Woman vs. Rodent Round… ?

Where are we up to? I don’t know. I forget how many rounds.

First, the strategy was to keep planting bulbs. Maybe it was a particularly cold, wet winter that led to their failure. But other people in Devon manage to grow bulbs. And the observable evidence was pretty damning..



Then came trapping. Live catch and release. But the mice, well they had that one figured out pretty smartish didn’t they. Remember Houdini (here)? We’ll swiftly pass over Mike’s attempts at mouse control which focused less specifically on the ‘live’.



Fortunately I managed to divert his industry into more positive pursuits. We (I) would plant all our bulbs encased in his individually constructed wire mesh cages. The workshop turned into a full time production line. Surely the mice wouldn’t be able to chew through these.



It worked for a while. But then, once again, the bulbs failed to reappear. Excavation of one, then several of the cages all produced the same result: an absence of bulb and a hole gnawed through the bottom of the mesh. Last year I didn’t plant any bulbs at all. What was the point?

The trouble is I miss them. Bulbs are the mainstay of the early Spring garden. And it got me thinking. It can’t always have been this way because there are bulbs here. Daffodils, snowdrops, bluebells, drifts of all of them planted long before my time. The established bulbs don’t seem to suffer from rodent attack. No, it’s anything new. Then I read somewhere that bulbs planted out in their active growing stage stand a better chance if you have mice or voles in your garden. Apparently it is the dormant, plump, energy rich little packages that are Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramel Sauce to a mouse.



So this year I’m trying again. In the first instance the bulbs have gone into pots, protected overnight in the cold frame. Apodemus is at his most dastardly under cover of darkness.

If nothing else the exercise should bolster my own winter survival strategy. Crocus and Iris reticulata. Something new popping up just at the point when the dreariness seems to be going on forever. And then, as the blooms start to fade, the bulbs will get planted out into the garden. If they manage to stay under the radar long enough to get established perhaps, just perhaps, they might make it into a second year. And even beyond.



Fritillaria meleagris, Muscari latifolium, Tulip ‘Little Beauty’, Camassia leichtlinii. Nothing expensive. Not for experimental purposes.


What do you think. Could it possibly work?


2017-11-21T11:21:50+00:00November 21st, 2017|Tags: , |


  1. justjilluk November 21, 2017 at 11:26 am - Reply

    Worth a try. Fingers crossed. We resorted to poison. Much against our wills but rats on the bird table – no.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      The only time I have seen a rat here it was after spilled birdfood. Our feathery friends can be messy eaters.

  2. Christina November 21, 2017 at 11:30 am - Reply

    Mice ate some of my bulbs, well actually not the bulbs; they came along just under ground or even maybe on the surface and ate through that very tasty, juicy part where the new stem meets the soil. the stem usually tantalisingly stays upright as if nothing had happened – but it the stem was touched it toppled over or came away in my hand. So far only a small part of the garden has been affected but this year I am only planting tulips in pots in the greenhouse and I’m keeping fingers etc crossed the the problem doesn’t spread. Good luck with yours! btw, these were not new bulbs but established ones!!!!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:10 pm - Reply

      It was one of the issues I had with the cages. The mice waited for the shoots to come up through the mesh. I ended up with cages below ground and cages above! I’m not sure what else we can do about that problem.

  3. Chloris November 21, 2017 at 11:32 am - Reply

    Goodness, your wildllife battles take on epic proportions. All those little cages, what dedication. I find mice love freshly planted bulbs but ignore resident ones. Not much good if you haven’t got resident ones. I think it’s time to fight dirty. Take no prisoners.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:13 pm - Reply

      I had bigger cages for planting groups of bulbs together. But even so it was a bit of a faff. The bigger the cage the bigger the hole needed so no more just nestling bulbs in between established plants.

  4. London Cottage Garden November 21, 2017 at 11:40 am - Reply

    For me it’s squirrels – and although chicken wire can keep them off from now to Feb, last year the little blighters ate the stems when they came up and ate the flower heads too. I got to the point of lying in wait and running out flapping my arms about. Not really a long term solution but strangely satisfying at the time.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      Very satisfying. We resorted to a water pistol which had much the same effect! Gave the squirrels plenty of exercise as well 🙂

  5. Amy at love made my home November 21, 2017 at 11:49 am - Reply

    I was going to suggest pots planted up and stored somewhere safe, so let us all hope for you that this works!! Naughty little critters! How are the squirrels and pheasants doing?

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      The squirrels haven’t been around as much. When I have seen them they’ve been busy burying nuts in the lawn! The pheasants are mustering on the sidelines, starting to get tetchy already..

  6. grammapenny November 21, 2017 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    I hope so! I have given up on tulips and crocus but have fared well with daffodis and iris. Its so frustrating. Looking forward to hearing the results

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      Daffodils are spreading well here too. I did read somewhere that they are poisonous, so perhaps that’s how they manage to survive. Apart from the newly planted bulbs that is. They still get eaten.

  7. Henriet from Holland November 21, 2017 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Would surrounding them with onions work? Get them off the scent perhaps

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      I tried garlic once. To protect newly planted potato tubers. That seemed to work..

  8. Caro November 21, 2017 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Fingers crossed for your experiment, Jessica. Round here it’s the one (and only) time I’m grateful for foxes and cats playing in the gardens overnight – although I put protective covers (actually, repurposed freezer baskets) to stop those critters digging. Seems to work and I’ve only ever found one (dead) mouse in the veg patch. Interestingly, never seen any squirrels round here although live not far from London Cottage Garden!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      Maybe the foxes and cats are putting the squirrels off as well. Although they seem utterly fearless most of the time. It isn’t until I almost get close enough to catch a squirrel that it will actually run off.

  9. derrickjknight November 21, 2017 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Looks a good plan. Love the kettle

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      Mike dug up the kettle from the garden. Might try planting it with something next year, it’s already full of soil!

  10. Backlane Notebook November 21, 2017 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    It’s squirrels here lifting the wire mesh that covers all my pots. So unsightly but it worked last year and the wire comes off in February as the bulbs emerge. Love the kettle too.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:41 pm - Reply

      It was chicken wire Fort Knox for a while here last year, although mostly on account of the rabbits. It does look unsightly. The rabbits wait patiently for me to remove it, knowing that I will in the end, and then they swoop.

  11. Marian St.Clair November 21, 2017 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    Fingers crossed you have outwitted the villains! We are lucky to have an especially stealthy feline in the neighborhood that likes nothing better than fresh vole, straight from the garden. Nonetheless, my tulip display is planted in pots, as it is too warm for them here and so they’re grown as annuals.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      Tulips are annuals for me too, but because of the cold wet winters. If this experiment succeeds I might leave some tulips in pots permanently and see if I can keep them going by putting them under cover during the worst months of the year.

  12. Peter/Outlaw November 21, 2017 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    Oh Jessica, I certainly hope your latest strategy works so that you can enjoy bulbs this spring. Fingers crossed!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:49 pm - Reply

      It would be lovely to see them popping up. Even better if I can get them into the garden by subterfuge. It’s rare that I manage to score any kind of victory over Mr Mouse.

  13. smallsunnygarden November 21, 2017 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    No, we can’t live very well without bulbs, can we? I certainly hope to hear that this works! I’m still losing narcissus leaf tips to… rabbits, I assume, as they are the main visible rodent in the yard. Even the presence of an occasional rattlesnake doesn’t thin them out much, and it certainly introduces other risks into gardening! Please keep us posted on results! It’s a most intriguing idea for thwarting the toothed monsters.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:53 pm - Reply

      Oh gosh, be careful with the rattlesnakes Amy. I can just imagine them curling up in the shade of your beautiful borders. I’ll report back on the results. Keeping the bulbs going in their pots should be the easy bit. Getting them safely into the ground less so!

  14. Linda from Each Little World November 21, 2017 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    You know we will all be watching and waiting for your report. My bulbs don’t get eaten until they appear and then, before I’ve even tried to cage them, it’s over. This coming spring will be the third year of hoping to see a special Fritillary. Seems to return but it never survives to flower.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Fritillaries here have even more of a struggle because the pheasants adore them. Sometimes I really do wonder why I bother!

  15. bitaboutbritain November 21, 2017 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    Golly, I’d never come across that – but, then, my knowledge of gardening is of the ‘slash and burn’ school. Good luck with it – it’s frustrating (and expensive) to keep losing plants.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      It certainly is. Between the weather and the wildlife (and probably my lack of skill) I have more losses than most.

  16. Helen Johnstone November 21, 2017 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    Do you loos daffodils? My understanding is that they are poisonous to many rodents. I think you are right about the bulbs being established, it’s probably got something also to do with the soil being disturbed and easy to dig through

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      I’d heard that too about daffodil bulbs but I have lost most of those I’ve planted. Infuriating because I’ve been trying to replace some of the brasher of the varieties I’d inherited. Needless to say they are doing just fine and spreading wherever I will let them.

  17. Freda November 21, 2017 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    I wonder if really deep planting makes any difference? They say established bulbs bury themselves deeper and deeper, though of course if they eat the tops….good luck!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      It’s possible isn’t it. I don’t know how far down mice are prepared to dig. Certainly the Spanish bluebells dig themselves deeper. They’re almost impossible to remove. Grrrr.

  18. Susan Garrett November 21, 2017 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Let’s hope so.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      So far so good..

  19. the veg artist November 21, 2017 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    Apart from daffodils, we always plant bulbs ‘in the green’. It takes a little more planning, but you do get the flexibility of pots of bulbs to move around when they are in flower, and, for hard to grow things like fritillaria, it works a treat. What we do is plant the bulbs in a general type compost, water them really, really well, (drench), leave to stand for half-an-hour, then put them into a cool, dark shed, with other big pots turned upside down on top – allowing air but no light to get at them. Check after 5-6 weeks. Only then, once there are some shoots, do we bring them out into the light. Plant out once the flowers start to go over! Good Luck!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks for that, your experience has given me even more optimism. I’ve planted snowdrops in the green and that works really well.
      What is the benefit of keeping them out of the light? To stop them coming through too early? I’m wondering if keeping my pots in the cold frame is such a good idea. The irises are pushing up already.

      • the veg artist November 25, 2017 at 6:07 pm - Reply

        I have no idea if there is a ‘proper’ way to do this, but I suppose I do it that way following on from growing indoor bulbs in the cupboard under the sink! I think there are advantages to them being quite cool, the roots have more time to develop, and, once through, because mine tend to be a bit later, they’ve never suffered from frost damage. Because they are semi-covered, and in a very cool shed, they don’t dry out either. I don’t normally have to water them again until the shoots appear – I make a note to remind my self to check them after about 6 weeks. It depends when you want them to flower, really, I suppose.

        • Jessica November 26, 2017 at 5:54 pm - Reply

          It makes a lot of sense to me. Hopefully now that the temperatures have dropped mine will have second thoughts about rushing into bloom. Although I did buy the bulbs rather late and some were already showing shoots. We shall see.

  20. woolythymes November 21, 2017 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    you have nothing to lose…..and lots to gain!!! Fingers crossed that this is your solution!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Oh I do hope so. It’s time I won at least one of my critter battles.

  21. germac4 November 21, 2017 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    I can see that mice could be a big problem in the garden…suddenly I’m feeling rather grateful to just have screeching cockatoos flying overhead nipping off colourful flowers, nothing so devious as a mouse. Good luck with your new plan because spring bulbs are a joy!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      They are and I do miss Spring bulbs. There’s always something isn’t there. If not mice, cockatoos. I know which I’d prefer..

  22. hb November 21, 2017 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    Best wishes for success! Ever tried them in pots in the ground? Here in the Anti-Rodent Brigade I chased a juvenile squirrel round and round the walled garden–not to kill but to terrify him into finding another garden. He finally escaped, I hope to permanently elsewhere.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      I hope you’ve sorted out that squirrel. It seems, for us, chasing them off just makes them ever more determined. I do believe they thrive on the challenge. It’s become a battle of wits.

  23. Kris Peterson November 22, 2017 at 12:01 am - Reply

    Hope springs eternal! I think your current plan has merit, even if the transfers to and from the cold frame represent a task I’m sure you’d prefer to forego. I go through stages of planting and not-planting bulbs too. I’ve no problem with mice (thankfully!) but the squirrels and the raccoons make planting bulbs (and also direct seeding) in the garden a constant challenge – while the varmints don’t actually eat the bulbs, they dig them up and toss them about, preventing anything in their path from getting established. Squirrels dig fairly deep holes, which surprised me. This year, as I planted my bulbs as well as new perennials I kept discovering unripe guavas planted a good 3 inches below the surface! It’s too bad I can’t arrange a deal for the squirrels to handle the tedious process of bulb planting in exchange for bird seed.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 9:56 pm - Reply

      How wonderful it would be to persuade the squirrels to do something useful! Direct seeding is impossible for me too. I don’t know whether it is because something eats the seed, or it just gets drowned in the rain. Sowing into pots, growing on and then planting out is another job that I could do without. And of course the weeds have no such trouble. They manage to seed themselves at will.

  24. CherryPie November 22, 2017 at 12:02 am - Reply

    It sounds like a good plan 🙂

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 9:56 pm - Reply

      Gosh I hope so!

  25. Brian Skeys November 22, 2017 at 5:08 am - Reply

    There may be more food around for the mice in the spring when the bulbs are emerging whereas in the autumn they are driven to stock up for winter. This is just a theory! As an experiment would it be worth drenching newly planted bulbs with a home made garlic drench? I hope you have a wonderful spring display.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      I had mixed results with spraying garlic on hosta leaves (for the slugs) but in the soil it might be longer lasting. And would only be needed for a short while to put the mice of the scent of the newly planted bulbs. I will try it.

  26. ginaferrari November 22, 2017 at 8:38 am - Reply

    Fingers crossed for your bulbs this year!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      It will be quite the novelty having bulbs again. Even if only briefly!

  27. Torrington Tina November 22, 2017 at 8:42 am - Reply

    I hope it does work, like you I have potted up loads of bulbs because I need to look forward and anticipate them appearing early next year – hopefully!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      We need that boost in early Spring don’t we. The mice can’t have it all their own way.

  28. Andrea at the creative coastal home November 22, 2017 at 10:26 am - Reply

    As a woman engaged in constant woman vs cat in the garden, I feel your pain!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 10:08 pm - Reply

      I’ve just started seeing a cat patrolling the garden, a neighbour’s I presume. I hope that’s not another battle in the offing. Although maybe it is here because it has found a food source!

  29. wherefivevalleysmeet November 22, 2017 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Good luck – I didn’t realise how fortunate we were here, no rabbits, or mice because our oolithic soil is too hard for them to tunnel into.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 10:10 pm - Reply

      I would sacrifice some of my acid lovers to be rid of the rabbits and mice!

  30. Mark and Gaz November 22, 2017 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    Well worth a try!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 10:11 pm - Reply

      If at first you don’t succeed..

  31. New Moons For Old November 22, 2017 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    I cannot imagine our garden without spring bulbs. I’m keeping everything crossed for yours.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      Thanks. I’m not giving up yet.

  32. wherethejourneytakesme November 22, 2017 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    You can only hope – I expect the mice are one step ahead…perhaps you should put all the mice into the cold frame and shut the lid – problem solved!!
    We are just about to visit the cottage (well caravan) – I have visions of the rabbits having multiplied so much since our last visit that we will have to wade through them to get to the door!

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 10:21 pm - Reply

      The mice would just tunnel out. It will take them a while though because they will have to get through concrete. Good luck with the rabbits. I remember staying at a hotel in Scotland once, watching the rabbits while we were having breakfast. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to have rabbits on the lawn. Little did I know..

  33. pollymacleod November 23, 2017 at 11:04 am - Reply

    A few weeks ago I took some tulip bulbs out of the shed to plant them. Two bags were ok but in the third one there were eight instead of ten. I was preparing to take it back to the store when I noticed a hole in the bottom of the bag, yep mice had chomped through 2 fat juicy bulbs! Good luck with the experiment.

    • Jessica November 24, 2017 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      Noooo!! They are little devils.

  34. theoldtowncafe November 23, 2017 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Who knows whether it will work. One of the joys of gardening is finding out, the disappointment when it doesn’t is rather less fun!

    • Jessica November 25, 2017 at 10:10 am - Reply

      Very true. But we keep on going don’t we. Hope over experience every time!

  35. Anna November 23, 2017 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Oh good luck Jessica. I hope that this round goes to you. Here I think that it’s the squirrels that do their best to thwart bulb growth although with some uncultivated land plus stream behind the house I’m sure that there are meeces about too. Have vague recollections of reading that the actual act of planting bulbs releases attractive aromas but maybe I’ve dreamt that.

    • Jessica November 25, 2017 at 10:14 am - Reply

      I’ve read that too. It’s certainly the case that the meeces make a beeline for them, very soon after planting. Perhaps the ideas above, onions and garlic, might do the trick. Something else to try. One thing’s for sure.. I’m not giving in. Yet.

  36. Jacqueline November 24, 2017 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Hopefully, come the Spring, your garden will be full of blooming bulbs !!! XXXX

    • Jessica November 25, 2017 at 10:15 am - Reply


  37. Brenda November 24, 2017 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Oh my, what a battle. Mice don’t fight fair. Our local seed company recommends a mixture of black pepper and ground cloves around newly planted bulbs. I have no idea if it works, but it might be worth a try. Good luck!

    • Jessica November 25, 2017 at 10:18 am - Reply

      That sounds plausible too. I will try it! I may yet have bulbs but the garden will have a very strange mix of aromas in the air!

  38. Sarah November 25, 2017 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    I do hope you win the current battle and those bulbs will flower next Spring. Love your new header and the old kettle, Sarah x

    • Jessica November 26, 2017 at 5:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sarah. The mice and voles are much in evidence at the moment. I suppose they are busy filling their cupboards now that it’s got so much colder.

  39. offtheedgegardening November 27, 2017 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    Haven’t read the other replies so forgive me if I repeat someone else. Have you tried a thick layer of sharp grit on top of the pots. I found this worked when we had a problem. Either they couldn’t smell the bulbs through the grit or they didn’t want to hurt their little paws. Good luck x

    • Jessica November 27, 2017 at 7:50 pm - Reply

      Thanks Gill. I put sharp grit in the mix for drainage but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to put some on the top as well.. will do.

  40. catmint November 29, 2017 at 7:22 am - Reply

    A cunning plan. Lucky rats and mice don’t read blogs. Hope it works,

    • Jessica November 29, 2017 at 10:38 am - Reply

      Thanks! I spotted yet another new mouse hole while outside this morning.. something needs to work!

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