Critter Digging Up Irises

(Question)

What’s the best deterrent if Irises are being dug up in a garden? First I saw a big print, as though someone had stepped down on the Irises. I guessed it was a child chasing a ball, but it was six inches by twelve inches. Then I saw an entire Iris laying in that space(of the “footprint”), as though it had been dug up.
I sprinkled some fine pepper around the perimeter the following day. I have some hot pepper flakes which I can also sprinkle around the perimeter. I can make the pepper flakes remain by placing them on some adhesive tape, so that the wind won’t blow them away.
There are local racoons I’ve seen in previous years, as well as squirrels and neighbourhood cats.
One Iris has even seeded far from the patch, across a pathway, but I understand that I shouldn’t transplant until after the blooms. This Iris is just a single item which has seeded itself eight feet away, so should I wait until August, and keep it in the back of my mind, so all the work can be done later, as a project?
Are there any easy-to-install video systems to detect what’s going on? Systems must have come down in price because of technology improvements, since portable phones are so enhanced. The home shopping network has some of them. I’ve attached a couple of pictures showing the patch of irises.
Thank you.

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(Answer)

If your garden is in Toronto, it is most likely that the culprits are squirrels or rabbits, both of which will eat the rhizomes of iris plants.  They are also notorious for digging up bulbs and rhizomes, as many gardeners can attest.  Quite possibly this is how your single iris came to be across the pathway.  Cats sometimes choose incongruous places to curl up in the garden, as do dogs. Burrowing moles and voles also eat iris rhizomes, although these are less likely to be pests in a city garden.   You might ask your local nursery if there are any organic products available that will deter small animals while leaving plants and beneficial insects unharmed.  Some gardeners use barriers, like tomato cages or other supports, around their prized ornamental plants.   Video surveillance systems are unfortunately beyond the scope of the Toronto Master Gardeners, although it would be very satisfying to catch the perpetrator in the act!

Iris can be transplanted most successfully between July and September when summer conditions are dry.  If you feel your existing iris clumps are getting too large, you may also choose to divide your irises at this time, and replant them into smaller clumps – this will revitalize them, and help to prevent disease.  Here is a website that describes how to go about this: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/homeowners/000722.html