Squirrels might be fun to watch from afar as they flit through the trees, scampering about with abandon. But in your yard, they can do serious damage to gardens. And if you enjoy watching the birds at your feeders, beware – these little guys love to steal bird seed. While there are a myriad of home remedies you can try to deter them, one of the easiest is something you may already have in abundance in your household, coffee grounds. However, do coffee grounds keep squirrels away? That’s what we’ll be talking about in this article, as well as some other options for keeping squirrels away from your house and vegetable gardens.
Squirrels and many other animals don’t like the smell of coffee, which is great news for humans who want to keep them away from an area. If you’re looking for an easy way to try to discourage them from digging up your garden or raiding your bird feeders, coffee grounds are an easy and inexpensive thing to try in your yard.
However, coffee grounds as a squirrel deterrent are not ideal for every situation. Let’s look at the pros and cons of using coffee to dissuade squirrels from an area, and examine a few alternatives if the coffee is not working for your space.
Do Coffee Grounds Keep Squirrels Away?
Coffee grounds will often keep squirrels away. However, they need to be replenished frequently and may not be a good fit for every area that needs to be squirrel-proofed.
What kind of coffee grounds to use
You don’t have to use brand new coffee grounds for them to be effective. Nor do you need to brew a fresh pot of coffee just for the purpose of squirrel deterrence. Any used grounds will do, and it doesn’t matter if you use decaf or regular coffee. If you aren’t a coffee drinker, ask your local coffee shop if they give used grounds away for garden use. Many people already use them as a soil amendment, and a lot of coffee shops will give them to you for free if you ask.
Where to put the coffee grounds
Apply coffee grounds on the ground around the area where the squirrels are active, in a layer ½” to 1” thick. If you’re trying to keep them out of potted plants, spread on the soil where the plants are growing as well as the area around the pot for good measure. If you’re protecting a bird feeder, place them on the top where squirrels like to land. For a feeder on a pole, you can place the grounds both on top of the feeder and around the base of the pole on the ground.
Benefits of using coffee grounds to keep squirrels away
- Inexpensive: Even if your household doesn’t drink coffee, many coffee shops will give used grounds away for free.
- Beneficial for some plants: Many plants thrive on the nutrients and acidity from coffee grounds, so depending on where you’re spreading them, you may be helping them grow as well. Be sure to check first about the soil preferences of the plants you’re spreading them near, however – some plants will do worse with added coffee.
- Fragrance: Coffee grounds smell much nicer than some other deterrents!
- Deterrent for other animals: Coffee may deter more pesky animals than just squirrels. Deer, chipmunks, and even slugs, among other animals, don’t like the grounds either.
Disadvantages to using coffee as a squirrel deterrent:
- Temporary: The coffee grounds need to be replenished frequently to be effective, especially after a rain.
- Effectiveness: While they do provide some deterrence, coffee may not be as effective as some other methods for keeping squirrels away
- Danger to pets: If you have dogs or cats that roam around your yard, you definitely don’t want to let them eat coffee grounds. In large enough doses coffee grounds can be toxic and even fatal to pets.
When coffee grounds are not the best option
There are a few scenarios when using coffee grounds to deter squirrels may not be the best way to go:
- You’re worried about exposing your pets to coffee grounds which can be toxic to them if consumed.
- You aren’t a coffee drinker and don’t have extra coffee grounds, or you’re finding them hard to source in large quantities.
- Or you’ve tried them and they just simply don’t seem to be working well for your squirrel issue.
Luckily, there are other effective means of keeping the little critters away that we’ll get into below.
The problem with squirrels in gardens
Squirrels can do a lot of damage to a garden – even if they’re just digging to bury their hoard of nuts and seeds, they can damage the roots or bulbs of plants you’re trying to cultivate. They may also snack on some plants in your garden, which is definitely not good for the health of your plants. In addition, when squirrels feel encouraged to stay in an area, they may decide to move into your home’s attic, eaves, crawl space, or basement for their nesting site, which you definitely don’t want.
Squirrels can do a lot of damage to wiring and insulation in a house, and can chew through wood and shingles, not to mention the mess they make at their nesting place! Another reason to discourage squirrels from your property is that they can carry disease. You definitely don’t want a squirrel passing on anything nasty to your pets, you, or your family.
Other ways to keep squirrels away
1. Ultrasonic Animal Repellent
An ultrasonic device can help keep many different varieties of animals away from a large area, including squirrels. Some can be adjusted to different frequencies so you can choose the type of animals you want to deter (especially handy if you have pets so you don’t drive them crazy). This popular animal repeller from Broox, available on Amazon, not only has different frequencies available but is also solar-powered and waterproof.
2. Add Plants that Squirrels Hate Into Your Garden
There are a number of plants that can repel squirrels. Adding garlic or onion to a vegetable garden can put them off, and if you’re trying to protect a flower bed, there are many varieties that might help. Geraniums, Lily of the Valley, Daffodils, and Hyacinth are only some of the plants that squirrels don’t like to be around. However, they will only work in a localized fashion, so if you’re trying to prevent squirrels from running around an entire backyard, this may not be an ideal option.
3. Decoy Predators
One potentially successful method for deterring squirrels is to add a fake predator into the environment. No squirrel is going to stick around if there’s an owl or hawk waiting to pounce on it for dinner, so placing a decoy one in your yard where squirrels congregate may work wonders. This decoy owl from Galashield, available on Amazon, even has a mechanism so the head will turn in a realistic manner. Take note, however, that if you enjoy smaller birds in your yard, the predator decoy may keep them away as well.
4. Red Pepper Flakes
Another low-cost and easy solution for dissuading squirrels is to sprinkle red pepper flakes in the area that you want them to avoid. The capsaicin in the red pepper contains an irritant which the squirrels and some other small creatures don’t like. As with the use of coffee grounds, you need to re-apply the pepper relatively frequently, especially after a rain, and keep pets and children away from the area because it will irritate them as well.
There are a number of sprays on the market that mimic the scent of predators, which can be a very useful deterrent against squirrels and other prey animals. It can be applied around the perimeter of an area you want them to avoid, and some varieties, such as this Plantskydd spray available on Amazon, are rainproof after a drying period.
The spray can also be applied quite infrequently – depending on the variety, you can go multiple weeks without reapplying during the growing season, and need only spray it once a season while the plants are dormant. It is not safe to spray on edible plants, but can be quite effective at keeping squirrels from other ones.
While there are many different ways to help keep squirrels away from your garden, not every solution is right for every household. While coffee grounds and red pepper may be cheaper and easier to use immediately, their effects can be quite temporary and hard to spread over a large area.
Sonic repellent systems and decoy predators are useful for larger areas, but if you want to encourage small birds at your feeders, they can deter those as well. For a solution that is safer for beneficial wildlife and that will last a long time, we recommend this squirrel repellent spray for anywhere you have non-edible plants to protect.