Dealing with Squirrels in My Garden

Unlike most gardeners, I love squirrels. They’re adorable little critters and look cutest when they eat (with their little paws in front of their body while they sit up).  All winter and spring I made friends with my backyard squirrels after throwing bread and nuts out into my backyard. I even eventually got to a point where the squirrels would come to the door and wait for me to feed them. I loved it! I thought it was darling, but then again I’m also compassionate to all animals, big and small.

However, when it was time for me to start my late spring planting, I realized I made a huge error in inviting the squirrels to my yard and patio. Squirrels were digging EVERYWHERE in my yard. They were digging, hiding their food or looking for another’s food stash.  Since they always seem to find the softer soil to dig in, they were finding all of my newly planted seeds and young annuals. Holes were found all around the new plants, potted plants were attacked continuously, dirt was tossed everywhere, and seeds were eaten.  It seemed impossible that any plant or seeds in my yard would flourish and grow. (The squirrels have dug in my yard for years and every summer this problem returns. I just made the problem worse by feeding their cute little faces!)

Gardeners deal with these little critters all the time, so I went to the internet to look for some solutions – preferably frugal ones.

First, I tried using a natural deterrent – placing numerous small sticks vertically in the pots to make it harder for the squirrels to dig in.  This didn’t work.

Then I placed medium-sized rocks in some of the pots, circling the base of the plant. This worked great, as there was no free space for the squirrels to dig. However, I didn’t have enough rocks lying around that would be big enough to work. So I used the rocks I had for my more important plants.

Rocks encircle my basil plant

On and around some of my other potted plants, I sprinkled minced garlic. Then chili pepper and cayenne pepper. Later, I sprinkled cinnamon.  All of this was done to deter the squirrels from digging, hoping they wouldn’t like the smell or taste of these spices. None of this worked.  Especially since it kept raining and the smells were washing away.

So the last thing I tried was chicken wire. I didn’t want to, but I finally caved in and bought the wire after my all of my sweet corn seeds were dug up and eaten. So I replanted the corn again, covered the soil in chicken wire, and anchored down the wire.

Chicken wire covers my zinnias from seed.

All of this extra work, just because of a few squirrels! I also have to mention that it’s not just squirrels attacking my plants. We have numerous chipmunks and a large rabbit that’s not afraid of me, roaming in and out of my yard. The chipmunks will dig, like the squirrels, and the rabbit will just eat all of my young plants – both perennials and annuals. Some days I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle.

There are many different options to repel squirrels, rabbits, and other garden critters. (Some of the links below go to Amazon. Note I do make a small commission for purchases made through the following link, but this doesn’t affect you or your pricing.) The most popular are:

  • Liquid Fence brand repellent or other liquid repellents
  • Homemade repellents made from garlic, peppers, and water
  • Mesh fencing, garden fabric, or chicken wire
  • Granular repellent
  • Fencing
  • Bamboo skewers (or plastic forks) placed vertically in pots
  • Motion-activated sprinkler
  • Blood meal
  • Trapping and then relocating them
  • Pre-made bell shaped protectors called cloches
  • Owning a pet and letting them loose in your yard to scare the small animals
  • Placing unused ground coffee, vinegar soaked rags or cut hair around the plants
  • Mothballs
  • Feeding the critters in another location to keep them away from your plants

Obviously the only thing that really worked for me against the digging chipmunks and squirrels was protection: using the chicken wire barriers and laying medium-sized rocks around the base of plants. Because I live in a heavily wooded area, it’s hard to completely get rid of the squirrels, even though I stopped feeding them. As for the rabbit, it continues to eat my petunias and lobelia. I have plenty of other greenery I’d be ok with the rabbit eating, but of course, it chooses the tender young plants that I just bought.

Obviously, I had to decide what was more important: being Mother of Squirrels or letting the plants/seeds I paid for thrive and grow. And throughout this whole spring, I just had to keep my mouth shut and not complain since I after all, caused most of this headache for myself. A lesson learned!

Have you had a problem with little critters in your garden? I’d love to hear some of your solutions!

Happy Travels!


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