Here, garden professionals share how to keep animals away from pumpkins, corn stalks, gourds, and more during the autumn season.

As we transition from summer to fall, we deck out our doorsteps, patios, and anything in-between with décor to honor of the time of year. In most cases, this makes for a beautiful autumnal setup that speaks to the spirit of the season. The only downside? Certain fall decorations—like pumpkins, corn stalks, and gourds—attract hungry critters. "In the fall, squirrels and chipmunks search for foods that fatten them up for the winter. It's instinct for them," says Sabine H. Schoenberg, a home and garden expert and the CEO of Smart. Healthy. Green. Living.

And they aren't very picky. "Squirrels are enthusiastic eaters and as long as it falls in the vegetable or nut category, they aren't particularly choosy about what it is," Erin Schanen, Troy-Bilt's brand gardening expert and a chief garden volunteer and creator of The Impatient Gardener blog and YouTube channel, says. "Corn is a favorite, but they will happily munch away at other vegetables that we often use in fall décor. Our beautiful autumnal displays look like a smorgasbord to them." Ahead, get some expert-approved advice on how to prevent squirrels and other animals from eating all of the fall-centric décor around your porch.

pumpkins and flowers front porch fall decor
Credit: BambiG / Getty Images

Use deterrents.  

One way to keep squirrels at bay? Use a deterrent. Schoenberg shares that any deer- or rabbit-proof sprays should work. The downside is that these formulas often have an unpleasant odor, which could be a con to anyone who experiences your autumn décor up close. Another option is blood meal, which can also be used as a fall garden fertilizer. "Just a few drops around pumpkins, corn stalks, and gourds will keep them away, since squirrels are vegetarians," adds Schoenberg. You can even use pet hair on the pumpkins, as it will deter squirrels; they will think a predator is near.

Create a distraction.

"Since squirrels really love corn cobs, consider stripping corn off stalks used for display or try ornamental grasses or broom corn instead," Schanen explains. "You might as well save them the temptation and save yourself the frustration." However, they will still gnaw into pumpkins and gourds, and possibly even take small ones, so repellents should come into play here. Otherwise, you can place alternative foods, like nuts and seeds, around the setup; squirrels will enjoy these more. "Keep a feeder, that is far away from that beautiful fall display, well-stocked during autumn," notes Schanen. "The idea is that they will have their fill on the good stuff and not care about those pumpkins and gourds. This approach probably works better in areas with a small squirrel population." If your issue is with squirrels digging into your potted fall plants, simply add a piece of chicken wire or hardware cloth on top of the pots to stop them.

Beware of other animals.  

As for other critters you need to be aware of? Chipmunks and groundhogs. They have similar tastes, so they will feast on pumpkins, gourds, and corn stalks, too. Luckily, the above repellants work for these critters, as well—but be on the lookout for deer. "They can pull cornstalks down completely, which is all the more reason to strip corn cobs from them," Schanen says. Wild turkeys and rabbits could crop up, too; repellants should do the trick and stop them in their tracks. If mice and moles burr up from the ground, Schoenberg says placing pet hair underneath the pumpkins to deter them. Once the season is over, you can pop all of your biodegradable décor into a compost bin to transform into fertilizer for your garden.   


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