!

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      Inspired idea! I will mention it to him Virginia. Possibly after another glass of wine… 😉

  22. CJ October 3, 2014 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    Oh clever, clever. What do you do with all the mice? I disturbed a mouse at the allotment this week. He was living behind the shed and slipped into the new wooden slatted compost bin. He was a really big mouse. I like to think of him as a water vole. I refused to use the “r” word. Good luck with the bulbs, I hope there’s lots of spring colour for you next year. CJ xx

    • Jessica October 3, 2014 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      Eeek… big mice! My preference would have been to use live traps but sadly they really don’t work (we’ve tried). So we have had to resort to the ‘Little Nippers’ I’m afraid. Given the scale of the infestation the alternative is just not to garden, or grow any food. I don’t want a cat and surely, for the mouse, that would be far less humane.

  23. Linda from Each Little World October 4, 2014 at 1:25 am - Reply

    Certainly worth a try. I’ve had problems with critters on top of the ground but not mice. I have not lost any blooming daffs or trout lilies or crocus to rabbits etc the way I have tulips and Frits.

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 9:47 am - Reply

      I guess I need to get a lot smarter at planting things that have been shown to be critter resistant. That and a combination of physical barriers.

  24. Helene October 4, 2014 at 2:08 am - Reply

    Ah, when I saw your first photo, the first thing that popped into my mind was SQUIRRELS! Maybe I have squirrels on my brain, but those cages would possibly be good for stopping the squirrels eating the bulbs in my garden. But do you thing they will stop the mice? When I had mice under my floor boards I had to plug every single hole in my ground floor the size of a Biro pen or larger, if the pen could get through then the mice could too, according to Rentokil. I hope the cages work, looking forward to your report, kudos to your husband for not giving up. Now, if only I could find something to stop the squirrels having the 500 crocuses I am about to plant at the bottom of my garden for lunch over the winter…..

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 9:51 am - Reply

      I hope the holes in the mesh are small enough to keep the mice out, they are about biro size. Also, the cages will be full of soil so it should be quite difficult for them to wriggle through. That is my theory, mice have surprised us in the past! Good luck with your squirrels, they are just as much of a pest.

  25. Sigrun October 4, 2014 at 5:54 am - Reply

    Oh my goodness! I will show it my husband, he is the one which bring the bulbs in the soil. Good luck, dear, I wish you a lot of flowers in spring.


    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 9:53 am - Reply

      Thanks Sigrun, I hope so too!

  26. Denise October 4, 2014 at 10:27 am - Reply

    Just when I thought I had my addiction to plants for the dry stone wall under control my little brain starting thinking about spring bulbs!!!!!!!!

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      Yep, they are addictive. I’ve really missed having them.

  27. sustainablemum October 4, 2014 at 10:43 am - Reply

    We have a similar problem, as you know, the perils of living in the country I guess……. I had no snowdrops come up this spring and have since dug around in the bed and found no bulbs, there were hundreds they must have had a feast! I planted some bulbs in the spring for a bit of autumn colour and I have one left, not sure why that one wasn’t eaten! I hope your cage works, if it does we may just have to pinch the idea.

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      It does seem to be recently planted bulbs they go for. There are masses of snowdrops here, unscathed, but they were planted by our predecessor. He had fewer scruples than me when it came to dealing with the mice, their numbers have escalated in the years we’ve been here and I’m now paying the price.

  28. Anne Wheaton October 4, 2014 at 10:47 am - Reply

    A very inventive cunning plan. I’d just give up and not grow bulbs. Luckily we don’t have a problem with mice (I suspect that there are tastier things for them locally than our garden) but are still plagued with squirrels. Hope the cages work.

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      The fight for bulbs, against mice and squirrels, is not over yet.. in another couple of years it might be.

  29. Donna@GardensEyeView October 4, 2014 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    I can’t wait to see if this works…I have voles which are like mice that destroy bulbs and many other plants in my garden including my raised veg beds.

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      Possibly in the veg beds they are even worse. I can’t sow any type of seed direct into the ground, everything has to be germinated and grown on in pots until it reaches a reasonable size, and then planted out.

  30. Sue@GLAllotments October 4, 2014 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Maybe you’ve tried this but what about starting bulbs in pots and planting out in spring.

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 8:54 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sue. Yes I’ve tried. The mice always know where they are and dig them out regardless. Last year I spent about £12 on snakes head fritillaries growing in pots. Within an hour the pheasants had pecked off the flowers and a couple of days later the mice had dug out and destroyed the bulbs. I am not expecting great things this year, but at least buying them as dry bulbs we’ll be less out of pocket!

  31. Mr Paul October 4, 2014 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    GENIUS! Lets the little blighters try that for size! 😉

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 8:55 pm - Reply

      I am quietly confident… but then I have been before.

  32. CherryPie October 4, 2014 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Hopefully your cunning plan will work.

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 9:00 pm - Reply

      It has to..

  33. snowbird October 4, 2014 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    I have my fingers and toes crossed for you. Yes, we do need our spring bulbs!

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 9:02 pm - Reply

      They are so cheering aren’t they. Time will tell..

  34. Em October 4, 2014 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    No luck here either so I everything crossed for you and your cages, or should I call them crates as they are euphemistically known in the dog world. Good work Mike! x

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      It’s just all the excavation needed, especially for tulips which need to go deep. This year will be an experiment.
      The moor looked lovely standing out against the blue sky this afternoon, I hope you managed to get out and enjoy it.

  35. Cathy October 4, 2014 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    I would have thought that even tulip shoots/leaves could find their way up through the mesh before they unfurled..? Perhaps not, but worth a trial maybe? Or starting them in pots that are covered with mesh and removing the mesh once they grow…? Don’t let those pesky blighters get the upper hand/foot!

    • Jessica October 4, 2014 at 9:17 pm - Reply

      It’s tempting to leave the top mesh because it will give the bulbs a lot more protection. The mice get to them by digging down from the top as well as tunnelling through the soil. I shall keep a very close eye on them and whip off the lids at the very last moment.

  36. Chloris October 4, 2014 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    Squirrels always go for freshly planted bulbs but leave established ones alone. They must be able to smell them. Mice are a nuisance in the greenhouse for me but my goodness you have them in Biblical plague proportions. What a lot of trouble you have to go to. I hope it will work.

    • Jessica October 5, 2014 at 10:31 am - Reply

      There are a lot of mice. Being surrounded by woodland it’s inevitable I suppose and however many we catch there will be hundreds more out there waiting to move in. I’ve started hearing them under the floorboards now that it’s getting colder too. I know some disapprove of lethal trapping, but I really don’t think we have any choice. Leaving the problem as long as we have has been our downfall.

  37. Kris P October 4, 2014 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    Brilliant! I hope it works. You have me thinking along new lines about ways to combat my own garden nemesis, the raccoon. So far I’ve tried repellent granules, tomato cages to protect new plants, sharp clay pot shards planted in the soil, and an installation of prickly agaves interspersed in the bed. The clay shards, combined with late night patrols with a flash light have had the greatest impact but I’m no where near claiming success. A motion-activated sprinkler is under consideration. But maybe I could submerge wire mesh around my new plants…I suppose that complicates future planting but perhaps there’s a way to work around that.

    • Jessica October 5, 2014 at 10:52 am - Reply

      Our predecessor covered a steep bank with wire mesh and it does complicate things. He was trying to stabilise the slope but it doesn’t work for that, the soil just falls down beneath the mesh and creates a bulge at the bottom of the hill. I started out cutting planting holes through it (wire cutters are part of my core gardening toolkit) but the greatest problem it creates is for weeding. Maybe less of a potential pitfall for you, but in rainy England weeds grow fast. It’s like performing keyhole surgery and I’ve lost nails and skin off my fingers to the task.
      Good luck with the raccoons. A motion activated sprinkler sounds cool, I might introduce our squirrels to that concept 🙂

  38. Linda October 5, 2014 at 1:45 am - Reply

    Hi Jessica….
    So…when exactly is your Spring over there?
    Much earlier than ours, I would assume….
    When would these bulbs be expected to bloom?
    Because….they will bloom…..’cause you and Mike are S M A R T !
    Linda :o)

    • Jessica October 5, 2014 at 10:58 am - Reply

      In bulbs terms I’m thinking from the end of January with snowdrops, then crocuses and daffodils in February, but it’s about March we first start to notice real signs of Spring.
      The mice (and the squirrels) are smarter!

  39. Chel @Sweetbriar Dreams October 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Good luck with this design! It sounds genius and I do hope you get at least some of those gorgeous bulbs flowering without disturbance next year!! Have a great week x

    • Jessica October 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      It would be wonderful to have flowering bulbs again. Then I just have to worry about the things that nibble them from above!
      You too Chel.

  40. Isabelle October 5, 2014 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Cunning plan, Baldrick 😉
    Hope it works! xxx

    • Jessica October 5, 2014 at 8:57 pm - Reply

      Fingers crossed..

  41. Caro October 5, 2014 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    Reading through the comments, I’m amazed you haven’t decided to grow your bulbs indoors! I’ve seen mice here (well, a dead one anyway) but they don’t seem to bother with the bulbs or peas, etc. I suspect any foxes keep them at bay. You don’t have a handy fox about, do you? I’m going to be agog until spring now to know whether this works for you … keeping my fingers crossed.

    • Jessica October 5, 2014 at 9:01 pm - Reply

      There are foxes, yes. And owls. And stoats. But probably far too many mice for them to keep up with! Maybe they now view mice with the same sense of dread we have for courgettes..

  42. welshhillsagain October 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    We don’t have too much trouble with mice eating bulbs, major bulb problem is probably badgers but mostly we get enough to make it worth planting them. The mice have a field day here in our outbuilding with anything at all which is soft enough to use for nest material. yesterday we discovered that they have made inroads into the new sun loungers we bought for the holiday cottage this spring. We have already lost suitcases, cushions, tarpaulins. You name if, it is chewable, it is chewed. And although we don’t have a cat right now in our time here we have had as many as four cats at a time with no discernable reduction in the mouse population! Hope your plan works. it is an awful lot of work, This is war!

    • Jessica October 5, 2014 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      It certainly is war Elizabeth.
      Mice are incredibly destructive, and filthy things as well. The outbuilding where we keep the bird feed is a health and safety hazard, we were just saying today we need to do something about it. I’m relieved to read your comment about cats, I’ve been resisting going down that route.

  43. casa mariposa October 5, 2014 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    I love how determined you are! That cage is quite clever. Wouldn’t a cat help keep the rodent population down? My mice don’t do any damage, except to themselves when they fall into the bird seed bins.

    • Jessica October 6, 2014 at 9:53 am - Reply

      The garden is full of predators already and we are still overrun. It is the price we pay for living in the middle of nowhere perhaps. Wildlife rules!

  44. elaine October 6, 2014 at 8:14 am - Reply

    Great idea – it will work I am convinced – I have planted my bulbs in pots and sunk them in the hope of not accidentally digging them up – then after they have finished flowering I can just lift them out for storage. That’s the plan anyway.

    • Jessica October 6, 2014 at 9:55 am - Reply

      That’s a good plan. I may well do the same with the cages. Thanks Elaine.

  45. Annie Edwards October 6, 2014 at 10:45 am - Reply

    a brilliant design! I will watch this space with keen interest and really hope it works x

    • Jessica October 6, 2014 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      Thanks Annie. I shall beat them one way or another.

  46. jane hoehoegrow October 6, 2014 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    I like Your cunning plan and I have a feeling that those pesky mice will be thwarted ! when I saw the first photo I just assumed you had bought those crafty little cages. You deffo need to market them but you need a catchy name … Maybe ‘ Mice R’nt US’ or ‘Shoo Mice in a Trice’. 🙂

    • Jessica October 6, 2014 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      Just brilliant!
      Mice 2 Go? Although that has connotations of eating them and I’m not sure I’m up for that..

  47. angiesgardendiaries October 6, 2014 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    He’s a very clever chap your OH, isn’t he. I do hope it does work for your Jessica, as has been said, good luck with them and we shall all be waiting til springtime to see how they fair.
    I remember all your previous posts re your bulbs, or lack of them that is,

    • Jessica October 6, 2014 at 10:31 pm - Reply

      He is a very clever chap but he does have help with the initial design stage, I thought it best to point that out..

  48. AnnetteM October 7, 2014 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Your cages look brilliant. And if you buy a metal detector you will be able to remember where you have planted them too. I don’t have mice, but I do regularly cut bulbs in two myself as I get too enthusiastic with a spade. I have grown Iris Reticulata successfully for years and have them in a very well drained area at the top of the rockery. I guess they are in a fairly sunny position, but I wouldn’t say they get baked very often here in Aberdeen. Good luck with them; they are well worth trying.

    • Jessica October 7, 2014 at 10:10 pm - Reply

      I was going to put them on the top level of the terraces, fairly well drained and in good sun so I’m hoping for the best. Hope you’ve survived the weather up there today, sounded a bit rough… not a good Iris reticulata day!

  49. steph October 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    what desperate measures!!!! looks promising, though….but so much work!?! if anyone can meet the challenge—-you and Mike can!

    • Jessica October 8, 2014 at 8:00 pm - Reply

      You’re very kind Steph. Yes, a lot of work and it’s just turned rainy which doesn’t help the cause one bit.

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