While we normally think of squirrels as nut and fruit lovers (or those critters that habitually empty your bird feeders) they are also particularly attracted to several vegetable crops: corn, tomatoes, mushrooms, pole beans, and chard. They prefer sweet crops, so anything ripe and ready for the picking is fair game to squirrels.
Due to their capability to cross tree limbs or climb fences with superb agility, they can be tricker to keep out your vegetable garden than unwanted visitors like rabbits or deer. However, it can be done and there are a number of humane ways to do so. Trap and release is effective, but if you are squeamish in that respect, try methods that target their senses.
Tastes that attract or repel squirrels
As mentioned, squirrels love sweet corn. A strategically placed large feeder, one close to a squirrel’s home area, might be enough of a deterrent to keep your garden intact. Make sure the feeder is far from your bird feeders, too, to give squirrels a place of their own.
An easy-close 10-pound bag of Wagner’s Cracked Corn is available for under $10. Amazon customers remark on the brand’s excellent quality and product “freshness,” and they attest to the fact that squirrels “love this stuff.”
One customer indicated her squirrels preferred pumpkin seed, another squirrel favorite that could deter them from munching on your crops. One of the cheapest pumpkin seed packages on Amazon received 4.5 out of 5 stars; you’ll get a pound for $5 plus shipping. Try mixing the two products.
What tastes do squirrels dislike? Dust your crops with anything hot and spicy: cayenne pepper, capsaicin, black pepper, or Thai spices. You’ll need to reapply after the rain or watering.
Scent Based Squirrel Repellents
If alternative foods don’t work or you don’t want to encourage squirrels more than necessary, add a scented repellent to your garden. Plantskydd sells an organic small critter repellent that lasts year-round and is safe around your vegetable crops. It will cover up to 4200 square feet.
At $40 for 7 pounds, it’s not cheap and it doesn’t seem entirely effective against rabbits. But all customer reviews indicate success at keeping squirrels at bay. One customer even updated her review 13 months later, indicating her garden remained squirrel-free.
You will have to re-apply the product after new growth. Luckily, the packaging is extra easy: just turn using the handle on the bottom of the bag and sprinkle.
Ultrasonic Sound to Repel Squirrels
Ultrasonic devices have been designed that aim to repel squirrels, mice, and rats. The $40 T3-R alternates frequencies to deter pests at 135 decibels. The frequency emitted is inaudible to humans, but also inaudible to dogs and cats, as they hear at a lower frequency than squirrels and rats. The unit claims to work within 1-2 weeks.
The drawbacks? The device only has a 6-foot cord, so an extension cord may be required to reach your vegetable garden. Also, the device is rainproof but the manufacturer advises to keep it sheltered. A simple tarp would seem to be effective.
Although not many customers have reviewed it yet, the ones who did indicated the unit’s three speakers did an effective job of keeping out vermin. Customers are especially pleased with the manufacturer’s customer service, pest advice, and money-back guarantee. We plan to keep an eye on this unit.
Motion-activated sprinkler to keep squirrels away
For $50, this #1 Amazon best-selling motion-activated sprinkler with over 2000 consumer reviews may do the trick. The Contech CRO101 Scarecrow will briefly squirt any critter, regardless of whether or not it was invited, when it enters the surrounding territory. Therefore, if your outdoor pets frequent the garden area, they will also be a target. This unit will provide coverage for up to 1000 square feet.
The Contech device uses a 9-volt battery and comes with a two-year limited warranty.
Garden cages to fence out squirrels
If these sensory methods fail, you may have to enclose your garden. Regular fence perimeters will not work well, given squirrels’ ability to scale and climb with ease. Instead, you’ll need a full enclosure. This method will be incredibly effective, but will also present a burden to the gardener, who will need to find his/her own way in.
One flexible option is to use a spool of bird netting. You can easily wrap this lightweight netting around oddly shaped plants or drape it atop the entire garden. For permanent garden structures, a wooden frame can be built with netting enclosing the structure. A well-placed door grants easy access to humans, but not squirrels.
At $20 for 7×100 foot netting, Easy Gardener netting is an economical way to protect your vegetable garden from all pests except insects. While consumers agree this product does its job, beware that it is a thinner material than metal mesh and may tear easily.
For more information on squirrels as garden pests and how to deter them, visit:
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of BenGrantham