Wondering how to keep squirrels out of the garden? Join the club. Everyone with a beloved garden has asked this question at least once.
Squirrels may be cute to look at. But when they’re eating your plants and digging into your flower pots, they become a lot less charming.
Plus, the damage that squirrels can do in your yard doesn’t stop there.
Are Squirrels Bad for Your Yard?
Bushy tails. Twitchy noses. Paws like tiny hands. Squirrels could almost be designed to be cute. And the way they look can sometimes let them get away with a lot of bad behavior.
Most people’s reaction to seeing a wild rat is horror and revulsion, but give that rat a bushy tail, and suddenly, people start feeling a lot more charitable towards it.
Like rats, squirrels are part of the natural world. And seeing them in your garden can be entertaining. Until it’s not.
Having squirrels in your yard can result in a whole lot of damage. Like what, you ask? Let us count the ways…
- Holes everywhere. Squirrels will dig holes in your lawn and especially your garden. Freshly planted seedbeds are prime targets for squirrels on the hunt for seeds.
- Eaten plants. Squirrels eat your plants. Whether it’s freshly planted bulbs, tree buds, perennials – squirrels love to have a nibble.
- Heavy foraging. As the colder months approach, squirrels will escalate from making a meal of your flowers, fruit, and veggies to foraging to stock up for the winter.
- Carriers of pests and disease. As wild animals, squirrels can carry parasites. Ticks, mites, and fleas all like to live on wild squirrels and can be easily transmitted to your pets and even to your family by the presence of squirrels nearby. And in some rare cases, squirrels can also have rabies. Although thankfully somewhat rare, rabies has no cure and is fatal.
The worst thing, though, is that squirrels in your yard can soon lead to squirrels in the house. Yup, squirrels can even get inside your house, usually via holes in and around the roof, and cause a lot of damage in your attic.
If you’ve ever seen the mess a squirrel makes of the insulation in the attic when it creates a nest, you’ll find it hard to believe that such a small and adorable looking creature could do so much harm.
But squirrels are rodents just like rats. They need to gnaw to keep their teeth from growing too long, and will happily chew on electrical wires inside an attic, causing short-circuits.
As you can see, there are plenty of good reasons not to be thrilled about having squirrels in your yard.
So how do we keep these troublesome critters away from your garden and yard? Let’s start with why they keep coming around in the first place.
What Attracts Squirrels to Your Yard?
Squirrels aren’t known for their brains, but they can be quite resourceful and adaptable. It’s the secret to their success. Also, they are tenacious. Once they’ve found a suitable place to live or a food source they like, they will work very hard to keep it.
So often, getting them to leave your property will take more than a strongly worded letter. You’ll need to look at what has attracted them to the area in the first place and remove it where possible.
So what brings all the squirrels to your yard?
Nuts and seeds
What’s true for most pest species holds true for squirrels too. Feed them, and they will come. If your property offers something that squirrels want to eat, it’s only a matter of time before they show up.
A squirrel’s number one food source is nuts and seeds. If you have nut trees or bushes on your property, you’re practically inviting a squirrel invasion. Oak trees that produce acorns are a favorite of squirrels, as are hickorys, pecans, and walnuts. Pine seeds are also a favorite food source, so beware of coniferous trees on your property.
It’s not always practical to remove mature trees from your garden just to keep squirrels away. In fact, sometimes, you’re not allowed to remove trees from your yard even if you want to.
The next best thing is to be very diligent in removing the nuts that they shed. Make sure you rake your yard regularly and dispose of any nuts the trees have dropped.
Trees provide not only an important food source but also a place for squirrels to live. But they’re not the only reason you may find squirrels on your property. Other plants can also attract these critters.
Sunflowers, pumpkins, and poppies all produce seeds, and so they are very popular with squirrels. They are also partial to leafy greens like arugula, lettuce, and spinach.
Vegetables such as tomatoes, radishes, squash, beans, peas, cabbage, and eggplant are also irresistible to these creatures.
It’s nice to see birds enjoying your yard, and lots of people like to encourage birds to visit their property by using a bird feeder.
Unfortunately, squirrels have long ago figured out that bird feeders are a good source of food. And the food that many bird species eat – nuts and seeds – is exactly what squirrels thrive on.
How to Keep Squirrels Out of the Garden
Now that you know what’s attracting squirrels to your garden, you may already have a good sense of how to keep them away.
Yup, we’re talking about squirrel deterrents and repellents. As a general rule, deterrents are barriers that make it more difficult for squirrels to get into your yard and garden. In contrast, repellents are things that squirrels hate that can be used to dissuade them from your yard.
Using a combination of both will give you the quickest and most effective results.
Here are 12 very effective, humane and non-toxic ways to keep squirrels out of your garden for good.
One of the most effective ways to keep squirrels out of the garden is to physically block them from getting on to your property to begin with.
Fence spikes are an easy, affordable, and low-tech way to accomplish this. Install them on the top of your fences to prevent them from getting into your lawn or jumping from your fence to your roof. You can even them to line you garden fence with.
Squirrel-Proof Your Trees
Squirrels don’t just jump onto fences – they’re experts at using trees to get to where they want to go.
A great way to keep the squirrels out of the trees is by wrapping the trunks in something that the squirrels can’t climb. Again, spikes can work well for this, in the form of barbed wire that you can wrap around trees. Ditto for aluminum flashing, which is too smooth for the squirrels to get a grip on.
Make sure you wrap the entire trunk to keep these tree-dwellers away.
Block Off Your Garden
To create a physical barrier that keeps squirrels out of your garden completely, you could cover the plants in your garden with bird netting. This fine mesh from De-Bird lets in all the light your plants need but keeps out squirrels, birds, and other animals that will happily eat your produce.
This netting is UV stabilized and weatherproof, so it should last a long time in any weather, and the tough plastic mesh is difficult for squirrels to chew through.
If you have particularly aggressive squirrels and you’re worried they will chew through regular netting, you could also go for this chicken wire. The galvanized steel mesh will stand up to the weather for years, and the steel is too strong for squirrels to chew through.
Building a frame around your garden and then attaching hardware cloth like this will make it impossible for squirrels to get at your plants. And if you don’t like the way the mesh looks, you can always paint it so that it blends more readily with your garden.
Add a Natural Predator
Squirrels are nervous and skittish animals, and they don’t like certain noises or movements. You can trick a squirrel into thinking a potential predator is close by with anything that moves.
Garden spinners and pinwheels that move with the wind can make a squirrel think they are in danger. But you can also take it further than that with things that will consistently scare squirrels away from your yard, like…
Squirrels have good reason to be so nervous – they have a lot of natural predators. Coyotes, foxes, bobcats, wolves are a couple animals that find squirrels yummy and as such, predators that squirrels naturally fear.
Of course, it’s not just predators on the ground that squirrels are scared of. Squirrels also have predators in the air, like owls and hawks.
One of the easiest ways to scare squirrels from your garden is to get an owl decoy. You can opt for this low-tech version that looks the part and has a rotatable head that moves with the breeze.
Or you can go for a more high-tech owl that has the rotatable head, makes noises, and has flashing eyes to boot. It’s also solar-powered so you don’t have to worry about batteries.
Here’s something that most people don’t know about squirrels: squirrels hate getting wet.
Add to that the fact that squirrels dislike sudden movements and it becomes clear why a motion-activated sprinkler that will spray water on the squirrels when it detects their presence makes a great owl repellent.
Ultrasonic Squirrel Repeller
Last but not least, you could also use a device that emits a noise that squirrels find extremely annoying.
No, it’s not Gilbert Gottfried’s Christmas album. It’s ultrasound, a frequency too high-pitched for humans to hear, but one that squirrels will most definitely notice.
Make sure you choose one that is solar-powered. Bonus points if it also has flashing lights for added squirrel-scaring power.
Use a Squirrel Repellent Spray
You’ve added squirrel deterrents to block the pesky rodents from your garden and you’ve even added a scary owl or two. What more can you do? Squirrel repellent sprays and granules are a non-toxic, humane option to keep squirrels away from your garden.
Here are your best options.
DIY Squirrel Repellent Spray
Wouldn’t it be great if you could make a non-toxic spray from ingredients you have already lying around your home that you could spray around your property to keep squirrels away? Well, good news. You can.
- Bring 1/2 quart of water to a boil on your stove.
- Add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, two chopped onions, and a single chopped jalapeno pepper.
- Allow this mixture to boil for 30 minutes, then let it cool and pour the water into a spray bottle.
Spray this mixture on your plants, on your fence posts, on your trees, and anywhere else squirrels may come into contact with it. The spicy smell helps to keep them away and makes your yard a much less appealing place for these animals to be.
Stinky Squirrel Repellent Spray
If you’re not the DIY type, you could always use a commercially made squirrel repellent spray instead. This concentrated spray can be diluted with water and sprayed around your home to keep squirrels at bay.
It uses a combination of garlic, dried blood, and putrefied eggs to gross squirrels out so badly that they leave. Which, given the ingredients list, you can’t really blame them for.
You can also find this product in granule form – there’s a whole lot of options, so choose whichever one works best for you.
Trap the Squirrels
If you’ve done your best to remove anything that might attract squirrels to your yard and repel them away and yet are still having problems with these rodents, it’s time to get a bit more serious.
If all else fails, you could try trapping the squirrels. A trap like the one below offers a humane way to catch squirrels without harming them. Use a bait that you can spread so that squirrels can’t simply steal it out of the trap, such as peanut butter.
And remember to check your trap regularly, especially during bad weather. Once you’ve caught a squirrel, you can take it out to the woods somewhere and release it. But squirrels have strong homing instincts, and you’ll want to take it as much as ten miles from your home to ensure it doesn’t find its way back.
How to Keep Squirrels Out of the Bird Feeder
One of the easiest things you can do is to keep squirrels away from your yard is to remove one of the squirrels’ top temptations: birdseed. And you’ve got options when it comes to doing so:
Use a Squirrel Baffle
Squirrels can easily climb most bird feeders to access the food inside. The best way to prevent this is to use a baffle like this one.
Attaching this barrier around the pole of a bird feeder takes seconds and provides an extremely effective way to keep these rodents away from the bird feeder.
But make sure that you clean underneath the feeder regularly. Birds can be messy eaters, and any seed that falls on the floor becomes perfect squirrel food.
Lay an Unwelcome Mat
Don’t want to constantly clean up the birdseed that falls to the floor? An easy way to prevent squirrels from eating it up is to lay out a prickle mat below the bird feeder.
A prickle mat is a mat covered in small spikes that will prick the paws of any animal that tries to walk across it. You can use this under the bird feeder or even to create a barrier around areas you don’t want squirrels to get to. Surrounding your garden beds with a prickle mat will prevent squirrels from walking up to the plants.
Again, you could even wrap this prickle mat around the trunk of trees to keep squirrels away. Just remember that squirrels can leap up to 10 feet, so you’ll need to make your barrier quite wide to ensure that the squirrels don’t simply jump across it.
Replace Your Birdseed
Did you know it’s possible to get spicy birdseed?
It’s not because birds like spicy food. After all, when was the last time you saw a flock of ducks waddling into your nearest Indian restaurant?
The truth is, most bird species are immune to hot spices and food. They lack the taste receptors that allow them to feel the heat of chilis and other spicy plants.
But squirrels don’t. As mammals, they have a similar range of taste receptors to humans, and what we find spicy is also spicy to them. So spicy birdseed won’t bother the birds at all, but it will be much less appetizing to the squirrels.
DIY Spicy Birdseed
If you can’t find spicy birdseed or simply don’t want to switch over, you could even use a spicy seed sauce like this one. Mixing this sauce with your birdseed will make it unappetizing to squirrels but won’t affect its attractiveness to birds.
And if you’re feeling a little wild on taco night, you could always try a dash of this sauce for yourself.
How to Keep Squirrels Out of Potted Plants
Is there anything more infuriating than finding a greedy squirrel nestled inside your plant pot, happily munching away on the plant you so lovingly planted? Or waking up to upturned pots with hours of labor spilled on the ground before you?
Squirrels getting into potted plants is enough to make any plant lover furious.
Lucky for you, there are a lot of things you can do keep squirrels out of potted plants for good. Here’s the list.
One of the most effective ways to keep squirrels out of potted plants – or anything, for that matter – is to physically block them. But you don’t want to mess around with fitting chicken wire over each and every one of your potted plants, do you?
Enter chicken wire cloches.
These aesthetically-pleasing and durable wire mesh covers act as pretty cages to keep squirrels out. Place it over your potted plants for squirrel-proof protection.
Plant Pot Grids
In a similar vein, another physical barrier you can use to keep squirrels out of your potted plants is a simple plant pot grid. These simple devices prevent squirrels from digging into your potted plants while also allow enough room for the dirt to breathe.
You can even create something similar yourself with a chicken wire barrier placed inside your potted plants.
Rocks and Stones
Placing large rocks and stones on the surface of your potted plants can be a simple, decorative trick to protect your potted plants from squirrel damage.
It’s pretty to look at and the heavy stones will be too heavy for little squirrel paws to lift and move.
Stick it To ‘Em
One very easy solution to keep squirrels away from your potted plants is to stick some plastic forks or kebab skewers into your potted plants.
Bamboo skewers work best as they’re cheap and thin enough to form a defense line against squirrels. Stick the skewers into the soil of your potted plants, with the pointy side sticking up. Do this so that the points are sticking up and around the edge of the pot.
Each one of those skewers will be a sharp lesson to any squirrels reaching into your potted plant for a tasty nibble.
Spice it Up
As you know by now, squirrels aren’t a fan of spice. Take advantage of this simple fact and sprinkle down your potted plants with cayenne pepper. You can also use scatter dried chili flakes in and around your potted plants.
A spicy squirrel repellent spray works well too – Critter Ridder comes in both spray and granular form and you can use it across your entire garden. It’s rain-resistant and will last for up to 30 days after application.
Blood Meal Fertilizer
Blood meal is simply dried blood. It makes for a good fertilizer because it’s rich in organic nitrogen, which is very beneficial for plants.
But it also gives off a strong scent of blood, which squirrels absolutely hate.
Simply use it as a fertilizer and mix into the soil of your potted plants to keep squirrels away.
If you’ve got long hair, you may have the perfect squirrel repellent hanging around on your hair brush. Squirrels are said to hate human hair so try mixing some of your hair into the soil of your potted plants.
Another smelly substance that squirrels don’t like is cat pee. Who can blame them – this stuff is foul smelling. Of course, you don’t want to dump your kitty litter on any edible plants or your precious flower beds – but you can use it to form a barrier around your potted plants.
Coffee grounds are an affordable and constantly available squirrel repellent available to most coffee lovers. Squirrels are said to hate the scent and taste of coffee grounds but to be fair, it may not be enough to ward them away especially in seasons when the squirrels’ food supply is low.
Still, it’s a cheap and easy remedy worth a try. Just don’t dump the coffee grounds onto your potted plants – that can suffocate them! To use, mix in fresh, strong-smelling coffee grounds into the top layer of soil.
How to Stop Squirrels from Eating Plants
You spend a lot of time and energy planting and gardening. So it goes without saying that you want to know how to stop squirrels from eating the plants you’ve labored over.
The bad news is that just about anything that grows in a garden that you would eat is also appealing to squirrels. To add to that, they will also eat things that humans wouldn’t, such as flowers and leaves of flowering plants.
And it gets even worse – as well as being excellent climbers, squirrels are good at digging and will excavate the bulbs of flowers such as tulips to eat them.
So how do you stop such dextrous squirrels from eating your plants?
Well, you could avoid this issue entirely by tearing all the plants out of your garden and paving over the whole thing with six inches of concrete. But if you’d rather not feel like you live in a prison exercise yard, there are ways to protect your plants from the ravages of squirrels, like…
Cover It Up
Again, the best way to keep squirrels from eating your plants is to cover them up. You already know that you can use chicken wire, bird netting and even squirrel-proof cloches.
There are tons of options when it comes to covering your plants so look around and find one that works for you. There are circular covers, rectangular covers, square covers, and even arch-shaped tunnel covers.
They may not be cheap, but they are a quick and very effective way to stop squirrels from eating your plants.
Choose Plants that Squirrels Hate
Another super simple way to stop squirrels from eating your plants is to plant flowers and plants that squirrels don’t like.
Just as certain plants attract squirrels, others repel them.
Because squirrels use their sense of smell to find food, plants with a particularly strong odor are repellant to them. Flowers such as geraniums, hyacinth and marigolds create a scent that squirrels find particularly off-putting.
Daffodils bulbs are poisonous to squirrels and other rodents so you don’t every have to worry about these getting eaten. As for food plants, consider onions, garlic, and scallions. These don’t smell very pleasant to squirrels so they’ll only eat them as an absolute last resort.
Dip Your Bulbs
Last but not least, a brilliant way to keep squirrels away from the bulbs of plants is to dip them in something that’s repulsive to squirrels.
Blood works great for this. And you don’t even have to harvest it yourself.
Plantskydd Animal Repellent comes in a ready-to-use spray bottle that you can spray directly onto bulbs before planting to stop squirrels form eating plants. It stinks to high heavens but that’s the point – the scent is enough to keep squirrels well away.
There you have it, the numerous ways to keep squirrels out of your garden, your potted plants, and away from your delicious flowers and vegetables forever.