Keeping Squirrels Out Of Your Home Garden

They’re a perpetual nuisance, acrobatic rats by another name, tormentors of dogs and gardeners. I have no soft spot for squirrels.

squirrel with tomato

Squirrels are a gardener’s Kryptonite.

Squirrels eat the bird seed out of the feeders, steal the raspberries, and dig up flower bulbs relentlessly. There’s nothing like finding newly planted tulips pulled out of the garden bed, laying on the mulch with one bite taken out of each one. If they’re going to go to the trouble of digging the bulbs out, why not at least eat the whole thing!

One only learns about squirrels by being defeated by them time and time again. Unfortunately, my wife won’t let me shoot them, so I’ve had to experiment with “softer” methods. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Squirrels love newly planted flower bulbs.

There are a couple of methods I use to protect my newly planted flower bulbs in the fall.┬áThe first is to plant the bulbs at the proper depth – as deep as possible. The general rule of thumb is to plant the bulb at a depth three times its vertical diameter, and if in doubt, err on the deep side of planting. At the soil’s surface, place a grid of hardware cloth over each bulb. When the squirrel hits the wire he’ll (in theory) stop digging and move on.The flower stalk will grow through the hardware cloth.

The second thing I do is to give the garden bed with the newly planted bulbs a liberal soaking of a deer and rabbit repellent like Liquid Fence, which my squirrels just hate. I apply it to the bed for a few weeks until the squirrels are trained away from the area and seek their meals elsewhere. Use the Liquid Fence in newly planted food beds as well, but back off as you near harvest, as the smell may contaminate the produce.

The squirrel hunter dog Belle

Belle tries her best to catch the squirrels, but so far no luck.

Squirrels steal fruits and veggies from your garden.

This is a tougher problem, unless you want to go the trouble and expense of erecting a cage around your entire garden. The more sane thing to do is to attract the squirrels with something irresistible to an area far away from your food. I plant sunflowers on the opposite side of my property from my vegetable and fruit beds. This works astonishingly well and makes sense, as squirrels love seeds. But as sunflowers don’t produce seed until mid or late season, you also have to find an early season deterrent.

Try placing bird netting over berry bushes. This may deter the squirrels, or they may chew right through it.

Another idea is to trap the squirrels with Havaheart or similar traps. For bait, use a mixture of peanut butter, raw oatmeal and honey. Then release them far away from your property. However, where there’s one squirrel, there’s usually many more.

Don’t feed squirrels by hand, as that will only make them braver in your garden beds and your neighbors’.

Motion activated sprinklers give mixed results – they’re a deterrent at first, but once the squirrels realize they’re in no danger, the sprinklers lose their effectiveness.

Dogs and cats – the hair from dogs and cats is reported to be a deterrent, but my squirrels are so used to the smell that it doesn’t phase them. I’ve watched squirrels positively torment my dog Belle to no end – one of them literally made a flying leap right out of her jaws as she was about to bite down while chasing the rodent at high speed. The squirrel made his way up the brick wall to the chimney, where it sat and continued to torment my poor dog. She walked away crying.

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About Todd Heft

Todd Heft is an organic gardener and freelance garden writer who lives in the Lehigh Valley, PA and has gardened for most of his life. When he isn't writing or reading about organic gardening, he's gardening. His first book, "Homegrown Tomatoes: The Step-By-Step Guide to Growing Delicious Organic Tomatoes In Your Garden" is available on Amazon now. Google

3 Responses to Keeping Squirrels Out Of Your Home Garden

  1. Anne says:

    I have had some success in covering my beds with bare tree branches that blew off the trees in the winter until the seedlings get big enough to somewhat fill the beds. Sunlight still gets to the plants but the animals seem to stay out. I have even more of a problem with cats using my beds as their litter box. The branches also seem to deter them as well. I also use cayenne – not sure of its effectiveness.

  2. James Mann says:

    We have a few squirrels running around and stealing the food Blue Jays hide. But we have a red squirrel that has a great time dropping pine cones on our dog. We’ve never had them digging up our bulbs, yet.

  3. dee says:

    Good dog! And good article. I’ll try the Hanging CDs in my garden.