Some people think these fuzzy creatures are cute, but they can be incredibly destructive to your flower and vegetable beds.
squirrel smelling flowers in garden
Credit: Marco Scocco / Getty Images

As a gardener, chances are having squirrels prancing about in your outdoor space is never a welcome sight. After all, the fluffy-tailed rodents have developed a mighty reputation for gobbling up flowers and vegetable plants. Completely banishing squirrels from your garden probably isn't possible, however, there are practical ways to deter them.

Your garden is a squirrel's playground and food source.

While squirrels are technically considered rodents—like mice, rats, and hamsters—they are more visible than their counterparts. American squirrel species range in color from white to black, but gray is the most common color; their hue stands out against the verdant landscapes they love to visit. "Though squirrels are seen as playful and mischievous animals, they can be very destructive to gardens," explains Joe Felegi, General Manager of Critter Control. "Many people think squirrels only eat nuts, but their diet can include fruits, plant buds, stalks, and proteins like insects." Like rabbits, squirrels can make sure work of your prized plants, leaving you with more frustration than love for the garden visitors. Fortunately, there are a few ways to protect those plants (and your sanity).

To reduce their numbers, eliminate snacking stations.

Preventing squirrels from entering a garden can be challenging, according to Felegi, which is why he advises against supplying foods to other creatures. "My first recommendation is to make sure there are no bird feeders or other attractions prior to starting your garden," he says. It can be easier to control your squirrel population, he says, if they haven't already felt obliged to snack in your garden for weeks.

Try a repellant.

There are several repellents that deter wildlife on the market, but Felegi notes that homeowners should only expect to experience moderate success with these formulas. "Consider them just another tool in your toolbox to help keep these little guys away," he explains.

Implement physical barriers on grounded and raised garden beds.

The right physical blockade might deter squirrels from entering your garden beds. According to Felegi, barriers and mechanical devices—like motion-activated sprinklers that offer a squirt of water when animals get too close—can be both humane and effective. "If possible, use a physical barrier that stops the squirrel from entering. Metal mesh enclosing the garden should work," he says. "Obviously, this would be difficult for large areas." Netting, fencing, or even burlap covers may work for smaller spaces or raised garden beds, though.

Know when to call in an expert.

If squirrels are damaging your property or entering your home after you've tried other tactics to keep them away, it may be time to call in the professionals. "Be sure to do your homework and make sure the company you hire is licensed and insured," he explains. And, Felegi points out that if you happen upon a sick or injured animal, you should never handle it. "There are many local wildlife rescue groups that will come and safely remove the animal."

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
April 13, 2022
I keep squirrels, gophers, moles, voles, snakes, wild hogs, deer, raccoons, rabbits....most everything but cats & birds...out of my raised bed gardens by using gallon milk jugs, mothballs, and water. You cut "V" shaped vents around the top edge of the jug (the part before it curves in to the lid)... 9 vents total. I drop 8 mothballs into the jug, & fill with water to just under the vents, and screw the lid back on. I place the jugs in a neat row down the center of my beds, 6'-8' ft apart. No more critters! The mothballs last all year, but you have to keep the jugs refilled with water due to natural evaporation. I use gallon milk jugs because they sit straight & heavy enough to not get knocked over by high winds/storms. In my front yard, I use clear 2 litre coke bottles, and hide them in shrubbery. I occasionally catch a whiff of mothballs, but only occasionally. The water keeps the smell offensive only to varmints, plus, you're upcycling as well. Win-Win. Happy gardening! :)