Perhaps, you are seeking answers to a question that at this moment, you consider an existential issue (at least, for your garden): how can I keep squirrels out of my vegetable garden? And this might be coming after trying all the tricks you could think of and coming up short. The squirrels are still having a field day over your garden.
Hopefully, by the time you are through reading this, you’d understand more about squirrels and how to get rid of them in your garden.
Here is a scenario replicated in gardens around the country: an enthusiastic man walks eagerly to his garden to pick that juicy tomato he figured needed just an extra day to come good. Unfortunately, he found the tomato on the ground with one side chewed clean through or missing altogether. If the gardener has previously spotted a few squirrels darting around the garden, he doesn’t need a crystal ball to conclude they are the culprits and have beaten him to that potato.
How Can I Keep Squirrels Out of My Vegetable Garden?
When there are no vegetables at stake in the garden, squirrels are a nice sight. It is fun watching the cute animals as playing around and climbing trees with their twitching tails. But keeping them out of a garden becomes would sooner or later become imperative because they would surely make life miserable for the garden owner.
Understanding how they behave and what they are capable of is a pre-requisite for dealing with a squirrel problem.
Some notable facts about Squirrels
1. It doesn’t take long for squirrels to learn how to compromise any system put up to keep them out. One squirrel can easily pass their knowledge to other squirrels: and being fast learners, it won’t be long before you have an army of them invading the garden despite your best efforts to keep them put.
2. Because they have long incisors that never stop growing, they need to constantly chew or gnaw at all sorts of stuff to keep the teeth short.
3. With their acute sense of smell (despite the tiny nose) they can easily smell out hidden food which explains why bulb, nuts, and berries pilfering is a widespread problem when squirrels are in the neighborhood.
4. Killing squirrels as a last option won’t stop other squirrels. As a matter of fact, more squirrels would invade the property as long as there are easy pickings.
5. Chances are, we would never live in a world with no squirrels. They have been around a lot longer than humans. This resilience means they’d outlast us.
What Do Squirrels Eat?
It’d be easier to mention the names of the things squirrels don’t eat because it’s a lot shorter list than what they love eating. In simple terms, they relish most of the plants and fruits humans love. So if you have tomatoes, berries, flower bloom, apples, birdseed, etc., in your garden, you have an excellent environment for daily squirrel feasting.
They would also chew tried buds, barks, tulip bulbs, and blossoms on any given day.
On the flip side, squirrels find many plants distasteful. The sap of the plants are either bitter or toxic to them. So you might want to think about using these plants in and around your garden to keep squirrels out.
Some of the plants squirrels don’t like and can be used to repel them include Galanthus, alliums, daffodils, lily-of-the-valley, hyacinth, geraniums, peppermint, and hot pepper plant.
How to determine squirrel activity in your garden
Squirrels can cause all sorts of destruction in gardens. They can easily be spotted during daylight going about their daily routine. Only flying squirrels found in the Pacific Northwest, the East Coast, and other areas of the country forage for food at night only.
A garden invaded and damaged squirrels would exhibit some or all of the following signs:
Shallow holes in and around planting beds – Garden beds with freshly planted seeds are a big attraction for squirrels. They love digging up and eating the seeds. The holes are small, about the size of a golf ball or even smaller.
Missing plants/seedlings – A normal day for squirrels at the garden might involve making away with entire seedlings and leaves of perennial plants. The soil might have the telltale remnants of the seedlings they left behind.
Bite marks on fruits/Missing fruits – Tomatoes farmers would have a lot to say about this. Squirrels are notorious for harvesting ripe tomatoes, biting and dropping the partly-eaten vegetable on the ground. Sometimes, they eat everything. Other targeted veggies include eggplants, squash, beans, and cucumbers.
Digging vegetable planters – Planters are not immune to squirrels as long as they can get access to them. Squirrels would constantly dig up small holes in planters or pots planted with veggies, flowers, or herbs. Sometimes, they do this to hide or bury stolen nuts.
Nibbled flowers – Squirrels are drawn to daisy blooms, sunflowers, and other flowers. A good clue that squirrels are doing this thing is a partially-eaten daisy with the center disk and about half or more of the petals missing.
How to Keep Squirrels Out of Vegetable Garden Naturally.
If you had done a bit of research or listen to folks talk about how to tackle the garden menace, it is common to hear certain squirrel control strategies hyped as the best. But not all of them are effective in practice as you would have realized from some of your failures.
Let’s go through some of the natural. methods that are bandied around but are not very effective.
Human hair- The claim is that sprinkling human hair would have them reconsider visiting your garden because, with their keen sense of smell, the hair gives off the impression of a human being lurking around. This might work for a while, but squirrels quickly discover there is nothing to frighten them.
Cayenne pepper and garlic – Because squirrels don’t eat pepper or garlic, gardens sprinkled with pepper or garlic should keep them away in theory. But the effectiveness of this method is debatable. Strong wind and rain might render the plants free of the pepper or garlic. Besides, this method requires that you do it every day without a guarantee that all the plants would be protected.
Bone meal/blood – Sprinkling bone meal and blood are touted as some of the most effective natural squirrel repellents to use in gardens. Again, the jury is still out on this as a long term solution to the problem. But one thing you are sure of with bone meal is that it makes the soil richer: acting as a natural fertilizer.
Now that is out of the way, let’s take a look at some very effective means of resolving your squirrel problem.
7 Effective strategies for keeping squirrels out of Vegetable garden
For some reason, squirrels don’t like stepping on mulch. Many gardeners know this to be an effective means of stopping them from digging up vegetable beds. And with their smell, mulch also helps to mask the smell of newly-planted bulbs and other plants.
Use repellent plants
There are several plants with strong ‘skunky’ smells known to discourage squirrels from entering gardens. Simply plant them in and around the garden. Some of these plants include mint, marigolds, mustard, fritillaria (an imperial crown bulb), and nasturtiums.
However, you don’t want to use this strategy if the vegetable garden is close to the house. Humans also hate the smell as much as other animals.
Protect the plants/garden with a physical barrier
Depending on the type of crops and the size of the garden, you could use fences or cages to protect your crops. You could improvise the cages with household materials or buy them.
While fencing or caging can be the most effective strategy, the cost could be rather prohibitive if the garden is large. If fencing is possible, it has to be buried at least 1 foot in the ground to prevent the squirrels from digging under.
Some common fencing/caging method include the following:
1. Cloches made from metal mesh – These are excellent for sprouting vegetables especially leafy greens. You can get many awesome designs in stores or simply make your own cloches if you have chicken wire around.
2. Use aluminum flashing to wrap around trees. This would stop them from running up trees and getting at the fruits.
3. You could use paper bags to wrap around sunflowers. This ensures they become ripe without being eaten by squirrels.
To prevent the squirrels from taking a bite at ripening tomatoes, you could cover the tomatoes with cheesecloth or stockings.
4. Floating row covers with their lightweight and gauze-like appearance are also very effective against squirrels. Squirrels hate enclosures like this because it limits their ability to flee from predators.
Another advantage of using this is that being lightweight, it is easy to move them from one location to another.
Dogs can be trained to scare squirrels away and prevent them from settling around your garden. With a cat, you don’t need training before it gets into the program. Cats would chase squirrels and other small animals without prompting.
Use artificial Repellents
When using a cat or dog is not an option, you could get the synthetic pee of a predator and spray it in and around the garden to frighten squirrels. Vials of the pee (tiger or wolf pee) are sold in stores.
Squirrels are terrified by the smell of the pee. It gives them the impression a predator has marked the garden as its territory. But you’d need to constantly re-apply it because it could get washed out by rain or become ineffective after a few days in the sun.
Use food distraction
If you have the time and don’t mind the work involved, you could set up food decoys comprising the food they love eating. It should be located at a corner of the garden far away from plants. This is recommended if you love having squirrels around.
Sunflower seeds feed corn, and peanuts make very excellent food decoys. You could go the extra mile by planting tomatoes for them. Also, remember to have water nearby so they don’t have any reason to explore other parts of the garden.
The one downside, though, is that you’ll have to contend with other critters attracted to the food decoy with this strategy.
Use scare tactics
Sprinklers that are activated by motion are known to scare them off. Other scare tactics include the use of ultrasonic noisemakers, pinwheels, and hanging old compact discs and/or aluminum tins on stakes. The noise generated when they move in the wind would frighten them.
These strategies, however, lose their effectiveness over time when the squirrels discover those things are harmless. Hopefully, by the time the squirrels smarten up, the plants have grown past the seedling stage. Except for tomatoes, Squirrels typically lose interest in the plants at this point.
Though many adults and children find them cute and lovable, squirrels can be a real nuisance in gardens. Their activities can drive a vegetable garden farmer up the wall in frustration as they damage seedlings, young plants, and bulbs in irritating ways.
There are several means of limiting their activities. The most effective is the use of physical barriers like fences and cages to protect plants. Other methods include the use of predators, mulch covering, and repellents. However, baring the use of cages, not one single method can completely keep squirrels out of your vegetable garden.