How to Keep Squirrels Out of the Garden

Posted on 08/01/2022

Source: Vaclav Matous/Shutterstock.com

Don’t you love the warm, morning sun on your bare shoulders, the rich, dark soil between your fingers and the thrill of nurturing tender seedlings into nutritious produce or picture-perfect blooms? There’s a lot to love about your garden. But the squirrels in the neighborhood are fond of your bountiful landscape as well. And they threaten to shatter the serenity of your outdoor sanctuary.

How Squirrels May Damage Your Garden

While many people enjoy watching squirrels’ antics, the little furballs can do some real damage to your garden and yard. Squirrels may be responsible for the following damage in your garden.

Missing Bark on Trees

While this squirrel behavior is more common in the UK, squirrels in the U.S. have been known to eat the bark off trees. There isn’t a consensus on why squirrels eat bark, but one widely accepted theory is that squirrels are foraging for calcium.

Garden Décor Has Been Chewed

Don’t let their fluffy tails fool you! Squirrels are in the same family as rats and mice. Like all rodents, a squirrel’s teeth never stop growing. Squirrels will chew on just about anything to keep their teeth a healthy length. They will also use the shavings from their chewing to build their nests. Squirrels will chew on plastic, metal or wood garden décor and furniture.

Flower Bulbs, Petals or Leaves Are Missing or Have Bite Marks

Flowers aren’t just a feast for our eyes — they’re a delectable treat for many animals. Squirrels are especially fond of roses, tulips, rhododendrons and hibiscus. 

When you buy roses or other flowers, use the strategies below to deter squirrels.

hungry squirrel

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How to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Garden

The key to keeping squirrels out of your yard is by using several methods at the same time. Squirrels adapt quickly. You’ll likely need to try new methods as the squirrels acclimate to the deterrents you usually use.

Use Noise Makers and Other Scare Tactics

Squirrels are jumpy. Try these ideas for scaring squirrels from your garden.

  • Use motion-activated sprinklers and lights.
  • Use a plastic owl decoy. Or try a rubber snake from the toy store. Make sure you move the decoys frequently.
  • Place dog hair in your garden.

Protect Your Plants

You can use wire mesh to protect your flower bulbs. Make sure the wire mesh you bury is large enough and deep enough to prevent the squirrels from digging under it.

You can protect the flowers that squirrels love to eat by bordering them with flowers that repel squirrels. Geraniums, hyacinth and daffodils deter squirrels.

If squirrels are eating vegetables in your garden, you can try covering them in a wire cage. Or you can border your vegetable garden with plants that squirrels don’t like, such as onions, chives and jalapeños.

Try These Repellents

Squirrels don’t like peppermint oil or capsaicin (the compound that makes chili peppers hot). Try sprinkling either deterrent on your plants.

Protect Your Trees

When you buy fruit trees, you’ll want to take precautions to keep squirrels away. Protect your trees from squirrels by attaching a smooth metal band. The band should be about two feet wide and attached at least six feet from the ground to prevent agile squirrels from jumping over it. 

If left on for too long, these metal bands can damage your tree’s bark. Metal bands trap moisture and make the bark more susceptible to temperature changes. Fortunately, you don’t have to keep the metal on your tree year-round. Squirrels typically only eat tree bark from April to early July.

Create an Area for Your Squirrels

Squirrels are opportunists. If you find that the usual methods of keeping them out of your garden aren’t working, switch tactics. Install a squirrel feeder away from your garden. Squirrels will usually prefer the easy pickings of a feeder rather than scavenging through your garden.

squirrel eating food from a feeding box

Source: Lynne Nicholson/Shutterstock.com

Don’t let squirrels ruin the sense of relaxation you get from gardening. It may take some dogged determination, but with the right strategies, you can save your flowers and produce from the furry little scavengers. If the usual arsenal of deterrents isn’t enough to keep squirrels at bay, try changing tactics. 

Set your fluffy tailed neighbors up with a feeder of their own. Squirrels aren’t difficult to bribe, and your offerings will keep them out of your garden and bird feeders. As they enjoy your peace offering, you may just find that you enjoy the squirrels’ antics almost as much as gardening.