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How to Keep Squirrels Away From Your Garden

Keeping squirrels away from your garden can be a challenging task, as these nimble and resourceful creatures are often attracted to the same vegetables and plants that gardeners work so hard to cultivate. However, by using a variety of strategies, you can minimize the damage they do and hopefully discourage squirrels from feasting on your garden altogether.

Below are several effective methods, along with descriptions and tips for implementation. After that,  a list of common vegetables grown in North American gardens that squirrels are particularly fond of. Just to see if any that you grow are on it and being eaten by squirrels. 

Tips and strategies for keeping squirrels away from your garden

California ground squirrel
California ground squirrel

1. Use physical barriers

Using physical barriers is a straightforward and effective way to keep squirrels away from your garden. This method involves setting up fences, netting, or cages to block their access. For best results, fences should be about 30 inches tall and smooth to prevent climbing. You can also cover specific plants or areas with netting or cages for targeted protection. These barriers are great because they don’t use chemicals, making them safe for the environment and your garden.

They offer long-lasting protection with little need for maintenance. However, the initial setup might be pricey and take some effort. Also, it’s important to install them correctly to avoid squirrels finding ways around them. Keep an eye out for any gaps or damage that could let squirrels through.

2. Apply repellents

Pile of used coffee grounds
Pile of used coffee grounds | image by Shanegenziuk via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Using repellents is a practical approach to keep squirrels away from your garden by using substances like coffee grounds, capsaicin, garlic, and peppermint oil that they find unpleasant. This method is effective as it targets their sense of taste and smell, making your garden unattractive to them.

Repellents, which can be both commercial or homemade, are versatile and environmentally safe, easily applied to plants or garden perimeters. However, they need regular reapplication, especially after rain, and their effectiveness may decrease as squirrels get used to them. Also, some repellents might harm sensitive plants.

3. Plant squirrel-resistant varieties

Incorporating squirrel-resistant plants is also an effective strategy for naturally deterring squirrels by opting for varieties that are less appealing to them. Examples include daffodils, which squirrels tend to avoid due to their toxic properties, and marigolds, whose strong scent is off-putting to these critters. Alliums are another excellent choice, as their strong odor and taste are disliked by squirrels.

gray squirrel

This approach offers a low-maintenance, chemical-free solution to squirrel problems, enhancing garden aesthetics and biodiversity. However, choices are somewhat limited, and no solution is entirely foolproof. Hungry squirrels might still sample these less favored plants if their preferred options are scarce, and there’s always a chance they could adapt to these deterrents over time.

4. Offer alternatives

Offering alternative food sources is a strategic method to deter squirrels from your garden by capitalizing on their foraging behavior to direct them elsewhere. This approach can effectively reduce garden invasions by providing more appealing options away from your plants.

It’s eco-friendly, flexible, and allows you to influence squirrel feeding habits positively. However, it requires ongoing effort to maintain the food supply, and there’s a possibility of attracting more squirrels, which could exacerbate the problem.

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5. Use motion-activated sprinklers

Lawn and water sprinkler
Lawn and water sprinkler | Image by Eric Doroshenko from Pixabay

Motion-activated sprinklers offer an engaging way to keep squirrels out of your garden by detecting their movement and spraying water to scare them away. This method is effective because it surprises squirrels, leveraging their fear of sudden changes. It’s a humane option that provides automatic and continuous protection without harming the animals. These sprinklers are versatile and capable of deterring other pests like cats, dogs, and deer.

However, they do increase water usage, which could be a concern for those mindful of conservation or living in areas with water restrictions. The initial cost and setup might be higher than other methods, and there’s a chance squirrels could get used to the sprinklers over time, possibly reducing their effectiveness unless locations and settings are regularly changed.

6. Employing decoys or predators

Employing decoys or predators, such as owl, hawk, or snake figures, in your garden is a creative way to deter squirrels by playing on their fear of predators. This non-lethal and humane method can be quite effective, especially when visual decoys are paired with auditory deterrents like predator calls, making the threat seem more real to squirrels. It’s a straightforward strategy that doesn’t involve chemicals, making it safe for the environment and other garden inhabitants.

However, its effectiveness may decrease over time as squirrels become accustomed to the decoys, requiring periodic movement or replacement to maintain their efficacy. While the initial cost and maintenance of high-quality decoys are considerations, this method offers a simple and eco-friendly option for protecting your garden from squirrels.

Photo collage red and gray squirrel
Red (left) and Gray (right) squirrel

7. Practice good garden hygiene

Maintaining good garden hygiene is an essential method for deterring squirrels by removing food sources and nesting materials, making your garden less attractive to them. This method effectively minimizes squirrel presence by keeping the garden tidy and clear of fallen fruits, nuts, and debris, which are potential attractants. It’s beneficial not just for squirrel deterrence but also for reducing other pest issues and enhancing plant health, all without relying on chemicals.

However, this approach demands consistent effort and can be time-consuming, especially in larger gardens. While it significantly reduces squirrel visits, it might not eliminate them, particularly if squirrels are determined or in search of food, suggesting that it’s most effective when combined with other deterrent strategies.

Common garden vegetables squirrels favor

Squirrel eating pumpkin
Squirrel eating pumpkin | Image by Jim Ewoldsen from Pixabay

Squirrels, with their versatile diet, often target various vegetables cultivated in North American gardens, posing challenges to gardeners looking to protect their harvest. Understanding which vegetables are most attractive to squirrels can help in formulating strategies to protect these specific plants or in deciding which plants might require less vigilance. Here are some commonly grown vegetables that squirrels are particularly fond of:

  • Tomatoes: Squirrels are attracted to the juicy, ripe tomatoes, often taking just a bite or two before moving on, which can ruin the fruit. They’ll ruin a juicy tomato you’ve been waiting to ripen for weeks with a bite. 
  • Squash: Both summer and winter squash varieties can become targets for squirrels, drawn to their soft flesh once the skin is breached.
  • Cucumbers: The refreshing moisture content of cucumbers makes them a desirable snack for squirrels, especially in hot weather.
  • Corn: Sweet corn is highly appealing to squirrels, which may strip the cobs bare, often before the corn is fully matured.
  • Leafy Greens: Spinach, lettuce, and other leafy greens can be nibbled on by squirrels, especially young, tender leaves.
  • Root Vegetables: Carrots, beets, and radishes might be dug up by squirrels. Though less common than above-ground attacks, the disturbance can harm the plant’s growth.
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To protect your garden’s vegetables that squirrels love, mix different deterrent strategies. Using physical barriers, repellents, decoys, or diversions can be effective. Knowing which vegetables attract squirrels helps you focus your efforts and choose the best protection methods for your garden.