How to Keep Squirrels Out of the Garden

keep squirrels out of your garden

Are squirrels driving you nuts? No pun intended, of course, but if you’re wondering how to keep squirrels out of your garden areas, you’ve come to the right place.

Squirrels might seem cute and cuddly, but to a gardener, they can be an absolute nightmare. Not only do they get into bird feeders and wreak havoc on your trees, but they can also nibble on the garden plants you’ve worked so hard to cultivate.

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to keep squirrels away. Here’s what you need to know.

How Do You Stop Squirrels From Eating Your Garden? Signs of Damage

squirrel on patio

If you’re trying to keep squirrels out of the garden, your first course of action should be to make sure it’s squirrels that are causing problems in the first place.

There are plenty of other garden pests that cause damages that look like squirrel damage-  but aren’t.

Here are some of the most common signs that squirrels are damaging your plants.

For one, you might be most likely to notice damage in the late summer or early fall.

Although squirrels will feed at any time, they are most likely to inflict their damage at this time of the year as they look for food to store up for winter.

Squirrels don’t hibernate like other species – they instead stash food to eat during the winter.

They’ll go after all kinds of plant parts in your garden, including acorns, nuts, pinecones, fruit, bark, fungi, berries, and more. You likely won’t notice that just one part of a plant is damaged (or one species) but instead several.

Missing or damaged crops is the most telling sign of squirrel damage. THey’re most fond of juicy produce like peppers, tomatoes, melons, and cucumbers. They don’t always eat the whole thing, either.

Squirrels frequently dig up spring-planted bulbs when they’re foraging in the fall. They’ll eat the bulbs and then use the holes in which you planted them to store their foraged haul for the season.

Containers are common targets for squirrels, too. They’ll go after both flowers and vegetables planted in containers – sometimes, they’ll be looking for insects and uproot the entire plant.

Finally, if squirrels are wreaking havoc in your garden beds, check your bird feeders.

Squirrels usually attack garden areas and bird feeders, which is the most obvious sign that it’s a squirrel you are dealing with and not some other sort of invader.

Why is Keeping Squirrels Out of the Garden Important?

squirrel eating peach

Keeping squirrels out of the garden is essential for several reasons.

They are frustrating to deal with because they’ll eat all parts of your plants, including the leaves, seeds, stems, flowers, and fruit.

It’s not just the bountiful harvest they’re after – they’ll eat plenty of immature plants that are still growing, too.

Squirrels also like to dig, which may mean that they will rapidly uproot your carefully planted bulbs and seeds. They can leave your garden looking like a messy, unsightly mess.

Not only that, but squirrels can spread several diseases to humans, including tularemia, typhus, and ringworm.

Although these are usually only spread through direct contact with humans (like a bite), they are unpleasant and not something you want to worry about.

Plus, squirrels can harbor fleas and ticks, which can quickly spread to you and your pets.

Preventing Squirrels

squirrel on planter

There are several ways you can prevent squirrels from destroying your garden.

First, make sure you never lead compost, food, or trash out. All of your trash cans should be equipped with tight-fitting lids.

If squirrels are causing you problems, don’t bother relocating and trapping them. They’ll keep coming back.

Even if they don’t, the population of squirrels in a given area tends to be so high that you will barely put a dent in them by relocating them.

Plus, trapping and relocating are illegal in some areas.

Enclosing your entire garden with a wire fence can help keep squirrels out. Build it out of a rigid, durable material like 1/4 inch hardware cloth for the best results.

You can also install chew-proof netting over your plants – similar to how you would put bird netting on plants.

Think ahead when you’re planning out your garden. Avoid installing your garden in a spot where squirrels are likely to visit.

For example, don’t plant right next to the giant oak tree on your lawn! The squirrels will be attracted to the acorns and will then hop on over to your garden.

You can’t plan for every variable, of course, but these tips should help you at least limit the number of squirrels that decide to drop by and say hello to your carefully planted vegetable garden.

What is the Best Way to Repel Squirrels?

squirrel by tree

While no two squirrels will be the same, these tips should help you keep squirrels away nine times out of ten.

Hide the Food

More often than not, squirrels enter your garden looking for snacks – we’re talking things like berries, acorns, and fallen nuts.

If you can, get rid of these. Use a nut gatherer to remove nuts from beneath trees and relocate them to an area where you don’t mind having squirrels hanging around, like an unused corner of your yard.

Get a Dog

You can also try to enlist the help of Fido in getting rid of squirrels. There’s nothing a dog loves more than chasing squirrels.

Put him to work to get rid of the squirrels on your lawn and in your garden.

If you don’t have a dog – and don’t plan on getting one any time soon – you might be able to take advantage of natural predators.

Place a few owls nests or raptor perches near the garden. This will entice avian predators to stop by your garden for a visit – and to get rid of the squirrels that are hanging out there.

Just keep in mind – if you have chickens or other small animals living on your property, this might not be the best choice.

Try Motion-Activated Sprinklers

You need to water your garden anyway, so why not use sprinklers to keep squirrels away from your garden, too? These will keep other animals, like chickens, out of your garden as well. 

Use a Repellent

Although the two species are vastly different in their sizes and habits, squirrels can be repelled by many of the same items used to repel deer.

You can spread a thin layer of coffee grounds around the garden or even tuck a bit of dog hair around plants.

Even peppermint oil or cayenne pepper can be helpful when it comes to keeping squirrels away from your garden.

Some other repellants you may have luck with include predator urine and blood meal. Sprinkle these around the garden soil, and you should be able to repel most squirrels.

Cover Bare Soil

For whatever reason, squirrels tend to be more attracted to bare soil. Mulch heavily around seedbeds and newly planted seedlings to be on the safe side.

Create a DIY Barrier to Keep Squirrels Out

There are a few things that squirrels aren’t particularly fond of – you can take advantage of these things to keep squirrels out of the garden.

For example, you can discourage squirrels by planting or interplanting your vegetables with varieties of plants that they don’t like. Examples include mustard, nasturtiums, and marigolds.

Growing crown imperial bulbs is another choice, but know that these have a powerful, skunky smell that might deter you from hanging out in your garden, too.

Squirrels also aren’t fond of mulch, particularly abrasive mulches like gravel, on their feet. You can add this to a garden bed to keep squirrels away.

It will also help disguise the scent of bulbs, which are usually quite attractive to squirrels when they’ve just been planted.

YOu can also try shielding your crops with row covers. Enclosing vulnerable plants with chicken wire or hardware cloth or building a greenhouse can protect plants from squirrels, too.

If you make a fence, keep it buried to a depth of at least one foot in the ground so that squirrels can’t dig beneath it.

Grow Plants Squirrels Aren’t Fond Of

Don’t encourage squirrels to visit your garden by growing plants they love. Instead, grow plants they aren’t crazy about.

Most squirrels won’t chew on bulbs like daffodils, grape hyacinths, ornamental alliums, or snowdrops.

The fragrance of these plants is quite strong so that they will keep away deer, rabbits, and of course, squirrels all on their own accord.

Use Mouse Traps

If your squirrel problem is extreme, consider setting out mouse traps. Anchor them to the ground in areas where you’ve noticed signs of squirrel damage.

Cover them with newspaper and sprinkle some dirt on top.

Usually, the mousetrap won’t kill the squirrel -but it should scare it enough to keep it from coming back again.

Try a Bird Feeder – But Just for Squirrels

This is a controversial tip, but it can be helpful. Consider putting out a separate feeding area for squirrels but make sure it’s far enough away from your garden that it won’t entice squirrels to clamber into your garden beds by the thousands.

Use a unique squirrel feeder or even repurposed bird feeders to provide these rodents with their favorite treats, like peanuts, feed corn, and sunflower seeds.

Sometimes, squirrels will much on garden plants just because they’re thirsty. If it’s been scorched where you live, consider putting out a fresh pan of water for the squirrels. They might finally leave your plants alone!

Preventing Squirrels From Eating Pumpkins

Squirrels don’t necessarily discriminate – they’ll go after most types of plants.

However, they are especially fond of pumpkins and other squash plants.

Because of this, you will want to surround your pumpkins with a liquid repellant. You can rub the pumpkin with a vinegar-soaked cloth every few days, too.

The smell should help repel any squirrels nearby. Owl decoys can help as well.

If you’re looking for more plant-specific tips, you may want to check out this video to get rid of squirrels and even rats around your tomato plants:

Keeping Squirrels Out of Bird Feeders

squirrel in garden

If you like attracting birds to your garden, you might be frustrated when squirrels keep eating all their food.

Using a bird feeder that is designed to be squirrel-proof can help. You can also add baffles or squirrel guards around existing feeders, which should help deter them.

When installing your bird feeder, make sure it is at least six feet off the ground and eight feet from any structure (like a house or shed). Squirrels will use this as a springboard to jump to the feeder.

Prune your trees to keep branches away from your garden and feed birds safflower seeds only. Birds love them, but squirrels can’t stand them.

What Do Squirrels Hate the Most?

squirrel eating garden

What’s the best tip for getting rid of squirrels in the garden?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one. To be successful in keeping squirrels out of your freshly planted garden, you’ll need to try a combination of the strategies mentioned above.

More than anything else, it’s vital that you be proactive in your approach to getting rid of squirrels because you need to keep them out of your house.

Once squirrels come into your home (usually, they’ll head there looking for shelter), it’s tough to get them out, and you may need to call an animal control specialist.

Take action now to chase squirrels out of your garden – and keep them out in the future. Squirrels are something that gardeners all over the country have to deal with – but fortunately, there are easy ways to keep them out for good.

READ NEXT: Chickens And Gardens

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