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As you plant bulbs before the ground freezes, protect them from mice and voles so your flowers will bloom next spring

Round, tan crocus flower bulbs on a bed of soil with a trowel and yellow maple leaves in fall.
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Those crocus bulbs that you're putting into the soil before it freezes look pretty tasty to small critters. Find out ways to ensure they won't eat them and you'll have blooms to enjoy next spring.

Learning some techniques to protect crocus and daffodils can keep them safe from critters and you'll get to enjoy their blooms next spring.

Have you planted bulbs yet? Now is the time to get them into the soil, as they need about four to six weeks of growing before the ground freezes completely.

As you plant bulbs, take care to make sure they won't become menu items for mice, voles and chipmunks.

Several techniques can help ensure that mice and voles leave your bulbs alone. One way is to take a preventative measure and plant bulbs that these small animals don't like. Some bulbs that mice and voles will leave alone include alliums like garlic and onion bulbs, fritillaria, and daffodils.

You can also mix and match tulip and crocus bulbs so small animals don't know which to eat and which to avoid.

Another method involves collecting some seashells or oyster shells, crushing them into a fine powder then sprinkling that into the soil.

Mice, voles and chipmunks do not like to tunnel through the sharp shell powder and they'll leave your bulbs alone.

If you’ve tried these techniques and they haven’t worked, there is one final method you could try. Create a wire cage with about half-inch diameter holes and place all your bulbs inside then plant that - bulbs and cage - into the soil.

Follow these tricks and you’re in store for some beautiful flower colors next spring.

Q: I have several multi-stalked hydrangeas. The blooms tend to be rounder but do get somewhat conical as they change their color. I see ones that have one central trunk and flowers that are conical in shape from the outset. Can you share the best time to cut them back? - Anne Marie, in Pawlet

The panicle hydrangea grows into a small tree or a large shrub whose flowers can be conical and more rounded. The time to prune panicle hydrangea comes in late winter or early spring.

They bloom on the new wood. In the spring, they'll form new branches that come up that will end or terminate into a flower. You can prune them back pretty heavily if you have to and leave a nice structure of older branches to get a nice evenly-shaped plant.

And then anything that grows new from that next year is going to turn into a beautiful flower show for you in the fall.

Q: Now that the once compost-rich organic soil in my garden beds has been reduced to coffee grinds, how do I rebuild the soil since using compost and leaf mold as in the past will just attract more of jumping worms? I'm also nervous that the two-year-old pile of composted manure is infected as I found a few in there already. The worms are everywhere in Putney and Brattleboro - even on the streets in Brattleboro! - Janice, in Brattleboro

It seems folks' awareness of jumping worms or snake worms has increased. Vermont gardeners are noticing them and that’s a good thing!

Jumping worms are not good for your soil, as they eat an enormous amount of organic matter but don't enrich the soil while doing so. Trying to rid them from your gardens is a good move.

One method that can work to eradicate jumping worms from your soil is a recipe of sorts. Take a third of a cup of ground yellow mustard seed, mix it in a gallon of water and pour that mixture over your garden bed.

The mustard mixture irritates jumping worms and they'll come to the surface of the soil. Once they do, pick them out of the dirt and toss them into a plastic bag, then leave them in the bag outside somewhere where they're going to die.

You can even use this method on your compost pile, if the worms are there, too.

Once you're certain you've gotten rid of most of them, bring in more green organic matter like chopped leaves, hay, straw, even wood chips or sawdust.

Mix that matter into your soil where it can begin to break down and start feeding those other microbes in the soil that you do want to have.

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

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Mary Engisch is the host and reporter for Weekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday on VPR.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on VPR. Be part of the fun and send your gardening questions here, for Charlie to answer on the air. Plus, find lots of great gardening tips and information for all seasons here. For more gardening information, check out Charlie's website, Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi. Charlie is a guest on VPR's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.