The North American acrobats of the trees, squirrels. Wow are they fun to watch. The cool thing is you can see them frolicking just about anytime of day. The bad thing is they can chow through a garden in no time. Just when you think that you are going to pick that fruit or veggie and BAM it is half eaten, has a few bites out of it, or even worse yet completely gone. Well that just means we need to step up our game as gardeners and learn how to keep squirrels out of the garden.
Squirrels are very resourceful animals that find interesting ways to solve problems of getting to food. They raid bird feeders and gardens like little tree climbing bandits. Sometimes you don’t know it is a squirrel raiding your garden until you actually see them. Some clues include half eaten fruit pulled from the plant. Little holes dug in the soil (less than an inch and a half) are another clue. You can always set up a video camera for a day and see what it is that is doing the damage.
All rodents have front teeth that never stop growing. So they love chewing on things. This keeps the teeth at a manageable length. Squirrels are no exception. There are a few plants that they don’t like to chew on. Then again some will still chew but they are more likely not to chew on daffodils, lily of the valley, alpine current, and even most geraniums. There are more but that will get you started. These plants wont ward squirrels off, but they tend not to eat them.
One plant that actually does seem to repel rodents in general is mint, more specifically peppermint. This is a great plant but can be very, very invasive and take over a garden quickly. One plant wont do it. It will take a lot of them to discourage them from coming in and feasting. If you want to do this take individual pots and place them around your garden. Did I say a lot? I mean a lot!
If you have a veggie garden though, you probably already know they love tomatoes. They also favor the flavor of beans and different kinds of squash. Unlike rabbits they do love cucumbers and even corn. Especially dried corn on the cob! Some people try planting a decoy garden in another part of their yard or offer them lots of nuts and seeds far away from the garden.
I suppose the decoy method would work to some degree, but I think you are actually just inviting more animals into your yard. My belief is you should discourage them from being there. Maybe you can give them something in the front yard to keep them out of the garden itself. I still don’t like this idea though.
Why does mint work? Well they tend not to like the smell of it. It messes with their sense of smell so they move on to more pleasant areas. You can also scare them away with scent based repellents, just like most other animals you can use the smell of predators to keep them away. Wolf urine works to keep a great many creatures out of your garden.
Don’t worry you will not need to get a wolf in your garden, might be cool though. You can buy it online from a great many providers, I suggest you do some research though to make sure the animals are treated humanly from the suppliers.
Back to our old favorite chili water! Mix one and half teaspoons of crushed red pepper, a teaspoon of dish soap, 7 or so cloves of garlic and a gallon of water let sit at least overnight. Then spray the area around the plants and on the plants to discourage them from eating your wonderful garden!
As you can probably imagine a fence wont work very well against a squirrel. Unlike deer, they can climb like crazy. I know I don’t need to tell you that. Although I think a deer climbing up a tree could be an interesting sight, but then again some goats can. Okay back to the topic at hand. You can cage you individual plants or the garden itself if it is small enough.
So it is more like cages than fences. They will poke and prod every bit of the cage to make sure they cannot get at the tender veggies. So make sure it is well sealed. Also some will dig under it to get in. So deploy the same method as mentioned in the rabbit fence. Put fencing 6-10 inches into the ground and bent 90 degrees 6 inches way from the garden.
It takes a bit of work but worth it in the end. Oh and one more note on the chicken wire you put in the ground. It does not do well in the winter so should be replaced every year.
Motion Sensor Lights
The short version about these lights is they are not effective at all for keeping squirrels out of the yard. Why, while they do have some nocturnal activity, most of it is during the day. So a light wont affect the squirrel other than keeping it from sleeping well and wanting more revenge from you. Don’t be mad when they eat your tomatoes if you are using motion sensor lights.
Ultrasonic Motion Sensors
You might have guessed but rodents normally have good hearing. You can use this to your advantage. Ultrasonic motions sensors are a great way to repel squirrels, rabbits, rats, skunks, and even raccoons. The key is to set them so they cover the area you intent to keep safe from animals. You want to make sure you get a quality one that will change the patterns of the sounds so the animals do not get used to it.
You never here a thing, you will just see them running away. That is how you know it is working.
Motion Sensor Sprinklers
I used this tactic to rid my garden of a tomcat that was spraying my basil. These are a good way to get rid of squirrels as well. Sometimes it takes 2-4 of these to cover the entire yard, or garden. By doing so anything that walks into its sensor path is bound to get hit with a spray of water. With squirrels you may need to move these around occasionally but they still work great.
Barn Owls like a tasty meal of squirrel and other rodents. So why not get a Barn Owl House to put up and see if you can coax one to live in it. Any bird of pray works really, but some are easier to get living in your area. You do not want to do this though if you have a small dog or you pet might go missing one day as well.
Speaking of dogs if you have a dog they can help you get these resourceful animals out of the garden. A quick bark and chase and they run for cover. Hopefully looking for an easier obtained meal somewhere else. If you do not have a dog don’t fear, maybe you have a cat.
Cats like chasing squirrels as well and the predator prey relationship is strong between them. For those of you who do not have, or want a cat, you can leave a small dish of cat food out. This could help you lure a cat into your yard to do the dirty work for you. Although you want to make sure you not to leave a lot of cat food out or you may have other unwanted guests like opossums, skunks or raccoons.
To keep squirrels out of the garden, do not reach for motion sensor lights. Things that seem to be most effective to rid your garden of these fun but pesky animals include motion sensor sprinklers, plant cages, ultrasonic motion sensors, and other animals. If you are still having an issue with them you can always get a trap and release them far away. That being said you will want to check your local laws before doing that as it might be against the law.
Please let me know what you think with comments, things that worked for you, or any questions you have in the comments section below!