Controlling squirrels in the garden is a major pain in the anatomy but here are a few things that really work.
Flower Bud Protection
1) The number one recommendation is to feed them.
Yes, I know that this annoys the heck out of you but the truth of the matter is that this animal (essentially a rat with a fluffy tail) is territorial.
You can get rid of as many as you like, and they’ll still keep coming. They outbreed almost everything else out there (they have to – the average squirrel only lives 2 years) so they’ll simply keep on coming.
Feed them – particularly when the bulbs are in bloom when there’s not much else to eat out side – and they’ll tend to leave the plants/blooms/buds alone.
2) Use a squirrel-off type of product and spray it onto your plants.
These are noxious tasting substances (the higher the concentration of the chemical bitrex the better) that the animal does not like.
Critical: To succeed with these products, you have to spray early (before they start eating) and regularly during the season (after rains or every 7-10 days. follow product label advice) so the animal doesn’t take a bite and like it.
If the animal does eat some before you spray, they learn this is food they like to eat. Then you spray. The squirrel doesn’t like this new taste but it’s already learned it does like it. (And once a squirrel makes up its mind, it doesn’t seem to change it.) So they’ll “try” the rest to see if there’s another one they like the taste of. They’ll snip the flower off, decide they don’t like the taste and move forward to the next one. Your coverage has to be complete and regular.
All other tricks – pepper, hot sauces etc etc are not overly effective at stopping them from eating your buds or flowers (or even digging up the bulbs). You see, they wash off with dew or rain and need to be applied darn near every day.
1) Protecting your bulbs in the ground – see advice number one above.
2) My favourite tip for controlling squirrels is to water newly planted bulbs heavily – turn the area into a mud zone. This will stop the squirrels from smelling the bulbs, remove traces of recently disturbed soil (a visual clue they apparently use) and they don’t like muddy feet.
3) Mesh screens placed over top of the bulbs work but make it really hard to dig in the garden afterwards. I never use mesh screens for this reason but there are folks who swear by them.
You can read other flower bulb articles here.