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
Katrina Derrico says
These creatures are very misunderstood and are actually natures little gardeners. One myth is that they dig up seedlings. This is not true, more than likely you have planted your seedlings next to their winter stash that they are trying to retrieve. Thinking they want what is in your garden is another myth. They much prefer their natural diet over people veggies/fruits. If they are getting into your garden – they are running out of food or are looking for a water source. Provides these simple things and they will stay in their space – in the trees. Another myth is that they chew up your trees. Again this is prob. not the case. They are great little pruners and wonderful pest control. They trim diseased parts of trees to get to the insects in those areas. By trimming away the disease they help the tree stay healthy. One squirrel can turn a rotted 10′ long log into mulch in an afternoon, they plant thousands of trees in their lifetime. I personally have 19 nest boxes less than 30′ from my 8×32 raised vegetable garden and my yard is filled with edibles both for us and the wildlife. I do not have any issues with squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks or other creatures in my garden because we have provided food, shelter and water for them in their natural setting.
plant a peach tree ! They try a bite out of each peach and I have 3 bird baths in the garden !
I came home one day and ALL of the peaches were gone, except for the one the squirrel sitting in the peach tree was eating.
Atlanta Girl says
Sorry but they do dig up seedlings – i watched them dig up my radish, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, radish and watermelon seedlings. Fearless little f’ers – even turned water gun on them, they kept eating. Turned on hose full blast…same.
I only wanted to get rid of them because I read they carry fleas and I don’t want fleas in my yard near my chickens and dogs. We have tons of bird feeders that they destroy, not sure what to do. We have so many squirrels in our back yard
Rat traps by electrocution
far too much destruction….
.eat holes through Pop-up camper, two car cmovers and house roof shingles
Ummm, no. Yesterday a squirrel ate through all of my corn shoots. They didn’t dig anything up and certainly haven’t helped my garden in any way. They are pests.
You missed one method. Owning 6 cats where at least 1 is a serial killer. We have dozens of squirrels that use the overhead highway above our backyard. They sometimes sneak down to the fishpond to drink but never venture into our garden. Even if they did I would be ok with them taking a few tomatoes. I planted enough for us all.
Atlanta Girl says
My cats aren’t killers, they are fascinated by them but some of the squirrels at my place are really aggressive – have lunged at my cats and me!
squirrel hater says
squirrels tore down my small stand of corn last year. it was not planted near their stash. they are nasty varmints and need to be controlled.
I need to borrow your serial killer cat. Mine passed away and we are inundated with pesky squirrels. And yes, they took a bite out of every tomato so far this year. Didn’t even eat them. Just ruined them for us.
Get a cat
I put crushed garlic around my garden. Their little noses can’t take the smell. No squirrel problem here
Not only are they little buggers in the garden, they are a major contributor to attic fires. They can access an attic space through a hole the size of a quarter, and being rodents, they must keep their teeth wore down otherwise they will grow and the squirrel will no longer be able to eat, or shut its mouth. One of the primary things they like to chew on in your attic are your electric wires (the sheathing). Once that is gone, all it takes is for the positive and negative wires to touch, set off some sparks, and say good-bye to your house. Cage traps and removal to a FAR away place if your municipality will allow and you are too squeamish to euthanize them yourself. A cage trap/pellet gun and then into the pot for a tasty squirrel stew if you are not. Check you state/county/municipality regulations, and don’t eat any that have bots on them. Wait until after the first real good frost. Taste like chicken? No, tastes like squirrel. Also, soaked in Italian dressing and grilled makes for a lovely disposal method. Enjoy, just don’t let them into your attic.
Miss Megan says
Some of you are plain evil. We parked our houses in their territory. Who are we to be so evil as to kill them. Just divert them to where you want them. If you want them out of your tomatoes set out food on the opposite side.
Squirrels are intelligent animals and will defy most efforts to try and curtail their desire to go where they want especially vegetable gardens or bird feeders. They have been the bane of my gardening experience. Every year I battle them. They dig up and chew on my newly planted tomatoes. I use to live trap them but there are no end to the squirrels in my neighborhood. I caught 12 one year and my neighbor caught 20 but still they came. All the methods listed above are useless. Squirrel repellents don’t work. Ultrasonic sound doesn’t bother them. They will just chew through plastic netting. Diversionary tactics don’t work, squirrels will go where they damn well please. I don’t like killing them, they are just hungry or inquisitive which doesn’t warrant the death penalty. I just have to be more cunning than they are. Because we live in an area near where coyotes are active, our cats are kept indoors. Coyotes hunt at night when squirrels are not active so they haven’t had any impact to our local population. The best protection for vegetable garden is to fully enclose with wire mesh or chicken wire. This can be time consuming and expensive if you have a large garden. I’ve had some success with a 3 wire electric fence until they figured out they could pass between the wires without getting shocked. I finally had better luck using chicken wire as a physical barrier and additionally electrifying it. They don’t like the tickle from the 3000 volts which they get every time they try to scale the fence. They still could get to the garden by jumping from hedge close by. Doesn’t look like they have attempted yet but its just a matter of time. Maybe I’ll get most of the tomatoes this year.
Once I caught a squirrel eating an apple in my apple tree. When I shouted at him, he threw the apple at my head and headed for the hills!