While they are way too cute and adorable sometimes, the fact is, squirrels can really do a number on your garden. As gardeners, we work hard to maintain and control every element that allows our plants to thrive. Unfortunately, squirrels are responsible for a lot of mayhem when it comes to eating your seeds and vegetables or just leaving a mess all around your tidy growing plots.
Coexisting with squirrels is an impossible feat, and your best line of action is to implement ways to keep them out of your garden completely. Squirrels are entertaining, but they are troublesome critters, simply because their evolutionary tendencies revolve around being natural foragers and belligerent ransackers. They like to stack all of their findings up for the winter in order to endure the harsh colds they will inevitably face.
So while yes, squirrels are very much a part of the organic atmosphere you are looking to uphold, there comes a point where you must also take action in order to keep your plants, seeds, and vegetables safe.
Why Worry About Squirrels in the Garden?
Tree bark is one of a squirrel’s favorite things to chew on. And while there are many species that can cause damage to the trees in your yard, squirrels are some of the most heinous offenders. If you have fruit trees or have planted vegetables in your garden, they will be highly attracted to the sweet offerings of your plots. If your garden(s) are a necessary component of your everyday survival, squirrels can leave you with little to no food for you and your family. And THAT is a serious problem!
Squirrels will also dig up the bulbs from your garden, leaving a mess for you to clean up. Squirrels are also known to carry a number of diseases and other pests like ticks and fleas, that can cause actual harm to your family and pets. If you allow squirrels to inhabit your garden, it is only a matter of time before you encounter one. And while they are not usually viscous, they can become a nuisance very quickly. They can also begin entering into your house, especially during the cold months, and make a home and nursery out of your attic.
How to Identify Squirrel Damage in the Garden
Once you know the exact things to look for, you will immediately be able to point out when a squirrel has been occupying your garden. One of the telltale signs of a squirrel being in your garden is the partially eaten flowers. When squirrels eat seeds, plants, and veggies from your plots, you can notice the soil being tossed around and flattened spaces where they did their deeds. But the partially eaten flowers will alert you for sure that squirrels were in the vicinity.
Squirrels will also do what’s called “container digging”, where they will dig deep into your flower beds and plant pots in an attempt to hide their recently obtained findings. To make matters worse, sometimes they will rip a plant out from the roots entirely, just to find a “safe” place to hide a few nuts. Be on the lookout for half-eaten seed heads, missing plants, and the occasional bite marks as well.
6 Ways to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Garden
1. Use Chicken Wire
If you don’t mind having a few squirrels roaming your garden, but you want to keep them out of specific areas, then a chicken wire will be your best bet. You can always attempt to install a cover or a cage around specific flower beds and make sure that your efforts are thoroughly accomplished. If this method is something you’d like to try, there are a few different options to choose from. There is plastic netting, summer weight row covers, and hardware cloth as well. And if you want to add another layer of protection, consider topping any of your chicken wire contraptions with plastic bird netting as well.
2. Remove Things
One of the first steps you should consider when trying to keep squirrels out of your garden is to take unnecessary things out and leave them with less to tamper with. If you find that squirrels are attracted to a certain bird feeder or water fountain, then it may be a good idea to store it or place it elsewhere. Squirrels will also be attracted to fallen nuts and fruits on your garden floor. If you can dispose of any remnants that the squirrels will be interested in, it is best to do so. Similar things like trash cans and recycling bins can be a perfect target for squirrels to sift through. So make sure to keep any lids on tight and store them away from any heavily populated areas.
3. Repel Them
There are a few DIY tricks you can use to deter the squirrels altogether. Items such as hot peppers (cayenne pepper or chili peppers), coffee grounds, peppermint oil, apple cider vinegar, or even a combination of them all, can turn your desirable garden into Hades itself for an inquiring squirrel. A professional tip is to make sure that you are reapplying your method after any amount of rainfall. Lastly, please do not spray your edible plants with any solution you mixed into a bottle. You may be in for quite the surprise if you douse your vegetables or fruits with hot pepper water.
4. Distract Them
Another tried and true method to keep squirrels out of your garden is to set up stations outside of your garden that they can visit instead. For example, buying/building a decoy squirrel station that holds a bunch of sunflower seeds is a great way to help yourself and the squirrels. Setting up a few different stations away from your garden is key, but for the true animal lovers, you may consider planting a small garden near these stations as well, just so the squirrels can continue to exercise their natural abilities in order to work for their sustenance.
5. Get a Pet
With all that gardening you’ll be doing, who has the time to come up with advanced tactics to combat squirrels? The answer? A dog! While there are some breeds that will act lackluster around a squirrel or two, dogs are notorious for chasing squirrels out of their designated area and back up the tree. Dogs are typically the gift that keeps giving. So while getting a dog should not only be for chasing squirrels out of the yard, to each their own how they intend on training their four-legged friend.
6. Cover Your Soil
If you have come to find that your main and biggest issue is that the squirrels keep digging into your flower beds, then it might be time to cover your soil with mulch. While mulch is also a great way to rid your garden of weeds, squirrels will also be uninterested in digging through the layers to find your freshly planted seeds or bulbs.
The relationship between you and the squirrels should be a friendship/business type of relationship, nothing personal. Yes, they are furry friends who you can just hug into a coma, but when it comes to the business of your garden, you have to draw the line somewhere. Whether you build cages around your beds, or simply deter them with a pet or food station, you have to do something. We know the cuteness wears off once you find your first plant bed in shambles, but before you even reach that point, squirrel proofing your garden is the way to go.