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?
Margaret Lauterbach says
Squirrels that bite into tomatoes are looking for water. Give them a water source and they’ll leave your ‘maters alone.
So true!!! I have a birdbath & a ground dish of water & never problems with tomatoes!!!
We have a pond, but I have still seen them snacking on my tomatoes.
pumpkin sparshott says
Along with the cat hair, you could try using the litter as mulch in appropriate places, or spreading it around a bit. Somewhere you won’t wind up ingesting it of course, and only if it isn’t silicone or clumping… mine is compressed sawdust, so harmless to the soil at least…
My mom used to discourage squirrel digging by spreading old garden netting over where she planted bulbs, and also rose cuttings. They don’t like getting their little footsies tangled in the nets, and nobody likes thorns… worth a shot, costs nothing
Sandy Myers says
I feed squirrels everyday and they have never went into my garden or flowers…they love sunflower seeds and feeding them those they don’t care about anything else. They come right up to me and wait for there food.
TAMBRA GIFFORD says
I feed the birds and deer on purpose, the squirrels benefit from both. At work we shave irish spring soap and put it in our electric box for the fence to keep rodents from chewing the wires. It has been the most effective. To keep the rabbits from eating my tomatoes, I built a frame that keeps the tomatoes too high for the rabbits but the squirrels still take some. Pepper spray helps a bit. I also have a pond, so the squirrels are just spoiled! Last year I used companion planting and basically surrounded my beds with different herbs and flowers. This helped tremendously! I use the interplanting method. It has worked the best for me. I have a big yard, so I will be planting some spring and summer growth that the deer are welcome to (hopefully that will keep them occupied) My neighbor uses the motion sensor sprinklers for her flowers- effective! I have to put hardware fabric (metal mesh) under all my plantings, otherwise the gophers devour EVERYTHING! Like an old popeye cartoon! I have newly designed beds I am trying for the first time this year. I will be making some hinged covers for plants that I want to have more protection. cross your fingers!
Tara Nolan says
Fingers are crossed, and thanks for all the tips!
JANET KENNEDY says
Surrounding tulip bulbs with daffodils and narcissus worked the first year. The second year: no tulips. I guess whatever is in the daffodil bulbs becomes less noxious to the squirrels over time. I don’t think they like black tulips, though. It’s the only one left!