Do squirrels enjoy your garden bounty as much as you do? Wondering how to keep your tomatoes for yourself and your family? It Takes Time contributor Liz Greene offers helpful tips for keeping squirrels out of your garden!
How to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Garden
Thanks to Liz Greene for submitting this helpful tutorial!
There’s no denying that squirrels are adorable little creatures—every time I spot one, I stop to watch its delightful antics. However, my admiration stops short when I find holes chewed in my freshly ripened tomatoes. For years I’ve struggled to catch the little buggers in the act and chase them off, but have had limited success.
After trying numerous tactics, I found a few that seemed to work fairly well. If you’re tired of sharing your hard-earned produce with the neighborhood squirrels, consider one of the following three strategies:
Okay, you’re going to have to bear with me on this one, because it sounds counterintuitive.
Find an isolated corner of your yard—well away from your garden—and set up a decoy food station stocked with treats squirrels love (sunflower seeds, walnuts, corn, etc.). If you’re feeling especially generous, plant a few extra tomatoes near these food stations to feed the squirrels. Add a shallow birdbath for a source of drinking water.
Believe it or not, this is the most successful tactic I’ve employed to keep squirrels out of my garden. When they’re getting something they like more than what’s in my veggie patch, they’re quite happy to leave things be.
Installing a cage or cover made of hardware cloth and plastic bird netting is an excellent way to keep squirrels from noshing on your vegetables.
For individual plants, create a cylindrical cage using hardware cloth and top it with plastic bird netting. Use clothespins to hold the netting in place. You can build a larger enclosure that will cover a small bed as well, but you’ll need to make sure it’s large enough that it doesn’t stunt plant growth.
If you’re dealing with raccoons as well as squirrels (which I am), an electric fence around your garden is particularly helpful. Use three to five wires, spaced three to four inches apart and starting close to the ground. This should prevent anything from going over, under, or through the fence.
If you’re looking for a spray repellent, there are quite a few recipes online. Some use capsaicin—the compound that gives hot peppers their heat—but I don’t like to use those as I don’t like the idea of hurting the squirrels. I’ve used recipes featuring peppermint oil, garlic, or vinegar, with varied success. Repellent sprays have to be reapplied after it rains, and you can’t spray the plant parts you intend to eat.
A repellent spray alone probably won’t work very well, so try it in combination with either the squirrel feeder or the plant cages to have the best chance of not losing your veggies.
As much of a nuisance as squirrels can be, they’re incredibly important to our ecosystem. When squirrels store nuts for winter, they do so by burying them just below the surface of the soil. Some of these nuts will be retrieved at a later date, while others are forgotten. Those left behind often grow into trees. Essentially, so many of the trees that we enjoy were planted by our little fuzzy-tailed friends!
So, even though they frustrate me sometimes, I’m happy to do what I can to keep my neighborhood squirrels happy. A feeder just for them as well as a few peppermint-oil-soaked cotton balls dispersed through my garden have kept my plot squirrel-free. Hopefully, it can do the same for you too!
More about Liz Greene:
Liz is a dog loving, history studying, pop-culture geek from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, Idaho. Liz blogs at Instant Lo.
Have you had experience with squirrels in your garden? What has worked for you?
Love this! I’m going to send this to my parents – they have such a big problem with squirrels! For as cute as they are they can be such a pain!
Andrea Fabry says
So true, Sarah.
We tried excluding them from our garden last year, and it was so frustrating my husband finally started shooting them with a pellet gun. I never thought about the distraction aspect! Definitely trying it this year! 🙂 Thanks for sharing it at Savoring Saturdays!
I just want them out of my shed. There are several trees around my shed and they seem to have made themselves at home in my shed making a mess of things. I’ll try the peppermint oil and creating a distraction for them. The trees around the shed have died so they are coming down. That will help also. Thanks for the advice. ?
Andrea Fabry says
I hope it help, Andi. I’d love to hear back!
Ellen Ribolla says
I love squirrels.
That said, I hate that they hang, four or five at a time, off my bird feeder, chowing down, emptying the carefully-selected, expensive seed mix before the birds get a taste!
I’ve even tried mixing cayenne pepper with the bird seed. Though it doesn’t affect the birds, it does slow the younger squirrels down a little, causing them to drink more water from the bird bath. They don’t fear me AT ALL, and my fearless Yorkshire terrier is getting a complex, because the squirrels harass him, no matter how ferocious he is towards them!
I will give the peppermint oil a try.
Andrea Fabry says
If you find that the peppermint works I’d love to hear or anything else you find. They’re so cute but not when they’re harassing family members. 🙂