If you read my blog often, you may remember reading about the squirrels in my vegetable garden a few years ago. Suffice to say, it was a nightmare all around. I was at my wit’s end trying to keep them out of my home grown vegetables. This has been an ongoing problem for me in one way or another, ever since. Do you have a problem with squirrels? If so, these natural squirrel repellent ideas may prove useful to you.
Animal lovers are charmed by the acrobatic maneuvers of squirrels and find them delightful. But when a gardener walks out into their vegetable garden to find their corn in a mess and their tomatoes scattered over the ground with exactly one bite out of each, they are anything BUT charmed. Squirrels are a constant source of frustration for any vegetable gardener and I, for one, am always looking for new, and natural, ways for keeping squirrels out of my garden.
I am an organic gardener by nature, but when my 1000 foot vegetable garden was destroyed by squirrels two years ago, I was prepared to try anything and everything to get rid of them. I made some squirrel repellents but was never happy with the idea that they contained moth balls, which are quite toxic, so I discontinued the use of them and started looking into other natural squirrel repellent ideas.
Even if you never see squirrels in your yard, there are lots of signs that they have been visiting your garden. Look for shallow digging and holes around plants, small bites on vegetables (particularly tomatoes), seed heads that hat been nibbled, whole plants that have disappeared (!) and digging evidence in your plant containers. These are all signs that Mr. Squirrel has been paying you a visit.
Let’s look at some Natural Squirrel Repellent Ideas
Hot Pepper Plants and Cayenne Pepper
Hot peppers are the most often used ingredients in natural squirrel repellent remedies, it seems. You can use them in a variety of ways:
- Sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes on the ground near the plants that seem to be attracting squirrels.
- Sprinkle a light dusting of cayenne pepper right on the leaves of squirrel tempting plants. Low lying leaves are the most important ones to sprinkle.
- Mix cayenne pepper and petroleum jelly and spread it on the stems of plants at the base. Also spread it on fences, poles and other solid things near plants that squirrels like.
- Make a cayenne pepper spray to spray on the leaves of tempting plants. To do this, mix a small bottle of your favorite hot sauce with a gallon on water. Place in a spray bottle and use it directly on the leaves of the plants that the squirrels are going after.
Note: all of these remedies will need to be reapplied periodically, especially after it rains.
Squirrels also dislike the smell and taste of garlic. Make a concoction with chopped up garlic, water and vinegar. Let it sit for a few days to give the flavors a chance to combine well and spray it on plants, fences, and stakes in your vegetable garden.
Apple Cider Vinegar Spray
The acrid taste and smell of apple cider vinegar is a real turn off to squirrels. Use it as a spray on plants and fixtures in squirrel infested areas.
Squirrel Repelling Bulbs and Plants
There are some bulbs and plants that squirrels really avoid due to their taste and smell. Planting this type of bulb near your vegetable garden can do a good job of keeping the squirrels away. A few ideas are daffodils, hyacinths, allium, lily of the valley, peppermint and geranium.
Squirrels aren’t the only thing that plants will repel. Lots of plants are great at repelling insects. See my list of mosquito repelling plants here.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Squirrels don’t like the strong scent of peppermint. In the same way that a live peppermint plant will deter them, peppermint essential oils also can be used. Soak cotton balls in peppermint oil and place them here and there on jar lids around plants in your garden that the squirrels like. They will need to be re-soaked periodically. You can also make a peppermint essential oil spray with the ratio of one drop of peppermint essential oil to one ounce of vinegar and use it to spray on plants.
Let’s look now at other means for deterring squirrels
Motion detecting lights, scarecrows, high frequency sound machines, owl decoys, and other tools are used to scare squirrels. Some friends of mine have a huge farm property and Randy has a vegetable garden which gives her prizes every year at the State Fair. I asked her how she keeps the squirrels away from it and she said it was this amazing sculpture that she had made. It is huge, has lights that come on when anything approaches the garden and does a great job of keeping the squirrels away from it.
Using Cats and Dogs
The last few dogs that we had love to chase squirrels and this is one behavior that I don’t discourage. If you have a dog or cat in your yard that chases the squirrels every time they visit, it is unlikely that you will have much of a squirrel problem. (When I had my squirrel invasion, the dogs I had then had no interest in the squirrels!)
Place sunflower seeds, small pieces of corn on the cob or other threats that squirrels like in a squirrel trap. Place the trap near the area where you know the squirrels visit. Once the squirrel gets trapped, release it in some far away place (or they will just return if you release near your home!)
Remove things that attract squirrels
Place bird feeders away from your vegetable garden area if possible, and be sure to clean up around them. The smell of seeds and bits of fruit can really be attractive to squirrels. Also, make sure that your garbage bins are closed to keep temptation away. There is no sense in sending out a welcome mat if you want to keep squirrels at bay!
Give them an alternative food choice
If you have tried everything to keep squirrels away and they still keep returning to your garden, try setting up a distraction station somewhere in your yard that is some distance away from your veggies. Set up a food station with squirrel tempting treats like sunflower seeds, nuts and other treats. Just be sure it is well away from your edible vegetables. Don’t forget to keep water here too. My entire crop of tomatoes each had one bite out of them and I am sure the squirrels were mainly thirsty that day.
Cages for Vegetables
One of the best natural squirrel repellent ideas is simply to keep them out! The squirrels cannot eat when they can’t get into the vegetable area. Think about making tall wire cages. Be sure they have tops (bird netting works well) or the squirrels will just climb up and in. Row covers also work for smaller veggies.
A note on Predators.
Both hawks and owls love to prey on squirrels. My husband is convinced that our squirrel population is so much higher because wooded land near by has been built up with houses and the owls are less plentiful. Find out what you can about attracting owls and hawks to the area to see if this helps. If you don’t have live owls living nearby, think about investing in some owl decoys. They are designed to scare away squirrels and other rodents.
Have you found other natural methods effective at keeping squirrels out of your garden? Share your natural squirrel repellent in the comments below!
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