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How to Keep Squirrels (& Other Intruders) Out of the Garden!

Man gardening in urban backyard

The physical activity or meditative qualities that gardening provides are enjoyed by young and old alike. Gardens and potted plants are often a celebration of vegetables, herbs, fruit, flowers, and other plant life. However, achieving one’s garden goals requires a concerted effort to keep squirrels out of the garden or potted plants, as well as a variety of other critters who are equally intrusive. Even in fenced gardens, it is necessary to know how to deter squirrels to avoid finding a bite that’s already been taken out of this year’s first beautiful tomato or nibbles out of your beautiful flowers.

Whether you are a first-year or longtime gardener, figuring out how to keep bugs and hungry animals away is essential. Especially for squirrels with their ability to gnaw through wire or the smaller flying squirrels that can squeeze through narrow gaps, how can one keep squirrels out of the garden and potted plants? Although there are many chemical deterrents available, these options can be harmful to you, your emerging (and hard-won!) vegetables, beneficial insects that actually help your plants, and potentially even your pets or family members. After all, many people grow their own food specifically to reduce the amount of pollutants that find a way into the food they consume. Fortunately, there are several natural and often simple options to help keep squirrels and similar critters out of gardens.

Simple Steps to Keep Squirrels Out of Gardens

At a high level, keeping squirrels out of gardens starts with understanding what attracts them (and other critters). Additionally, it is helpful to keep in mind that limiting pest impact and presence in your garden is a more feasible goal than trying to eliminate them.

With that, gardens offer attractive locations for squirrels with plentiful food and abundant options for shelter and nesting. Squirrels often enjoy plant-based meals of nuts, seeds, and leafy greens like the lettuces in your garden, but they will also eat insects, bird eggs, or uneaten parts of your own meals that end up in the trash. Areas close to their food sources, especially warm ones that provide protection from predators and the elements, are where squirrels prefer to make their nests. While they are happy to construct these living areas in trees or amidst their stronger branches depending on the season and the purpose of the nest, any location to which they have access is fair game to them! To reduce the risk of squirrels settling down in your property, then look around your yard every few months and remove food sources to help deter them.

Fortunately, there are simple steps and techniques to help keep squirrels out of gardens. With a combination of these humane options, you’ll find one option (or a mix) that works for you. Ultimately, staying diligent about removing food sources and using physical barriers are often the most effective long-term solutions.

  • Reduce Garden Appeal

An assortment of kitchen waste

While you might have been putting many of these items in your existing compost pile or garbage, it’s time to save your egg shells, coffee grounds, old black pepper or cayenne, or citrus rinds! Many animals and bugs, including squirrels, dislike encountering these items in and around the garden patch. For example, coffee grounds and cayenne can be placed outside of a garden bed to ward off any harmful explorers. Many blends of water and cayenne or other peppers can also be sprayed around gardens or on the outside of pots. Additionally, reduce the appeal of your garden by removing any fallen nuts, seeds fruits or other natural food sources. Plus, keep nearby trash bans securely closed to ensure squirrels are not attracted to another potential food source.

  • Use Natural Repellents

Two pieces of soap on a background of textured fabric

A tried and true trick for many years, soap is one Farmer’s Almanac method that continues to prove effective at keeping squirrels and other animals out of gardens. Helpful for more than a refreshing hand washing session after a day of planting and weeding, Irish Spring soap can be cut into small chunks and placed into a few small breathable pouches to locate around the garden. With flowers that won’t be eaten, some people even shave the soap directly around the plants. Additionally, there are some common natural scents and spices that act as a repellent, such as garlic.

To apply garlic effectively, plant garlic or use a garlic spray, which may be an even more effective choice for how to keep squirrels out of your garden. While many of us may double or even triple recipe recommendations for this tasty, fragrant ingredient, squirrels feel otherwise about the potent scent. To make a spreadable or sprayable garlic blend, mix chopped garlic with vinegar and water and let the mixture sit for a few days. Then, spray the garlic mixture around your garden, including fencing or stakes, or on plant pots. Protect what you’ve nurtured against squirrels and other animals with the strong scent of this natural pest remedy.

No matter which approach you prefer to deter squirrels from your plants or flower pots, the strong scents of things like soap, garlic and others should help repel these critters and many others!


Garden with wire fencing to keep animals out

When determining how to keep squirrels out of a garden or any other animals you’ve seen hanging around it, a strong physical barrier is the perfect defense. Minimally, you should establish a barrier around the perimeter of the garden using materials like hardwire cloth, chicken wire, or a wooden fence. There are also a number of structural options that provide even more complete protection around and even over a garden, which might be especially crucial for flying squirrels and other pests such as birds or even the ambitious neighborhood cat!

There are also squirrel fence spikes that can be added to your construction, as these are specifically designed to keep squirrels away with their pointed spikes. Without causing harm to the animals, these spikes are simply an additional choice of tool, as you contemplate how to deter squirrels from damaging your garden!


gardener planting lavender in their garden

Planting insect-repelling flowers and herbs also helps keep pests out of gardens. Squirrels are known to dislike daffodils, alliums and fritillaria, which would make good options as part of a flower garden. Additionally, other flowers like marigolds are a well-known deterrent and work on a variety of pests, like mosquitoes and rabbits. Other herbs like lavender, basil, mint, and lemongrass keep bugs away from your garden and add flavor or flair to meals or to aromatherapy blends and teas. Like garlic, onions also keep animals away!


Motion Sensor Sprinkler in Garden

In thinking about how to keep squirrels and other animals (or maybe even that inquisitive neighbor) out of the garden, consider embracing the “sparkle, sound, and surprise” approach. Shiny objects, chimes, looming figures like plastic owls, or motion-sensor sprinklers can suggest the presence of danger or make unexpected noise which startles the animals and stops them from getting too close to your garden or potted plants. For example, the alarming sound and spray of water will deter skittish squirrels or birds away from your garden, which will keep your crops safe (and watered)!

If you have ever had emerging seedlings disappear or seen the remnants of a flower in bloom thrown carelessly aside, you know that garden pests, like squirrels, are damaging and frustrating to encounter. Creating a bountiful garden or stunning array of potted flowers requires hard work and diligent care, so it is hard to witness the destruction that squirrels, insects, and other intruders can cause. As you explore the listed options and others in order to determine how to keep squirrels out of your garden, as well as other common pests, also consider using a combined approach, like fencing and sprays or soap and herb additions. With planning and vigilance, you’ll be on your way to keeping your garden safe from even the most fearless squirrel!

Common FAQs About Keeping Squirrels Out of Gardens

How often should the repellents like soap and garlic spray be reapplied to maintain their effectiveness?

To maintain the effectiveness of natural repellents like soap and garlic spray in your garden, it’s generally recommended to reapply them every two weeks or after heavy rain. This ensures that the scent remains strong enough to deter squirrels.

Are there any specific considerations or tips for using physical barriers in smaller urban gardens where space is limited?

In smaller urban gardens, using physical barriers such as netting or chicken wire can be effective. It’s important to install these barriers in a way that maximizes space without harming the plants. Vertical barriers can be useful in confined spaces.

What are the most effective squirrel deterrents for those who have pets and want to avoid any potential harm to them?

For pet owners, the safest squirrel deterrents are typically those that involve physical barriers or ultrasonic devices. These methods do not involve chemicals or substances that could harm pets, making them a safe choice for gardens in homes with animals.

If your efforts have been so successful that any of these garden trouble-makers start to make their way into your home, call the pest control and extermination experts at Eliminate ’Em for help! We offer squirrel removal and animal control to keep your garden, your potted plants, your pets, and your family safe! Contact your local Eliminate ’Em team 24/7 on any day of the year for Connecticut, New York, western Massachusetts and Rhode Island pest removal today!