Every gardener likely has a story about squirrels making a nuisance of themselves. Here are a few tips on how you can stop squirrels from eating flowering plants, vegetables, and fruit in your garden. Understand why squirrels dig – as frustrating as squirrels can be, there are some things you can do to coexist on more friendly terms.
They eat nuts, leaves, berries, roots, and seeds. Generally, there is enough food for them in our backyard habitats, and they don’t become pests. Squirrels spend much of their day burying little stashes of food in multiple places around their territory. That’s why they often are digging into the nice, soft soil you’ve just prepared.
Chipmunks commonly store their food in one place and are love finding a squirrel stash or your bulbs. When one of these animals finds your bulb plantings, they think they’ve just arrived at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Apply cayenne pepper or other repellents – finely ground cayenne pepper can spice up your food as well as your garden. Normally you must reapply the pepper after each rain, but squirrels usually lose interest quickly. You can also use repellents marketed specifically for squirrels and these products are not harmful to humans or other backyard wildlife.
Don’t attract them in the first place – to reduce your yard’s attractiveness to squirrels, remove food sources such as pet food bowls or bird seed and reduce attractive habitat sites such as rock piles or fallen logs. There are some plant species squirrels don’t like such as the smell or taste of daffodils. They do, however, love to eat tulip bulbs. Planting daffodils with your other flowering bulbs can help mask the scent of tulips and help protect them.
Protect your bulbs – When planting spring flowering bulbs, make sure they are planted at the proper depth. Plant tulips and hyacinths 6 to 8 inches deep. Smaller bulbs, such as crocuses and grape hyacinths, should be planted 3 to 4 inches deep. After planting, tamp down the soil with your hands and water the planting area to make it more difficult for squirrels to dig them up. Bulb cages, bought or homemade with chicken wire, work well for small plantings.
If you have a large area to protect, try covering it with chicken wire after your fall planting is done. Tack down the wire and cover it with a thin layer of mulch to hide it. Remove the barrier in early spring as soon as you see your bulbs coming up. You can also help hide your bulbs by spreading an even layer of mulch over the soil after you plant. Squirrels and chipmunks recognize freshly dug soil, so without that mask of mulch, they will have an easier time finding your freshly planted bulbs.
Water – in hot, dry summers, squirrels and chipmunks are looking for water and this is when they might get into the birdbath or vegetable garden. Make sure there is a clean supply of water for all of the wildlife in your garden and in turn, they will likely leave your tomatoes alone. If you find that they are still eating berries, tomatoes, or anything else you had hoped to harvest, covering plants in heavy-duty garden netting is an option.