How to Keep Squirrels Away From Your Garden

Squirrels-how to identify-squirrel-Pixabay

A squirrel enjoys a snack. 

Photo by Pixabay

Got squirrel problems in the yard, garden, and attic? Sure, they’re entertaining to watch and we’re fond of these furry critters, but if you lose your entire vegetable garden and all your bulbs, it can be very frustrating. So what’s a gardener to do? You can co-exist. Try these top tips for repelling squirrels naturally.

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 nearly ripe 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 late summer and autumn, when 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 flower bulbs, anyway? Why do they ransack some borders and leave others alone? 

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.



    Is That A Squirrel I See?

    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.

    How to Identify Squirrel Damage in the Garden

    • 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.


    Control and Prevention

    Preventing Squirrels 

    • 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 (yes, even squirrels) may be illegal in your area.
    • 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. 
    • Unfortunately, growing extra vegetables to “feed” the squirrels does not usually work; squirrels will simply plow through your produce and bring their friends!
    • Is your yard covered in nuts and acorns from trees? If so, your place is squirrel heaven! Just accept that your yard will be party central or you’ll need to pick up and move though nuts to a different part of the yard or grow/select different types of trees.

    Fencing, Netting, and Covers

    It’s best to use physical barriers, which 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 very 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 at least 6 inches into the ground, so the squirrels can’t easily dig under it. Materials like ¼-inch 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.

    Dogs are Natural Squirrel Deterrants!

    • A dog is a great squirrel chaser, if that’s an option in your backyard! Squirrels can’t stand those pesky dogs! Save the dog’s hair when you brush or groom it, and use it to mulch your garden beds. The squirrels won’t go near it! 
    • Human hair helps a well, according to one reader who 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.”

    Natural Squirrel Repellents

    There are also many natural repellents on the market:

    • Spread predator urine around your garden. Garden nurseries will carry 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, ground chili peppers, 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.
    • Birds can’t taste capsaicin, so add some cayenne pepper to those bird feeders to deter squirrels.
    • One reader claims blood meal sprinkled around the garden soil works against squirrels.
    • Plant nasturtiums, marigolds, and mustard as a border around your vegetable garden; these plants have a strong aroma.
    • 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.

    Which Bulbs to Plant

    • Bulbs that squirrels (and other rodents) do not like, such as daffodils, fritillaria, snowdrops (Galanthus), grape hyacinths (Muscari), and ornamental alliums. These flowers are also disliked by rabbits and deer because of their unpalatable taste and fragrant odor. You can also try these flowers in pots, planters, and containers. Check out our list of rodent-proof bulbs
    • For more protection, just 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.
    • Gardeners lay down chicken wire if they’re planting many bulbs. Look for one-inch mesh and place below and on top of the bulbs. The plants can grow through the wires, but the squirrels can’t get to the bulbs. 
    • As an added layer of protection, cover the surface of the bed with black plastic netting, which is invisible and inexpensive. 
    • 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.

    Image: Allium. Credit: C. Boeckmann

    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. 


    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


    Reader Comments

    Leave a Comment

    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.


    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. 


    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?


    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...


    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.


    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

    Could you let us know a non-killing solution to mice & spiders?

    We have problems with squirrels, mice and spiders. I have one solution and
    that's peppermint tea (for spiders), but I need more than one. They seem to
    become tolerant after awhile.

    Thanks for this info, I really appreciate it. Squirrels can be a real nuisance here,
    yet they are cute and I don't want to ever hurt them (squirrels). Spiders and mice
    can be more dangerous. So, I really need spider and mice info too!

    pest control

    The Editors's picture

    For mice control options, you might check out this page: https://www.almanac.com/pest/mice

    As for spiders, although they do help control other pests in the home, and very few are able to penetrate human skin if biting, a few can be dangerous, depending on where you live, or if one is highly allergic to spider bites. Some spiders spin webs to capture prey while others hunt actively for insects. In the home, one of the best ways to control them is by vacuuming and dusting; be sure to destroy any egg sacs that you might find, including in garages, basements, and attics. Reduce as much clutter as possible in dark areas, such as closets, basements, garages, etc., where spiders like to set up shop. Remove debris/weeds around the home’s foundation and keep wood piles away from the house. Make sure doors and windows are air tight, with no cracks that might let in insects and spiders. Control insects, which may attract spiders as a food source. Outdoor lights on at night will attract insects, some of which might come into garages etc, which in turn attract spiders. Hope this helps!

    Squirrel Damage

    I have a small city garden that squirrels like to visit very early in the morning.Those unwanted thieves have now developed a special liking for young cucumbers, just when they reach about 2 to 3 inches long. They snap them off the vine for a quenching snack during this dry spell. Beware!

    Squirrel Repellants

    My squirrels LIKE hot peppers, garlic, vinegar, tabasco sauce, safflower seed , moth balls.They've figured out how to untie a rope meant to keep the bird feeder lid on and to remove the plexiglass windows. The only thing they don't like is a cold shower from the hose.Any other suggestions to get rid of these pest would be greatly appreciated


    The squirrels in my gardens sound like the ones you have. Every thing I have tried from the experts has failed - and I'm not used to failure so I keep trying to find a good solution, even the owls have given up! I guess; because I've not seen them in my yard for awhile. They probably are getting the squirrels in neighbors yards now as I can hear them in the area. The squirrels are very smart and cute but very very annoying. I've tried feeding them in a different area but there are so many of them I can't keep enough food for them and then they are back in my gardens and stealing the bird food, my pecans, vegetables, flowers, etc. Please help!!!

    You will not beat them by

    You will not beat them by being nice. All my fruits and vegetables got pillaged last year, so this year I took matters into my own hands. Got a Silent Cat pellet rifle, 46 squirrels eliminated. It has mostly solved my problem. There's still a straggler or two, but I have had a much higher rate of harvest. Much higher.

    Squirrel Infestation

    We moved into our present house last summer. We had a few squirrels (4-5) in the yard and our dog kept them at bay. He would run after them and they were not a nuisance. This week I looked outside and saw 12 squirrels running and jumping from tree to tree in the front and side yard. We have a pile of large logs piles on the side yard and they scurry in and around that all day. They stare at us when we sit on the deck and are not deterred by loud noises. They just look at the dog and only run when he chases them. We have 12 squirrels and no babies yet. Unfortunately we now live in a suburban neighborhood so my preferred method of eradicating the squirrels cannot be used. Has anyone had to deal with such large numbers of squirrels? Would getting rid of the wood pile make a difference? Thank you for any suggestions.


    The Editors's picture

    They seem to enjoy that wood pile and may even be roosting in it, so removing the logs should encourage them to find somewhere else to hang out. Problem is, you don’t know where they’ll choose! They could take a liking to your neighbor’s yard or your crawlspace instead. If you have any birdfeeders up, these are also squirrel-magnets, so take them down. 

    Alternatively, you could try spraying strong scents around the logs, which could discourage them from hanging out there. The strong scents of essential oils, like eucalyptus, lavender, or citronella, may be just offensive enough to get the squirrels to scram. 

    Overall, removing any sources of shelter or of food is the best way to get the squirrels to move on to greener pastures.

    Go back to your preferred

    Go back to your preferred method. Get a Silent Cat pellet rifle. Be consistent. It truly is the only way.

    Squirrel Damage

    Help! The squirrels have eaten the lead seal off all the vent stacks on my roof causing several leaks in my house. Their teeth marks are apparent on the vinyl trim and soffit and facia board of my house. And, they have even chewed the aluminum fence ties off my chain link fence. How can I get rid of these destructive animals? I don't want to use any type of poison lest I harm the family dog or my neighbor's cat.

    squirrel trouble

    The Editors's picture

    Squirrels chew in part because their teeth are always growing, so they need to constantly wear them down. As for the lead around vent stacks, apparently that is a common problem. There are various methods you can try, including installing a vent shield made especially for deterring squirrels from chewing there. Installing wire mesh over certain places that squirrels favor, and trying squirrel repellents, available at hardware stores and garden centers, are other options. Hope this helps!

    Squirral and chipmunk problems

    I've been using vaseline rubbed on the pole holding my bird feeders for many years. This works all season and through the entire year. I've only had to replace the vaseline once a year. The pole/bird feeder stands alone; so there is no way for the pesky critters to jump to the bird feeders.

    Squirrel problems

    I note quite often the publisher steers clear from the obvious solution.....population reduction. The loss of natural predators has created an explosion in the population of the bushy tailed critters. I noted in the article it said not to relocating squirrels, as it could present a problem for any abandoned young. There is no reason not to remove and relocate during your areas hunting season for squirrels. Pretty safe, as they are outside the critical times when the young are being cared for. Population control, is no longer a first solution........a dozen proposals written that just tiptoe around the only true solution. I’m fortunate enough live in an area where the obvious solution usually has the best outcome...squirrel and dumplings!!!!



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