7 Clever Ways to Keep Squirrels out of the Garden – But Do They Actually Work?
In the Garden with Jessica
By mid-May, my vegetable gardens were completely planted and ready to grow. The seed starting process had been a success and now I was ready to see my plants flourish. But the squirrels had other plans. And I needed a plan to keep squirrels out of the garden.
I have two gardens with vegetables and herbs – an Eco Garden Systems Original Garden, a raised garden bed, and an Eco Garden Systems 4’x4’ Vertical Limits Tray (part of a multi-level growing platform). Within the first week of planting, squirrels had ripped out all the marigolds and calendula, and eaten most of the sage, lemon thyme, and lemon balm in the Vertical Limits Tray. A few days later, a squirrel miraculously got into the elevated Eco Garden and broke the tomatoes, peppers, calendula, beans, and broccoli, leaving the destruction scattered across the soil (see our tip at the end for how to remedy broken plants). They even dug up most of the flowers and seeds in my containers—multiple times. I can’t even recall how many times I re-planted sunflower seeds. They could at least eat the plants, right?
Once I started trying different methods to keep the squirrels out, it seemed to egg them on, and they multiplied. I was beginning to wonder if I was under attack. On one very early morning, the trees were swaying with the deafening chatter of at least 30 squirrels running up and down the trunks. And when I came back outside an hour later, five of the little buggers were chasing each other in and around my containers. One bold critter lurched at me instead of running away—twice! I love the squirrels, but they were testing me. And they kept on attacking the gardens.
After hours of scouring the internet for tips, here are the methods I tried to keep them out of the vegetable gardens, and if any of them worked:
1. Human Hair
I sprinkled the hair around the plants and worked clumps into the soil. Did it work? NO.
2. Bone Meal
Why not try something that’s good food for the plants? Did it work? NO. But it makes for a great fertilizer.
3. Cayenne pepper
This one had many success stories on the internet. I sprinkled it all around the gardens and containers, as well as directly on the plants. Did it work? NO.
4. Black Pepper and Red Pepper Flakes
I was told by a gardener that this was the winning combination. Again, I sprinkled away. Did it work? NO.
I used this for my containers after reading that it can stop squirrels from digging. I didn’t want to mulch my vegetable gardens, especially the Eco Garden, because it really doesn’t need it due to a reservoir that keeps the soil consistently moist while using 65% less water than traditional gardens. Did it work? Yes—mostly. The squirrels have only dug in the mulch a couple times, and only, it seemed, for the sunflowers. I now added a bigger plant into that container and the sunflowers have been safe for a few weeks. And my pots retain much greater moisture—bonus!
Yes, those wind-loving kid toys. I nabbed a few cool iridescent ones from the Dollar Tree and set several in each garden and one in the sunflower container. Did it work? YES! The squirrels finally stopped attacking the Vertical Limits Tray and my containers. It also seemed to keep them out of the elevated Eco Garden, although I did have one incident where the soil was a little disturbed (and plants were untouched). I was weary at this point, so I tried one more tactic, just to be safe:
7. DIY Garden Hoops with Bird Netting/Shade Cloth
Check out this video to see how we attached this setup to the Eco Garden. It seems that many gardeners agree that the best way to keep squirrels out is to create an actual barrier. Did it work? This remains to be seen; we will update you in another post later this month.
Bonus Tip for Broken Plants: I heard that broken tomatoes could be saved if you gave them a fresh cut and placed them in small cup of water. I did just that for all of my broken plants, and it worked perfectly for the tomatoes, sunflowers, and peppers. After setting them in a sunny window, the tomatoes and sunflowers grew roots almost instantly; the peppers took a couple weeks. Then, once they had roots, I planted them in a little cup of soil and started acclimating them to the great outdoors, similar to the seed staring process. To my surprise, the marigolds, sage, lemon thyme, and lemon balm all grew back on their own.