How to Keep Squirrels Out of a Garden

Squirrels appear cute and cuddly, but they voraciously decimate flower and vegetable gardens. Their ability to jump and climb allows them to access what would seem to be hard-to-reach gardens, but several tricks deter squirrels and help them decide to grab their meals elsewhere.

Squirrel Eating Cucumber Bloom
credit: KAdams66/iStock/Getty Images
A squirrel sitting on a fence post eating a cucumber blossom.

Remove Temptation

Simple-to-grab food attracts squirrels and keeps them coming back to a garden. Help them lose interest by removing the tempting items. If you have a bird feeder near your garden, hang it at least 8 feet high, preferably not in a tree or other structure squirrels can climb. Food that falls onto the ground from a bird feeder attracts squirrels. So remove the fallen bird food daily. Picking up fruits and vegetables that fall from plants in your garden also will help prevent squirrels from discovering the site. Keep outdoor garbage cans closed tightly so the squirrels can't access discarded food scraps.

Stop Them with Scent

Squirrels have sensitive noses that help them find even the tiniest morsel, but they shy away from certain odors. Sprinkle human hair or dog hair around the outer edge of your garden to help keep out squirrels. If the squirrels are particularly brave, use commercial predator scent sprays around the garden; they usually are available at stores specializing in outdoor gear and at some garden centers. Rain washes away many of these solutions. So reapply the products if you notice new squirrel activity.

Protect Your Plants

An enclosure around your individual plants or entire garden will keep squirrels from dining there. Small cages made of material such as hardware cloth covered with bird netting are effective for individual plants. Similarly, surrounding the garden with a simple frame of wood or polyvinyl chloride pipes that you cover with mesh netting can get squirrels to leave the area alone. Because squirrels can dig under the structure, bury a few inches of the netting in the soil around the garden's perimeter. Make slits in the netting or gather it at its top, using clothespins to hold it in place, so you can access the garden's plants.

Use Other Methods

Squirrels avoid predators. So sometimes keeping a dog or cat outdoors is enough to keep squirrels away. Motion-sensing lights or sprinklers spook squirrels that activate them, discouraging the animals from coming back to taste items in a garden. Entice the squirrels away from your garden by creating a feast just for them in an area of your yard well away from the plants you want to protect. Fill a feeder with sunflower seeds or peanuts, and perhaps even plant a couple of tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum) there to keep the squirrels full before they reach the real garden. Tomatoes grow as herbaceous perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11 and as annuals elsewhere.

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