If you're an avid gardener, squirrels can be one of your greatest challenges. These adorable and nimble creatures are notorious for digging up seeds, munching on tomatoes, and causing all kinds of havoc in vegetable gardens. They’re super smart and motivated, too, making it even more difficult to keep them away. Thankfully, there are ways to squirrel-proof your garden that don't involve harm to these furry critters or the environment. Let's take a look at some strategies you can try to squirrel-proof your garden.
It’s always helpful to understand your enemy; that is, why squirrels are attracted to your garden in the first place. Squirrels are opportunistic feeders; they eat a variety of foods, including seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Additionally, overturned soil is an open invitation for squirrels, who are always looking for a place to bury their food for future use.
Keeping Squirrels Out of Your Garden
There are several non-harmful ways to keep squirrels out of your garden and protect your seedlings, plants, and vegetables. Remember that squirrels are great at adapting, so you’ll probably want to choose several of these methods and periodically change tactics if you’ve got a persistent squirrel problem.
Use Physical Barriers
Tall fences can be a good deterrent, but remember that squirrels are excellent climbers and jumpers. You may want to add a squirrel baffle (similar to those used on bird feeders) to the top of your fence and bury fencing at least 6 inches to discourage digging. Sharpened sticks or forks poking out of the soil may help keep squirrels out of freshly planted areas long enough for your seedlings to establish. Heavy-duty mesh fencing around any tree trunks adjacent to your garden can help, and it’s also a good idea to trim any low-hanging branches that make it easy for squirrels to invade.
Wire mesh or garden netting can be an effective deterrent, but keep in mind that squirrels sometimes chew through chicken wire and lightweight wire materials. There are many different designs and materials to choose from, including bags for fruit trees, plant covers, row covers, and block netting. These barriers may keep squirrels out of your seedlings and later keep them from eating your harvest, but you may need to remove them during pollination season so your plants can develop fruit.
Diversify Your Plantings
There are a few plants squirrels tend to avoid, particularly those with strong scents that they avoid. These include alliums like garlic, leeks, and onions. Daffodils, hyacinths, geraniums, lily of the valley, mints, and marigolds all seem repulsive to squirrels in various degrees. Strategic placement of these plants in your garden may help keep squirrels at bay.
Natural Squirrel Repellents
Sprinkling cayenne pepper, coffee grounds, or vinegar around your garden may keep squirrels out of your beds. They dislike these smells and often will steer clear. Just remember, you will need to reapply these natural repellents after each rain or on a weekly basis.
If squirrels are a regular problem, check your garden for things that might be attracting them. This can include unsecured trash bins, bird feeders squirrels can access, outdoor pet food, and fallen fruits and nuts from trees. Of course, the garden itself is probably quite attractive, but looking at all angles is important.
Make Friends with Your Squirrels
While we often see squirrels as pests, they're a part of our natural ecosystem. You might find a balance where you can deter them from your vegetable garden but still allow them in other parts of your yard. Consider planting a small patch of corn or sunflower away from your vegetable garden and adding a birdbath or other attractions. These "squirrel-friendly" zones can provide an alternative food source, keeping them occupied and away from your veggies.
Scare Them Off
Natural predators can keep squirrels away. Ideally, your pets will take an active role in keeping pests out of the garden, but even the laziest cats and dogs can make the garden seem a lot less appealing. Decoy owls or shiny objects on strings can also scare squirrels, but it’s a good idea to move them often so the squirrels don’t catch on.
Grow Enough to Share
It might seem strange, but why not grow some extra? When you grow more than you need or want, it won’t be as devastating when the squirrels take some of your cucumbers. Planting the largest garden possible for your space is the best way to create an abundance. This way, you’ll have enough to share with the squirrels (and your neighbors).
With some patience, understanding, and a few clever tactics, you can keep squirrels from wrecking your garden and eating all of your harvest. Just remember you’re smarter than they are (and they’re very smart). Be persistent and use several methods at once, taking note of what works and what doesn’t. With time, you’ll figure out a method that works for you.
Written by Teresa Chandler