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In my first home, I dug out a wee little veggie garden in the backyard. That first spring, I planted cucumber seedlings alongside a few other edibles, like tomatoes and peppers. For some reason, the squirrels focused on my cucumber plants. Every morning I’d go out and a seedling had either been dug out or snapped in two. More than once I caught a squirrel in the act. I would run out the back door shouting (I’m sure the neighbours wondered what my problem was!). This was the beginning of my ongoing quest to find tips on how to keep squirrels out of your garden.
Where I live now, I’m on a ravine which means even WAY more squirrels than my last yard. Cute as they are, they can be very destructive. With a couple of oak trees and a bird feeder next door, you’d think the squirrels would leave my gardens alone. Nope! They like to take big bites out of my tomatoes, just as they’re ripening and ruffle around in my containers. With a bigger property, I find it harder to defend all my gardens. But a couple of preventative measures have worked.
Here are a few ways to keep squirrels out of your garden
That first frustrating year, I tried a few squirrel deterrents, the first being sprinkling cayenne pepper around the garden. I wrote about it on the magazine blog I was working for, and a reader pointed out that it would hurt the squirrel if they stepped through the cayenne and then rubbed it in their eyes. It made me think twice about using it, so I stopped. The Humane Society of the United States actually recommends against using “hot stuff” to deter squirrels in the yard, though PETA recommends spraying surfaces with a mixture of salad oil, horseradish, garlic, and cayenne to keep rats and mice away. I have lots of raised beds now, so I’m not really keen to spray anything stinky.
Though I will say that blood meal seemed to help a bit in my last garden. I’d sprinkle it around the periphery of the garden. The only problem is after a good rain you have to sprinkle it again. I do think I’ll try hen manure this year (see fall tips).
I’ve seen some recommendations for getting a dog or a cat. I have an indoor cat, but she’s not allowed to roam the yard. What I did do at my former home besides yelling at the squirrels as I ran out to scare them away, was I gave the cat a good brushing and sprinkled the cat hair around the outside of the garden. That seemed to help a little bit, too.
How to protect seedlings from squirrels
When I plant seeds this year, I plan on creating (will share photos when I do!) a lid of sorts for my veggie garden using plastic hardware cloth so the light can shine through. I made some with a roll of screen the former homeowner left in the garage a few years ago, but I feel like they were a bit dark.
I’ve seen critter garden fences, like this one, which looks promising, especially for keeping rabbits out (I have those in my gardens, too). According to one reviewer, it keeps the squirrels out, too. I would maybe be inclined to also include a lid.
A lightweight floating row cover can keep out insect pests, like cabbage worms, but it can also help your delicate seedlings or seeds get a nice head start and become established before being exposed to the elements—and pests.
Fall tips to keep squirrels out of your garden
I plant garlic every year and even though squirrels don’t like it, they seem curious if they see I’ve been digging in the dirt. That’s why I’ll lay a winter mulch of straw in my raised beds to cover the garlic for the winter. For the most part, this keeps the squirrels out.
How to keep squirrels away from your bulbs
This past fall, I ordered a bulb mix that included tulips from a local landscape designer, Candy Venning of Venni Gardens. Venning suggested that I plant the bulbs deeper than recommended, and that I cover the area where I planted the bulbs with a hen manure fertilizer called Acti-Sol. (She says you could also use bone meal.) The area was not disturbed at all! I might try this technique in my veggie beds, too. Venni also recommended planting the bulbs deeper than recommended.
But here’s another tip, squirrels don’t like daffodils! Consider ringing your tulips with daffodils or other bulbs squirrels don’t eat, like grape hyacinths, Siberian squill, and snowdrops.
How do you keep those pesky squirrels out of your garden?