Keeping Squirrels from Digging in Plants

Squirrels can cause a lot of damage in plant containers and the garden. This guide is about keeping squirrels from digging in plants.

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Question: Squirrels Eating Plants

By Kathy 2

I tried to plant seeds and then actual plants in my porch flower boxes. The squirrels keep digging them up and destroying them. I live across the street from a park. I tried putting mesh on top of the soil, I tried moth crystals, no help. Anybody got an idea? Planting season is soon here in Milwaukee and I want some flowers.

Hardiness Zone: 5a

By Kathy from Milwaukee, WI

AnswerWas this helpful? Yes


Most Recent Answer

By Tassie Crystal G. 1 Flag

June 3, 2012

Lolll Please... Do not attract the squirrels with luring them to your garden with other food. Unless you plan on feeding them every day and putting more and more food out for them as they start breeding and burrowing close to the food source.

The moment you don't feed them, guess what they will eat. I put (not chicken wire because if they can fit their head-they can fit their body) but galvanized mesh under the soil (about a foot or more deep) then put the weed blocker on top then the soil. I use wooden stakes around the garden with mesh stapled to cover the top and sides. If you want to get fancy-Make a frame with hinges on the top so it opens up.

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Question: Squirrels Dug Up and Ate Sunflower Seeds

By Laura Lynn Jump 11 9

The day before yesterday I planted over 50 sunflower seeds against our fence post in the back yard. Later that day and the next morning I noticed a squirrel over by the fence. I checked and do you know he dug up and ate all of my sunflower seeds all down the row of the fence. They were all cracked open and just laying there.

My mom said, because we have them on hand to stake some disposable red plates just around the line of the seeds when I plant them until they sprout.

Will this work? Any suggestions will help, because of course I want to plant more, but not for the squirrel to eat. Do they watch you do this or do they actually smell the seeds underground? Help.

Hardiness Zone: 10a

By Laura from Ocala, FL

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Most Recent Answer

By Kat 1 Flag

May 1, 2010

To keep squirrels away from your seedlings and bulbs other than cayenne pepper, sprinkle unused ground coffee all around the plants, when you cut your hair take the hair that has been cut off and sprinkle it around the exterior of your garden. This will keep most animals out. And finally, soak rags in white vinegar and hang around the exterior of the garden even when the vinegar dries on the rags it still repels the animals. I have tried all of these and they all work and haven't had a problem since. :) Happy Gardening.

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Tip: No Luck with Moth Balls

By Nan W. 1

Don't bother with the tip about scattering moth balls. I did this and next morning, they were all GONE. The squirrels must have loved them. My face fell a mile. Ha Ha.

    CommentWas this helpful? Yes

    Tip: Skewers to Keep Squirrels Out of Planting Containers

    By marie cecchini 204 2

    During the summer, I plant vegetables in containers and keep them on my deck. In the past, I've had a great deal of difficulty keeping the squirrels from digging up my new sprouts. A friend gave me an idea which has worked well. What you do is get a package of bamboo skewers, which usually runs about a dollar, and stick the skewers into the soil, with the points sticking up out of the soil and over the edge of the pot. This deters the squirrels from climbing into the pots to dig up the seedlings. It's worked very well, no squirrels have been injured, and my vegetables are allowed to flourish.

    By Marie from West Dundee, IL

    CommentWas this helpful? Yes

    Tip: Stop Squirrels From Digging In Potted Plants

    By likekinds 114 508

    I have lost hundreds of dollars and many man hours due to squirrels digging in potted plants. I would come home from work only to find many pots knocked off a wall or bench. The plants, sometimes expensive, would be lying beside the pots with roots having been exposed to hot sun all day. Many plants could not be salvaged.

    In the picture, the pot on the right shows what I've had to resort to in order to keep the squirrels at bay, mounding the pots high with small rocks. Moving large pots with all those rocks was quite a chore.

    The pot on the left shows an experiment I started today. I have cut blackberry vines covered with merciless thorns into small segments and placed them very close together in the top of the pot, sticking up in the soil and lying down on the soil. There's no way a little paw can dig in the pot without encountering many thorns.

    As I said, this is an experiment I started today. If the vines prove to be an effective squirrel deterrent, I will post back with the good news.

    Wish me luck!

      Stop Squirrels From Digging In Potted Plants

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Question: Squirrels Eating Flowers

      By sherry 1

      I live in a garden apartment and my upstairs neighbor feeds the very large squirrel population. I love to grow flowers in planters on the stoop, but the squirrels uproot the flowers and I find them lying dead next to the planters.

      Does anyone know any "annual" flowers that they don't like or have any suggestions? I'm so tired of spending money on flowers and it also makes me so sad to see them destroyed. (Forget the neighbor, as no one can make him stop feeding them.) Thanks.

      Hardiness Zone: 7a

      By SBTulip115 from Queens, NY

      AnswerWas this helpful? Yes

      Most Recent Answer

      By kathleen williams 76 1,661 Flag

      September 25, 2009

      Hot pepper sauce will keep the critters away, good luck

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

      Question: Squirrels Digging Up Potted Plants

      By Elizabeth Adamson 3 2

      The squirrels are destroying my plants by digging in all the pots. Anyone have any methods to preclude this?

      By Elizabeth A.

      AnswerWas this helpful? Yes

      Most Recent Answer

      By Carol 4 18 Flag

      September 14, 2011

      One or two mothballs will keep the squirrels out.

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

      Question: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      By Beryl 1

      What can I purchase to stop squirrels from digging up all of my plants? I need the name of a product and where it can be purchased.

      Thank you.

      By Beryl from Brooklyn

      AnswerWas this helpful? Yes

      Most Recent Answer

      By dawn 1 Flag

      April 21, 2010

      I recently spent a lot of money and energy planting flowers in my back yard. We have tons of squirrels and they proceeded to ravage my flowers. They tore up and ate 2 cinnamon ferns and 6 astilbes. I had problems in the past with squirrels and used a hot pepper spray and moth balls all to no avail. Yesterday I went to our local greenhouse and found a product called "Shake Away". It is granulated fox urine and it's been less than 24 hours and not 1, i repeat not 1 squirrel in the yard! I recommend this product to anyone with squirrels damaging their flowers. It works!

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

      Question: Keeping Squirrels Out of Potted Plants

      By susan 10 25

      How do I keep squirrels out of potted plants on the patio?

      By Susan

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      Most Recent Answer

      By susan 8 1,368 Flag

      July 11, 2012

      A few years ago, squirrels dug up all my avocado trees to eat the pits they were growing from. I guess they were easy food.

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

      Question: Natural Repellent for Squirrels

      By Doody 3

      Squirrels are eating my tomatoes! I've tried every trick in the book, chicken wire to surround plants, doffee grounds, skunk plants, whirrley-birds, flags, streamers, fake snakes, fake owls, moth balls, Shake Away urine granules (and human, I was desperate), dog hair and human hair. I put grease and hot pepper on the fence and plants last year. The hot pepper on my plants killed the leaves and vines!

      My dogs were indoor animals so I couldn't leave them outside all day. Tonight I tried another hot pepper receipt to spray (instead of shake) on tomatoes, but the spray bottle atomizer clogged up, so instead of wasting the mixture, I just shook it over parts of the plants and fence. Am I supposed to be using a commercial-type garden sprayer or just a kitchen-type sprayer?

      A squirrel was even hanging upside-down eating sugar water out of my humming bird feeder. I don't want to kill them, but that was suggested and then hang the body by the tomatoes to ward off other squirrels.

      Any more suggestions would be appreciated.

      Hardiness Zone: 6b

      By Doody from Dayton, OH

      AnswerWas this helpful? Yes

      Most Recent Answer

      By lori 2 7 Flag

      April 10, 2011

      mix cheap hot pepper sauce and veg. oil 50/50 and spray areas where you do not want squirrels or other animals and repeat weekly and after it rains. works on bird feeders-spray everything except where seed comes out even hanger.

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

      Question: Keeping Squirrels Out of Trees and Off Balcony

      I have a balcony one floor up from the ground. There are trees on either side, and the squirrels climb up them, then onto a ledge, then onto my balcony where they dig in my flower pots and eat through the wire on my string lights.

      I bought tall planters which stopped them for a while, and now they've figured how to get into those and dig and kick the dirt all over the balcony.

      I'm wondering if there is some sort of a shield that can be attached to the trees that might have barbed wire or some other pointy/ouchy surface that would deter the little brats. Any ideas?

      By Lynn G.

      AnswerWas this helpful? Yes

      Most Recent Answer

      By Marty Dick 167 967 Flag

      June 9, 2012

      If this is an apartment building the trees are in a common area and can't be tampered with. Have you thought of putting some sort of ouchies in the dirt in your flower pots and around the railing of the balcony? I can't really be reasonable about this because I can't stand squirrels. As far as I am concerned they are tree rats. They are smart enough not to come back if they get nicked in the hiney when they jump onto the balcony railing.

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

      Tip: Chicken Wire to Discourage Digging Animals

      By Brandy 9 8

      If you have pets or animals that roam your area try adding chicken wire under your plants. This way if something tries to dig in your garden or flower beds, it will stop them in their tracks. Most animals who dig do not like the feeling they get when they scratch their paws along the wire. It also serves a dual purpose - it acts as a grid for planning your plantings!

      By lifewithmadman from Little Rock AR

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Archive: Squirrels Eating Tomatoes

      Q: I planted a garden with tomatoes and the last two nights we have seen little squirrels take off with some of the green tomatoes. I never knew they ate tomatoes let alone green ones. We have a lot of squirrel feeders that they eat from in our yard, so we know that they are not going hungry. Any advice?

      Hardiness Zone: 8a

      Thank you!
      Jodi from Gary, Texas

      A: Jodi,

      Squirrels will eat just about anything in the garden. They seem to enjoy mixing it up once in a while and trying new things. Because they have already gotten a taste of your delicious tomatoes, it's unlikely that they are going to be leaving them alone anytime soon. There are a number of commercial sprays and home remedies you can try (hair around pots, cats or dogs in the yard, cayenne pepper spray, etc.), but your best strategy is to get yourself some cheap hardware cloth or chicken wire and create some cages to surround your tomatoes. Stake them to the ground with pieces of bent metal or wooden stakes. Make sure to cover the tops; otherwise the squirrels will use the cages like a ladder to climb up, over and inside. You mentioned you feed squirrels in your yard. Another strategy might be to beef up your feeders with something they find more attractive than the tomatoes, at least while your plants are bearing fruit (e.g. peanuts, peanut butter, corn cobs, etc.).

      Good luck!
      Ellen Brown

      More Answers:

      RE: Squirrels Eating Tomatoes

      Squirrels will eat anything. You need to sprinkle blood meal around and they will leave them alone.
      It is also a good fertilizer for your tomatoe plants. (06/12/2006)

      By Susan from Hamilton

      RE: Squirrels Eating Tomatoes

      They could be chipmunks if they are really small. Young, small squirrels rely on their mother to feed them. The chipmunks play havoc with my flower beds and flower pots. (06/12/2006)

      By Belle

      RE: Squirrels Eating Tomatoes

      Try some hot pepper, you can buy hot pepper spray at a garden center, but you can also make your own. Get some hot pepper, either the hot sauce in the little bottles, or make your own with some hot pepper mixed in water and spray it on your tomatoes. Just remember to rinse the hot pepper off before you take a bite, LOL unless you are a hot pepper fan! Also hot pepper is good for keeping bugs away, not birds thought, they can't taste it. You can also sprinkle it on the ground around your plants for other yuckie bugs that eat your foliage on plants too. (06/12/2006)

      By Rosa

      RE: Squirrels Eating Tomatoes

      I've seen a recipe for squirrel repellent somewhere on the web that proposes not only highly diluted hot pepper sauce but also a couple drops of dish detergent in the mix--a pretty high dilution is still repulsive to animals. I tried it since it looked like squirrels were gnawing on my beautiful trumpet vines outside my apartment window and dropping them off the vine. I sprayed the foul-tasting brew all over the leaves and flowers and did not see squirrels outside the window again. The flowers survived. (06/23/2006)

      By renlute

      RE: Squirrels Eating Tomatoes

      Go to your local Starbucks. They give away used coffee grounds in big 5-10 pound bags. Scatter the grounds around the base of your tomato plants. This has worked for us. (06/12/2007)

      By Carlene

      Archive: Squirrels Eating Plants

      Is there a home remedy I can use to keep squirrels from eating the plants in my garden?

      Hardiness Zone: 7a

      MARIE from Garden City, NY


      RE: Squirrels Eating Plants

      I have never had a problem with my squirrels eating or destroying anything in my large garden.
      I feed the squirrels good food so they don't bother my garden.
      I just love watching squirrels and possum and I feed them.

      <p.Dorie (06/14/2007)

      By Dorie

      RE: Squirrels Eating Plants

      I use chili powder around the base of my plants. Have used it for years and it has never hurt any of the plants. Walgreen's will put the big bottles of spices on sale and when they do I usually stock up. Keeps them from digging anything up. You do have to re apply it if it rains and when you water, but a little goes along way. Good luck. Works for me. (06/14/2007)

      By Connie

      RE: Squirrels Eating Plants

      Be careful using cayenne pepper. If there are pets around, they could pick it up on their paws and end up getting it in their eyes.

      Bloodmeal is a good choice. You can also try using shiny pinwheels around the perimeter of the garden. The colors and movement scare animals away.

      I have never seen the squirrels eat anything in my garden. Usually, they are planting things: peanuts, shells, acorns, etc. Someone around here feeds them peanuts and they are not really scared of people. I was picking strawberries and had a squirrel come up and sniff my hand. It surprised me so much, I went in the house and got a couple of walnuts. The squirrel came and took them right out of my hand. Guess the peanuts keep them away from the garden. (06/14/2007)

      By Amy

      RE: Squirrels Eating Plants

      Oh, and the coffee grounds/hot pepper/soap suggestions are excellent ideas. We've used coffee grounds at the base of our plants and had scarcely a critter eat our tomatoes in the past two years.
      I know how frustrating it is to walk up to your plants and see a big, juicy ripe tomato, turn it over and find a perfectly symmetrical bite mark in it. A single bite.
      Don't worry. Try the mesh/wire and the coffee grounds and you'll be fine.

      By Pauly-Wauly

      RE: Squirrels Eating Plants

      Hang rags soaked in vinegar near you plants. Most rodents hate the smell even when dry. Re-soak in about a week. (06/17/2007)

      By Valencia

      RE: Squirrels Eating Plants

      I was told to put moth balls around the plants. I put them down two nights ago and it seems to be working. I was so upset to see around 20 of my tomatoes on the ground half eaten by them. (07/26/2007)

      By Maura

      Archive: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      By Ellen Brown

      <div align="right">


      Q: How can I keep squirrels from digging in my outdoor potted plants?

      Georgia from N.O., LA

      A: Georgia,

      Commercial repellents (sprays, etc.) are usually only marginally effective for controlling squirrels. Your best line of defense is to physically separate them from wherever you don't want them to be. Here are some things to try:

      • You might try fitting screen or wire mesh around your potted plants, or covering the dirt around plants with sticky tape or stones. Squirrels seem most attracted to digging in loose, newly turned dirt so follow up with a top layer of mulch.

      • Lure them away from potted plants and bulbs by feeding them corn or sunflower seeds in a feeder located in another part of the yard. This can ultimately result in an increase in the population of squirrels in your yard, but the distraction of the constant food supply is also a good distraction.

      • Try laying human, dog or cat hair around the base of your potted plants. Blood meal may also work in some cases. To be effective, these will need to be reapplied weekly and after it rains.

      • Spray a foul-tasting product, like cayenne pepper spray on and around your plants as they are growing and after each rain.

      • Plant bulbs that squirrels don't like to eat, like narcissus, alliums (ornamental onions) and hyacinths.

      • If all else fails you can live-trap them and relocate them. You'll need permission from authorities to do this, however, and it will not reduce the density of squirrels in your area over time. As old squirrels are transported out, new squirrels simply move into the newly emptied habitat.

      Since the squirrel population is likely to outlive your potted plants, your best bet is to deploy a number of these methods, alone or in combination with one another until you find something that works. Plan on having a few victories and probably a few defeats.

      About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. <a href="add.ldml">Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at


      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      If you are talking about plain old digging around plants and not digging them up, you can use pepper spray (available at Lowe's etc.) around and on the plants. Be careful though, some people are very allergic to the spray and just brushing against leaves with the spray on them will give them hives. If you are talking about squirrels digging up and eating tulip bulbs, the best thing to do is to put chicken wire over the bulbs so the little varmints can't dig down to them. (10/14/2004)

      By Lea Soffer

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      Don't bother spending money to buy a spray that is already mixed up, just sprinkle cayenne pepper on the top of the plants and soil. If you have another kind of pepper that is hot, that will work too. I sometimes spray the plant with water first so that the pepper will stick better to the plant. Some people use Tabasco sauce just like you would with an indoor rabbit chewing on the corner of your table legs. You should have no problem with squirrels after this. (10/14/2004)

      By valleyrimgirl

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      Try putting mothballs in amongst your plants. I did this in South Georgia and it stopped them from digging in my hanging baskets. It also stopped them from digging up my impatiens planted in the ground. (10/15/2004)

      By tedsmom

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      You can buy blood and bone meal at the hardware store. Squirrels hate it and it does wonders for you plants Mix some in with the soil and the smell will drive them off. There is no noticeable smell for humans. (10/15/2004)

      By Susan from Hamilton

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      Squirrels in potted plants, here is what we do; put some chicken wire on top of pot around the plant and weigh it down with a few medium size stones. Works every time. (10/15/2004)

      By ThriftyFun

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      Moth balls didn't work very well for us. The squirrels just used them like bowling balls and played with them all day long. We will try the hot pepper spray and hopefully it will work. (05/24/2007)

      By Greg

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      Not only are the little varmints digging in my plants, they left a big piece of chicken in my tiny tree and broke a bunch of branches. My neighbor said he left his subway sandwich in the car and when he came out, squirrels were stealing it from inside the car. They are starting to get bold. I might leave my cat on the deck as a deterrent, he has gotten bits and pieces of them but never a kill. The squirrels could care less about my 85lb. dog, but they do fear the cat! (06/30/2007)

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      I have recently found a great product that protects the soil of my potted plants from the cats! It keeps them from using the soil as a litter box. Maybe this will help you resolve the squirrel issue. Check out the web site: (11/18/2007)

      By Lisa

      <img src="/images/feedback_image.lasso?id=41242735" width="400" height="300" alt="RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants">

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      I have had great success with using mothballs. A cheap alternative to these sprays and other treatments. I would have them in my pots and garden every morning. Once I scattered mothballs throughout the garden (about 8 feet apart) and placed a mothball in pots that I didn't want them in, they have not been back. I see them on my fence, but not a single hole or dug up seedling again. It's worked for me! Good luck! (05/16/2008)

      By Paul R. Lewis

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      Forgot to mention that the moth balls worked for me here in the Dallas, TX area. Here's a site that offers a lot of suggestions for dealing with pesky squirrels:

      Good luck! (05/16/2008)

      By Paul R. Lewis

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      Get a Jack Russell. My dog spends his whole day looking for ground squirrels with enough guts to come anywhere near my garden! Before I got him and trained him to be obsessed with protecting my garden from the little buggers, the squirrels would dig up my baby plants and chew the skin and branches off, killing my plants. The squirrels will not come close anymore thanks to my dog. (07/16/2008)

      By bear

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      I decided to stick wooden skewers in the dirt around my plants. Works like a charm. (08/01/2008)

      RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

      I find forks work well. Push them just under the soil, poky side up. You can't see them but they'll get a stab as soon as they start to dig. (03/14/2010)

      By Beck_wi

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