Squirrels

How to Keep Squirrels Away From the Garden

Squirrels-how to identify-squirrel-Pixabay

A squirrel enjoys a snack. 

Photo by Pixabay

Here are tips on how to keep squirrels out of the garden, off the bird feeders, and out of the attic—especially when they are most active in autumn!

Why Worry About Squirrels in the Garden?

With a fondness for fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers, the common squirrel has long spelled trouble for home gardeners. From Maine to Montana, these wily critters yank geraniums from window boxes, pluck tomatoes from their vines, and strip apple trees like professional pickers. Though their foraging forays can happen at any time of year, a squirrel’s raid in late summer and early autumn can drive a gardener nuts.

Squirrels are especially active in autumn as they stock up for winter. They do not hibernate (although they may “lie low” during cold spells), so their underground pantries are vitally important winter warehouses. They have a major instinct for hoarding food, which helps them to survive. Gray squirrels stash food by burying it in a scattered fashion around their territory.

Although North America is home to several species of squirrels, it is the suburb-savvy gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, that gives gardeners (and people who feed birds) the most grief. How did the clever critters find those bulbs, anyway? Why do they ransack some borders and leave others alone? What do squirrels eat?

The average squirrel gathers acorns, pinecones, nuts, bark, fruit, berries, fungi, and insects, but is not above stealing bird eggs and bulbs. Sometimes they will even ruin your flowers just for the fun of it! Keep an eye out for these pesky visitors and try some of our tips below.

keep-squirrels-out-of-garden.jpg

    Identification

    How to Identify Squirrel Damage in your Garden

    Weighing an average of 16 to 24 ounces, the type of squirrel that is probably causing damage in your garden is the common gray squirrel. Its color varies from gray, tan, or light brown to dark brown and black. Its belly is light, from white to gray. Its body is 8 to 11 inches in length, and its tail measures 8 to 10 inches. Its vocal call is a rapid CRRK CRRK or QUACK QUACK, similar to a duck. The famous feature of the gray squirrel is its bushy tail, a luxurious puff of fur used for warmth, communication, and balance.

    Squirrels have a very keen sense of smell, which most gardeners blame for their bulb pilfering. The nose of these expert foragers is a tiny but powerful tool in the search for hidden nuts and berries. Gardeners aren’t sure whether the squirrels do actively seek out the spring bulbs or not, but the problem of bulb snatching is real and widespread.

    Squirrel Damage

    • Spring bulbs snacked on? You’re probably dealing with squirrels, chipmunks, or groundhogs. Squirrels love to dig up spring bulbs during their autumn foraging—both to eat the bulbs and to use the ready-made holes to store their foraged nuts.
    • Missing or damaged crops in the garden is also a key sign of squirrels. Often, squirrels will steal ripening fruits and vegetables to snack on, especially soft and juicy produce such as squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and melons. Frustratingly, they often don’t even eat the entire thing!
    • If you’re growing flowers or vegetables in containers, you may also notice that someone’s been digging around in the container soil. Squirrels and chipmunks are known to look for insects or other goodies in containers, and may uproot plants in the process.
    • Squirrels will not only attack your gardens, but your bird feeders as well. If you notice your bird food disappearing rather quickly, you may have a squirrel problem.

    squirrels-birdfeeders-removal.jpg

    Control and Prevention

    Protecting the Garden From Squirrels

    Generally speaking, your goal should be to make your yard or garden as unappealing to squirrels as possible.

    • Is your yard covered in nuts, berries, and acorns from trees? If so, your place is squirrel heaven! Be sure to rake and remove their food so you’re not party central.
    • Also, make sure you have tight-fitting trash cans and never leave food or compost scraps sitting out.
    • Don’t bother trapping and relocating squirrels. This is a losing battle, since the population of squirrels is extremely high in most areas, and moving one will just make room for another! Also, if the animal is a female, there is a high likelihood that you will remove her from babies that depend on her for survival. Additionally, relocation of wildlife may be illegal in your area.
    • Some readers will feed the squirrels in a different part of the yard so that they don’t eat their garden vegetables or plants. We’ve never tried this approach, however!
    • If the season has been particularly hot and dry, squirrels may steal tomatoes, cucumbers, or other juicy produce from the vine because they’re thirsty. Some readers have reported that placing a dish of water (or bird bath) nearby affected crops can discourage snacking.

    Fencing, Netting, and Covers

    Physical barriers can usually get the job done, as long as the material is right for the job. Squirrels and other rodents are capable of squeezing through extremely tight spaces, so the holes in the fence or net must be small. Look specifically for netting or fencing that’s rated for rats or squirrels.

    • Consider protecting your vegetable garden with a wire fence and make sure it is buried about a foot into the ground, so the squirrels can’t dig under it. Materials like hardware cloth will do the trick.
    • You may also wish to invest in some chew-proof netting and put that over your plants—just as you would invest in bird netting for berry bushes. Row covers made of heavier materials can also be used, depending on the season.
    • Pots are easy to protect with a layer of netting or hardware cloth across the top of the pot, too. A layer of gravel or stones can also discourage digging.
      • Or, here’s a more-expensive pantry solution: Lay aluminum foil across the top of vegetable pots; poke holes for water. The squirrels do not like the shiny reflection.

    Natural Squirrel Repellents

    There are also many natural repellents on the market:

    • Some commercial repellents are made with the urine of squirrels’ predators. These are meant to be sprayed around gardens to keep squirrels away, but will likely need to be reapplied regularly.
    • Try sprinkling cayenne pepper, pepper flakes, and/or garlic pepper on and around your plants when they are ready to bloom. After getting a taste, squirrels won’t dare eat anything with cayenne—which you can often buy in bulk. Bird, on the other hand, can’t taste capsaicin, so the kick won’t harm them.
    • One reader claims blood meal sprinkled around the garden soil works against squirrels.
    • Scatter dog or human hair around your garden. One readers shares, “I used to have a problem with squirrels digging up my bulbs. Now, once in the spring and once in the fall, I ask my hairdresser to save a big bag of hair for me. I lightly dig this into the soil. Squirrels can not stand the smell of humans, so they leave the gardens alone.”
    • Plant nasturtiums, marigolds, and mustard as a border around your vegetable garden; these plants have a strong aroma.
    • A dog is a great squirrel chaser, if that’s an option in your backyard!
    • If you’re really going crazy, explore the idea of a raptor perch and owl nest box to invite natural predators who will prey on squirrels.

    Protecting Flower Bulbs from Squirrels

    • To protect spring bulbs, cover the surface of the bed with black plastic netting, which is invisible and inexpensive. 
    • Or, you can line the planting hole itself with wire mesh (“hardware cloth”). Some gardeners have found that planting the bulbs in a handful of sharp, crushed gravel discourages the squirrels. This might help provide better drainage as well.
    • If squirrels are especially challenging, try chicken wire. Plant beds with one inch chicken wire and place more wire on top of the bulbs. The plants can grow through the wires, but the squirrels can’t get to the bulbs. Also, consider planting bulbs that squirrels don’t like such as daffodils, ornamental onions (Allium), snowdrops (Galanthus), and grape hyacinths (Muscari). Plus, check out our list of rodent-proof bulbs
    • Don’t advertise your newly dug bulbs by leaving papery bits of bulb debris in or on the soil. Clean up your act, or better still, try not to lay your bulbs on the ground while you dig the holes to plant them—squirrels will smell their favorite and scamper over.
    • If all else fails, just grow tulips in pots as squirrels aren’t attracted to tulips. 

    Keeping Squirrels Off Bird Feeders

    • Birdfood definitely attracts squirrels who love seeds and nuts and berries. Keep the area under your bird feeder as clean as possible.
    • Keep in mind the jumping abilities of squirrels: Even if a squirrel can’t gain a foothold on the feeder, they can knock it to the ground.
    • Place birdfeeders on isolated poles (not hanging from eaves or trees) at least 5 to 6 feet off the ground and 8 to 10 feet away from your house, trees, or structures. (Squirrels can leap that far and even farther.) Some folks use a pulley system.
    • Attach to the feeder pole either an inverted cone with at least a 13-inch diameter, a special squirrel-deterring dish with a 15-inch diameter, or a PVC pipe or stovepipe that’s 6 inches in diameter and 18 inches long.
    • Protect feeders suspended from a horizontal wire by threading old records, compact discs, or plastic soda bottles on the wire on each side.
    • If squirrels are climbing up your birdhouse poles, try rubbing them with Crisco! It doesn’t hurt the birds, and the squirrels slither down!
    • Try using safflower seeds. Birds are happy to eat these seeds, but squirrels find them bitter.
    • Also, consider the type of birdfeeder. If you have the common tube feeder, metal ports around the seed dispensers will protect the feeder from nibbling squirrels and house sparrows. 
    • If you are buying a new feeder, the most successful feeder is an all-metal feeder with adjustable springs that regulate a counter-weighted door. When birds light on the platform, the door remains open, but under the heavier weight of a squirrel, the door drops down to conceal the food supply. These tend to be pricier, but you won’t have to replace them of account of squirrel damage. 

    get-rid-of-squirrels.jpg

    Reader Suggestions

    Here are a couple more squirrel repellent suggestions that readers sent in:

    • Try motion-activated sprinklers, primarily designed to keep cats and rabbits out of gardens, may help scare away squirrels, especially in small yards or at corners of front yards where damage is most likely to occur. However, the presence of numerous squirrels, stray animals, or children may result in overwatering and high water bills if they continually trigger this device.
    • Get some mousetraps. Anchor them solidly to the ground in the area where the squirrels have been digging. Cover them with newspaper, and sprinkle a little dirt on top. When a squirrel comes to dig, it will set off the traps. As the mechanism snaps, it will scare and throw dirt at the squirrel. Once it’s scared enough times, it will find another digging area. Be sure to anchor the traps just in case the wind blows the newspaper off of them. If the trap is anchored, the squirrel will not get hurt.

    Squirrels Inside the Home

    In the autumn, many squirrels try to find shelter and may come inside your home. Avoid this by trimming branches that hang near your roof and place a mesh guard on your chimney. Close up all holes into your home. 

    If a squirrel does become trapped in your chimney or attic, you don’t want it to die inside. Make sure it has a way to get out. Hang a rope down through your chimney so it can climb back up to the roof. Or, buy a live trap to get the squirrel out of your house. 

    Call an animal control specialist if you’re desperate. Once a squirrel lives in your house for a few weeks, they and all their relatives will be attracted to your attic for at least a couple of years.

    Do you have any tips for keeping squirrels away? Let us know below!

    Plants Affected

    2021_gardening_calendar_christmas_ad.png

    Reader Comments

    Leave a Comment

    squirrels

    I had a problem with squirrels digging under a patio. I got a battery powered fly swatter from Harbor Freight and taped the on button down, stuck it in the hole. Problem solved.

    Tried a few of those tips...

    It goes without saying that various tips may or may not work for some as well as others. My squirrel troubles aren't too bad so I don't go far out of my way to deter them. They buried some peanuts in a few potted flowers this season - a neighbor must be handing them out. Last year, they ate my flowering clover to the ground but clover can't be stopped. One or two tomatoes per season are sacrificed - not bad. Feeding them now and then in a location removed from the flowers I want to protect is helpful when new flowers are sprouting from seed or new perennial purchases are taking root. Cayenne did nothing for me, might work for you! Blood meal is effective. You'll need a good amount and you'll want to put it down a few times each season. My dog is so gentle and uninterested in squirrels and birds that they don't care about her at all: they stare at her and laugh. So it depends on the dog in question! Giving them my decorative pumpkins at the end of October keeps them happy until December.

    how to get rid of squirrels

    the peppermint plants I plant around our garden work ...and peppermint oil:
    Scents like white pepper, black pepper, and garlic are naturally unpleasant to a squirrel. The same goes for sweet smells such as peppermint. Spraying your plants and flowers with water and then sprinkling on pepper or peppermint oil to deter squirrels.

    Squirrels

    Our neighbors have at least 25 bird feeders (all types) all over their yard, hanging from trees, hanging from planters, and they gather up pinecones into a huge pile and leave them under the trees. Of course those squirrels don't STAY in their yard - - they come over to OUR yard to dig up anything and everything. Our neighbor on the other side of the street has a walnut tree, which really attracts the little critters, but they use our 6 foot wooden fence as a highway to go back and forth. We've tried literally everything to get rid of them, but with the major attractions in our neighbors yards, it's impossible. They have ruined the top of our new fence within 2 years, and I've given up trying to grow anything except what I can plant up on the back deck where I can keep an eye on things a little better and shoo them away with my outdoor broom. It's a losing battle for the rest of the yard, however.

    Our dog only barks when squirrels are around so he's some help, but he's already almost 14 years old and almost blind, so he's not exactly on top of his game.

    Squirrels eating my tomatoes

    I have a small garden so I was especially frustrated to see that the squirrels started knocking off and eating my tomatoes! I tried several of the other deterrents like aluminum foil which seemed to work a bit but they were still getting in and spoiling my (small) crop. I finally came up with a solution that so far has worked like a charm. I take plastic zip lock sandwich bags, make slits on the sides, middle and bottom. I slipped the bag under each group of tomatoes and slid the top on both sides to hold them in place. It's been over a week and so far NO MORE THEFTS! I'm cautiously optimistic that it's working, but I understand it may not be for others with larger gardens. Good luck everyone

    squirrels

    Gods little creatures but they surely are a trial for man. Just over my property line is one of the most awesome black walnut trees I could imagine. Do we have squirrels. OMG yes. Lost pole beans this year and they love to dig in my garden and frequently plant walnuts but not just in the garden but everywhere. I see many starts to these trees come to fruition on my property. Cute, beautiful and etc, they are a rodent or are classified as a rodent. Not to sound bad, they can be harvested and are actually quite delicious. I have eaten wild squirrel and rabbit and find both beneficial to my diet. I would like to hear from others that feel the same. Please, I dont feel I am an ogre but the bible says we have dominion over all animals of the earth.

    Squirrels and more

    Ya not only did I have problems with Squirrels but birds and my Chickens. I built a fence with 4" square concrete mesh 6' high with T posts then covered it with 1"square 20 gage chicken wire. Then found that the chickens/Squirrels/birds could go over it!! Then seeing how they were I got an electric fence charger and insulated the tops 2" T posts with 1 1/2" abs plumbing band clamped on. Then ran bailing wire about 1" from the grounded fence so whatever tried to go over got the shock of their life. Laughed to see the first chicken fly up on it and then squawk and jump 3' in the air. They have never tried it again.
    Yes it was a lot of work I have a large garden with 7 9'x9' razed beds 100 feet of fencing connected to 35' of south facing shop with gates that one hast to bend down to go through so as not to touch the double wire an inch above them. But it worked,I got the chickens to take care of the grasshoppers, that worked. Now we are getting lots of veggies. The whole thing is on a drip system timed, just haft to weed a little, easy sitting on the two stacked rail road ties around the beds.
    Another note put down 4" of compost then cardboard, then 4" of clean garden soil and really don't have much weeds. Ya a lot of work but I love growing things and we are getting more that we can use. should be good for years.

    squirrels, chipmunks

    My problem with these adorable but thieving and desctructive little critters is their habit of climbing the pole that supports my bird feeder. I tried taping an aluminum foil pie plate over the pole, and that worked until wind, rain, etc. tore the pan off the pole. My current solution is better, and works very well, but does need to be fixed up a couple of times per week, depending on weather. I wrap duct tape around the pole, inside-out, so that the sticky side is on the outside. The chipmunks don't like the sticky feel, and give up on climbing the pole. I also keep a squirt bottle filled with a vinegar / water solution next to the window, and spray the little brats from the window whenever I see them showing too much interest in the bird feeder. If I run out of duct tape, my back-burner plan is to coat the steel pole with Vaseline.

    Squirrel and patio screen door

    We came home today to find a hole approx 3 inches across chewed or town on screen of sliding patio door. Look like some white fur around it but no animal inside. Would a squirrel do this?

    Squirrels... errrr...

    Hi. Thanks for all of the great tips! Especially the mirror balls! I've had fantastic results spreading vapo rub around the outside rim of my planters and pots. I've even put it around my raised beds. It seems to work really well as I've had zero squirrel damage since! The only drawback is that you can smell the vapo rub for a couple of days but then it dissipates. (And continues to work) Relatively inexpensive if you grab generic rub from the dollar store too!

    Squirrel

    Pellet guns work. They taste good too.

    Mint

    I have found that planting anything in the mint family along the borders of my beds keep the squirrels out of my garden. Just be sure you plant it in a container/separate bed or it will take over your area.

    Squirrels in the Yard & Garden

    Yes, a pellet rifle. If that does not work-a shotgun?

    Squirrels in the Garden

    To all my fellow vegetable gardners who are in a constant battle with squirrels - I have found the solution. Squirrels were killing my garden - digging up seeds, eating the tops of plants and killing them and reeking havoc in my garden.
    I have tried all of the following with little or no success:
    1. firepit ashes (works for about a week)
    2. dried pepper flakes (works for a few days or until it rains)
    3. moth balls
    4. Irish Spring Soap
    5. dog patrol - works until the pups come back inside
    Back in the day my parents would hang old CDs in thier garden (when every software or printer update came with a CD), but during a pandemic thrift stores were not open. I got to thinking, what would be shiney and reflective, fun, and weather resistent. Aluminium pie pans are shiney and reflective and weather risistent, but not fun or attractive.
    Then it hit me- DISCO BALLS! Shiny - check, reflective- check, fun- check, weather resistant - I hoped so. Party City stores were not open, but they were accepting online orders. I found a 20% off online coupon and got free shipping. Three days later I had 3 Disco Balls on my front porch.
    I pulled 3 shepherd hooks and spider wire (the balls have to spin) out of the basement and installed my new Disco Balls in the garden. I've been watching the garden and the squirrels for the past 2+ months. Squirrels will walk the fence behind the garden and play in the grass and trees around the garden, BUT NOT ONE squirrel has gone in the garden and my garden is THRIVING. We have also had a lot of wind and rain this spring and not one mirror tile has come off.
    One of my neighbors has had her garden repeated destroyed by squirrels and put a disco ball in her last week.
    Don't waste your time with all those things I mentioned above - they don't work. Hang a couple of Disco Balls and make your garden a Squirrel-Free and Fun Zone!!!!

    Going insane

    My wife wakes up every morning to tend to her garden before work and every morning i hear the same thing. Her screaming about squirrels destroying her garden, and her begging me to go out and buy another plant to replace it while she is at work.
    I have suggested and we've tried all sorts of pepper, squirrel deterrent granules, and even tried motion activated owl statues and sonic repellents. NONE of these have worked, and i have already spent about 100 dollars in saplings this year for my wife's replacements because we start them normally from seeds but since this year was so cold until recently and winter snaps, plus the squirrels i am afraid we will never have a garden again. The squirrels in my neighborhood seem to be unafraid of humans and attack our garden nightly, regardless of deterrent. I am willing to try anything for my wife and my sanity. I have heard of aluminum foil working, placing it over the soil and putting toothpick sized holes in it for water to drain... i don't know if this will work, but they struck again this morning and i am about to head out for 2 more replacement pepper plants because they destroyed my Chili and Habanero pepper plants.

    Netting

    The Editors's picture

    It sounds like it’s time to look into surrounding your garden with some sort of physical barrier such as chew-proof netting or small-gauge chicken wire that will keep the squirrels “socially distanced” from your crops once and for all. Be sure to bury the barrier into the soil a few inches to deter any desperate squirrels that attempt to dig under it. 

    Squirrels

    I have reflective things in my yard. I have done Cayenne pepper, ghost pepper all types of pepper and the squirrels will eat it. I’ve done vinegars and soaps in all types of mixes along with commercial deterrence that are specially made for squirrels. I have a fake owl in my yard and I have a dog that chases them off every time we see them in the yard. I have done chicken wire and they have pulled up the chicken wire and ripped it up. I also got cat scat mats That are plastic that I put on top of the chicken wire that are painful and to deter them from digging and they actually pull it up. I have done everything except plant mint because I’m severely allergic to it. They are killing my hydrangeas and my rosebushes I don’t know what else to do

    So.... what do we leave a mssg if isnt gonna be pubicly.

    I was going crazy with these squarrels + my Beagle dog barking.......we both chasing "em.....but always coming back. And I was there watching buy the window,,,& my garbage....all over my backyard....... went to the store & got MOLEMAX...... its like a plastic spike...U put 3 C batteries..... make the hole b/4 U put the spike in........U don'T bang on the spike...U can break it. Once U hear the BEEP.......put it in......
    I swear......yesterday I put 'em...( the 2 spikes ).......Copper ( my Beagle ) ..& me ....past 24 hrs....not 1 Squarrel around my backyard. These fricking animals...ate the plastic cans....the shed that protect the Cans were eating too........ today...NOT ONE SQUARREL..I recommend 200%....& have a great Summer....wear mask & rubber gloves this hard time we going through. ( Sorry my english ..so so )

    Squirrels & hot pepper

    For years, using hot pepper suet, seeds with hot pepper mix, and safflower seeds kept squirrels from visiting my bird feeders. Now, all the squirrels in my neighborhood eat all those things With relish...no deterrent at all. What’s happening?

    Squirrels

    To keep the squirrels out of my geranium planters, I put a prickly cactus in a nice pot at one side and a plant called a piss-off plant at the other end. The later plant is meant to repel cats and repels everything. I bring
    both my guard plants in for the winter. Job well done.

    Deterring squirrels from my bird feeder

    I have made a mixture of honey and cayenne pepper, or pancake syrup and cayenne pepper and put it on my bird feeder. The honey or pancake syrup makes the cayenne sticky. It has been very clear that the squirrels do not like the smell of the cayenne, they go to the feeder and then scamper away! It has to be replaced every couple of days or after rain.

    Squirrels eating bulbs

    I've been putting Epsom salt in the hole for the bulb and also some always falls on the ground. Haven't had any bulbs eaten in years. Plus the Epsom salts fertilize the bulbs

    Squirrel Repellant

    If you can directly access the areas they're nesting in, a few Bounce (or other similalry STRONG scented) dryer sheets shoved behind the wall will deter them for a few weeks at a time. I do maintenance on a heritage building and for several years we managed them pretty successfully by poking a hole through the drywall everywhere we could hear them up against the wall and poking in a few dryer sheets, install a plastic access hatch to save on drywall repairs, repeat every two or three weeks. We only ran into problems when they'd managed to chew their way in from the outside to an area we couldn't reach, eventually had to call in pest control to put one-way squirrel gates where they'd chewed into the eaves after I blocked their previous highway...

    Squirrels

    We have had problems with squirrels for years in the attic of the church, falling down through ceiling tiles into the sanctuary and causing havoc. The ONLY solution we have found is a strobe light left on in the attic to repel them. They had actually eaten through bricks to get into the attic. The strobe light left on year round did the job.

    Squirrels

    If one has a bird feeder on a pipe.......purchase a 4x4 square plastic pole and place over pipe. Squirrels can not get their feet around the pole.

    If one wants to get rid of squirrels....... trap 'em and eat 'em! Very tasty!!

    Squirrels eating my coconuts

    How can I stop this animal to eat my coconuts from the tree. They eat the stem of the fruit when the coconut is growing,

    Remove squirrels from the garden

    I bought a Silent Cat pellet rifle, began use January 1, 2019. 46 squirrels no longer reside in and around my garden. Do not be fooled by these gimmicks. It is the only way.

    Get a Silent Cat. Be

    Get a Silent Cat. Be consistent.

    Squirrel Management

    Does the pellet gun kill the squirrels?

    Keeping tree rats out of coconut tree

    Well here in Kentucky I have 2 huge pecan trees in my back yard and I was told to nail sheet metal to the trunk about 6 ft up

    Pages

    FREE BEGINNER'S GARDEN GUIDE!

    Sign up for our email newsletter by entering your email address.

    BONUS: You’ll also receive our Almanac Companion newsletter!

    The Almanac Webcam

    Chosen for You from The Old Farmer's Store