Are Squirrels Getting the Best of Your Garden?

Posted on Jul 11 2012 - 1:37am by Mike Lieberman

Does it seem like squirrels are eating more from your garden than you are?

Those long tailed furry rodents can be a huge pain in the…garden.

Squirrels are smart and persistent creatures. If they want something, they will do what they can to get it.

Squirrels on rooftop garden

In this Q&A segment, Kevin from Philly is having squirrel problems and wants to know what he can do.

He says, “I live in Philadelphia and have no green space…but I do have a roof deck and have spent the last few months getting it set up as both an entertaining and gardening space. I started small last year, but have expanded with lots of containers this year. I have an I’d love to hear more about:

Squirrels, those damn furry ninjas ate a ton of my seedlings…and I think the birds are in cahoots as well, they pulled up all of my chive seedlings. Weeks of starting things from seeds got wasted. Any advice on wildlife proofing the urban garden?”

Simple tips to keep squirrels from your container garden

  1. I suggest securely fixing chicken wire around the containers to keep the squirrels away. You could also use another kind of fencing, wiring or mesh to keep them away. I know you are using the space to entertain as well, so you need to keep the aesthetics on point.
  2. Distract them with a plate of food. To help keep them away from your crops, put out a bowl or dish of food for them to chow down on.
  3. People have also recommended using an airsoft gun to keep them away. That can turn into a game.

Between the fencing and the food, the squirrels should be kept in check.

Thanks Kevin for holding it down in the 2-1-5 (I went to school and lived in Philly for 10 years).

Your turn

In the comments below, let me know what kind of urban wildlife you are having trouble with in your garden.

Photo courtesy of likeaduck on Flickr.

30 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Mikelsessions July 11, 2012 at 10:14 am -

    I agree with all these methods except the Shooting of these Loving Creatures!!! I keep a Feeder with Lots of Good treats and they seem to Love it and Leave My crop alone, I also have a plastic mesh that I rap around the planter boxes and that has been successful with BlueJays as well…Keep it Green and Thanks for Sharing;)

  2. a REAL wildlife warrior July 11, 2012 at 10:29 am -

    I am horrified that you’ve suggested using an airsoft gun on any animal — even a squirrel!  Squirrels are tiny!!!!!  Shooting them — even with an airsoft gun — could kill them!!!!!! That is the problem with the world… humans can’t co-exist with ANYTHING anymore.  Disgusting!!!!!!!!!

  3. Tara Pagan July 11, 2012 at 11:20 am -

    The little guys have to eat too. I like the extra food and barricade ideas. Leave food out for them to eat, grow some plants just for the animals to eat, and take an extra step to secure the plants you want for yourself.

  4. Yevondadee July 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm -

    What to do about Grasshoppers??

  5. Guest July 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm -

    Someone once gave us these things that plug into the wall that emit a sound which is irritating to rodents.  We plugged it in and watched the squirrels paw at their ears and shake their head. They stayed away. I was surprised the thing actually worked.

  6. Smhboston July 16, 2012 at 6:03 am -

    I was also having a problem with squirrels in an urban setting, and someone told me they eat the seedlings, fruits, etc. for the water. After reading many things, I have kept bowls of water out, just change it daily as I water the plants, and I have also added crushed red pepper flakes to the soil. Since then, the little furry-tailed rats have only done minimal munching. 

  7. Jjrb07 July 16, 2012 at 6:18 am -

     I was also concerned about the airsoft gun, however
    after having seen it I am no longer concerned.  The trick is to use either
    one of the cheap pop guns that has no real force behind it (it won’t even
    bruise) or to not fully load a gas gun with fuel.  A fully loaded airsoft
    weapon won’t break skin at point blank range and it isn’t enough to break a
    bone or cause any internal damage to any of our furry friends. 


    Only after doing all kinds of research to make sure we wouldn’t
    actually kill or significantly wound any of the pests plaguing our garden, did
    we use this method the first time.  The
    first time we hit a squirrel, he looked at us like “OH MY GOD WHAT WAS THAT!”
    so we hit him again.  He jumped off of
    our balcony and onto a tree and just watched us for a while. 


    We watched his movements to make sure he wasn’t injured.  We hit him in the ribs and hind leg, he wasn’t
    limping or breathing abnormally, he just looked stunned and offended that we
    would defend our peppers.  He didn’t bother
    us for 6 months! 


    Airsoft guns aren’t shot guns, and if you don’t hit them in
    the eye, they can’t hurt the animal. 
    They just sting a little and cause more fear than anything else, even at
    close range.

  8. veggiemama July 16, 2012 at 6:31 am -

    I am also having the problem with squirrels, but also chipmunks.  We in fact, did put mesh over all of our newly planted seedlings, but they were actually getting caught in the mesh!  I had to cut a couple out and came out one morning to a chipmunk decomposing in my mesh.  What do we do about our hanging baskets???  They are digging everything out of those as well!  They are also digging holes in all of my mulched area of the yard. I can cover those up every day.  But I am at my wits end with trying to grow our precious plants and waking every morning to another gone or dead animals in the mesh.  =(

  9. Eriksny July 16, 2012 at 8:13 am -

    For 3 years now, I have put mothballs around the edge of the garden, up against the fences.  The birds ignore the scent and peck at a tomato or two but the squirrels hate it and stay away….. the water idea sounds humane, perhaps outside the chicken wire fence…

  10. Terry July 16, 2012 at 10:03 am -

    I’ve had great luck with capsaicin. Put some hot pepper seeds in hot water overnight. Strain out the seeds and put the liquid in a spray bottle to spray down where you don’t want the squirrels. You can also sprinkle the seeds on your pots. It’s all natural, squirrels HATE it. And it doesn’t bother any other living thing. Good luck!

  11. Loneriver33 July 16, 2012 at 10:31 am -

    I’ve had squirrly problems as well.  An employee at my local garden center suggested I use bloodmeal.  They don’t like the smell so they keep away. And it’s good fertilizer.

  12. Linda July 16, 2012 at 10:35 am -

    Cats are great for giving squirrels and chipmunks a reason to avoid my patio garden. After vacuuming I spread the dirt and collected cat hair around the edge of the patio to act as a further deterrent.  I also leave a.bowl of water some distance from my plants.  This seems to be working for both squirrels,chipmunks and occasional raccoons.

  13. Catherine Carson Clark July 16, 2012 at 10:50 am -

    I have a cat, which helps, but the blasted squirrels stil manage to get some damage in. I would love to use an electronic device, but I am afraid it would negatively impact my furry friend.

  14. Leann Riley M July 16, 2012 at 11:28 am -

    I have been having problems with squirrels this year too! If we put food out won’t they keep coming and looking for the food? I have tried the moth balls they just kick them to the side and keep digging. I will try the capsacin! or the bloodmeal! thanks

  15. k joseph July 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm -

    Another option, which I’ve had success with, is covering plants with shade cloth. Comes in rolls & can be reused. Also useful for keeping in warmth (tomatoes are ripening faster!) or to protect from too much wind or sun. Happy gardening all! 🙂 

  16. Sprite333 July 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm -

    Dang… the read to even get to hear your feedback yet the additional read. Squirells need food. To call them damned etc and to pull guns upon them.. Jesus Christ. And here I am English and cuss a lot but not upon loving and natural beings. I am dismissing my subscription. I haven’t found anything worthy to have been subscriped already. It’s kindergarden knowledge you share.

  17. Catrina Glasl July 16, 2012 at 10:38 pm -

    If you entertain there, chickenwire and cloth don’t really add to the appeal, but there is an organic product called plantskydd, that comes in a granular form in a shaker can, that deters sqirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and other pesky things, and is safe for your foodstuff. 

  18. nekoknits July 16, 2012 at 10:56 pm -

    Rabbits have destroyed my garden!! They have dug huge holes, turned up plants and eaten all the green shoots and roots I had. I’m not sure how to keep them out as they same to squirt under or through even the smallest holes

  19. nekoknits July 16, 2012 at 11:02 pm -

    Actually they are less likely to go digging around in your garden if they have food they like. My grandfather used to hang cobbs of dried corn on string from a tree. He said the more challenging you made it for the squirrels the longer it kept them out of the garden. 

    I’m not sure if he was just joking but he always had a gorgeous garden and the squirrels seemed very happy with the food. Win win.

    (you can get “squirrel food” at your local Petsmart)

  20. Shirley July 17, 2012 at 6:42 am -

    oh my …LOL chill have an open mind…I guarantee those squirrels have an open mind when it comes to nibbling the wires in/on your home. The young man that writes this stuff is actually doing very well for himself and shares tons of really cool information. We need more young men and women to learn to garden and share new ideas. Sorry you aren’t sticking around…like squirrels do…..nibble nibble…I’m all for the sling method myself.

  21. Shirley July 17, 2012 at 6:46 am -

    Every year clients ask me for hair from the salon to till into their garden areas. Usually as they get it ready for the next season. I wonder if it would help to repel squirrels it works well to keep deer out of gardens and various other pests. I have 6 pecan trees and the neighbor put up a corn feeder on our fence line haha! So the squirrels don’t touch our garden. Slugs do…but not squirrels. I just make a slug bar for those yucky critters. 

  22. Mary C. August 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm -

    my best guyfriend keep surging me to borrow his airsoft pistol to go after the ones tearing our avocados apart. apparently they like immature avocado seeds… 

  23. stacy August 8, 2012 at 9:16 am -

    The squirrels don’t bother me too much. We are having problems with rats this year because of the mild winter we had. They are one of God’s furry little creatures I am not sharing my space with because they spread disease. I put out traps in places my cats can’t get to and they have been helpful. I also use cayenne peppers and it does work. I work too hard for the things I plant to let animals take a bite out of each tomato and then move on…sorry not sharing…

  24. Arianna Marshall August 12, 2012 at 9:08 pm -

    Back in early spring, the squirrels ate the new pears off of 2 trees. And, they just left them to waste on the ground. So there is no pear harvest. 🙁 I borrowed a bb gun to shooed them away. But I could not shoot them. I felt wrong about it. I am planting 5 peach trees in a few weeks. And I need a real solution to the squirrel problem. I do not think chicken wire is gonna work in a 25 to 35 foot pear tree. It may work in a new tree. I appreciate you discussing this topic Mike. And as always Happy Gardening to you all.

  25. Laura March 17, 2013 at 6:18 pm -

    you can get a fake owl from an outdoors store. it works to keep gophers, squirrels and birds away, most of the time, and doesn’t impact the decor if you’re entertaining.

    btw, LOVE THE BLOG!

  26. Noah Davis April 2, 2013 at 10:12 am -

    This is really really old thread – but if you are fundamentally opposed to an airsoft gun you could use the havahart trap system. If you do this you need to drive a significant distance (5+ miles) from your residence to release them. I’m not kidding. I spray painted their tails one year and unless itI was over 5 miles and across some major roadways those “loving creatures” found their way back to keep eating my veggies, holes in my flashing, and through my screened in porch…..

  27. Ryan Brooks April 18, 2013 at 9:33 pm -

    Pick them off your plants and deep fry them for a tasty snack. They go well with chili.

  28. cantstoplaugh April 24, 2013 at 5:46 pm -

    Unless you get a pregnant one. Then they taste kinda wierd.

  29. Anna Turkiewicz June 21, 2013 at 9:50 pm -

    I agree about the squirrels… I would never hurt them and if I saw someone shooting them with a bb gun I’d shoot them myself with pleasure. I wouldn’t even kill a slug…
    However I do like the blog as I’m just starting out and have no idea what do to… Kindergarten knowledge is also needed.

  30. MyLittleGardenPlace January 17, 2014 at 6:55 pm -

    Well my teenage sons used airsoft guns. Never hurt any squirrels though. I feed them well and that seems to work just fine. I am just a nature lover and even love the squirrels too. I buy sunflower seeds, peanuts in the shell in bulk and dried corn. I go to a local park and gather black walnuts, chestnuts and acorns in big batches and leave them out for them too. I leave water out for them so they won’t get my vegetables for water. I continue leaving food on my deck through the winter including pumpkins, squash, birdseed etc. So far this system has done very well for me and they know my deck is one of ‘their’ sources to get food so they tend not to wander into the garden.

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