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Keeping Squirrels from Digging in Plants

Brown squirrel eating
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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June 5, 2007

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.

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By Marie from West Dundee, IL

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September 23, 2013

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!

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By 1 found this helpful
August 12, 2013

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.

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By 1 found this helpful
October 5, 2006

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!

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By lifewithmadman from Little Rock AR

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March 16, 20170 found this helpful

You may want to keep squirrels out of your garden or bird feeders. This is a guide about natural repellent for squirrels.

Close up of a squirrel.

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February 8, 20170 found this helpful

As cute as they may be squirrels can also make themselves into pests and lose their welcome in your garden. This is a guide about squirrels eating flowers.

A squirrel next to a blue flower.

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 3 found this helpful
March 14, 2010

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

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Answers

March 14, 20100 found this helpful

I understand your frustration, but since 2006, squirrels around the world have been going hungry because of weather disturbances/out of phase resulting in little or no nut crops. They are starving. In 2006 it happened in Poland, Russia, and I think it was last year or year before all along Eastern seaboard here as well as more westerly from there.They even attacked a dog, and here, were digging in garbage cans, etc.

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Perhaps if you put out something for them to eat more to their taste, like peanut butter and oatmeal balls or nuts slightly away from where you want plants they might learn to look there. I realize that would be inviting

squirrel chaos, but I feel sorry for them.

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March 14, 20100 found this helpful

I use Twirlers from Kmart, the kind kids use to play with. They go around when wind is blowing, like windmills. I also save the tops that come on large cans that look like foil. Hang it in the garden. Or just use foil you have in the kitchen. Also, hot pepper sauce will do the job.

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March 14, 20100 found this helpful

I've used plastic forks to keep chipmunks out of my planters. Just push the fork in the soil, handle first, so the tines of the fork are just under the soil. You won't be able to see them, but the squirrels will get a poke as soon as they start to dig. It doesn't stop them from eating them, but it will keep them from uprooting them.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

We have used cayenne pepper for most of the critters who visit us. It keeps the critters away and doesn't hurt the plants. Just sprinkle a generous amount around and see if that does it. Also works for deer.

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March 22, 20100 found this helpful

There is a product called Ropel. As long as it in nothing you plan on eating you spray the plants. Various pepper sprays are suppose to also work but I have never had the same luck as I do with Ropel (I use it professionally).

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June 21, 20100 found this helpful

I'm having similar issues this year with the sunflower plants and morning glories planted on my deck. Though I've only been at it a couple of days, the ground red pepper/water spray and sprinkling of red pepper flakes around the plants seems to be working so far. Also, in specific response to Pikka's solution of feeding them because they are starving, the squirrels that are destroying my little container garden are *not* starving, they are quite robust. They also aren't even eating what they are destroying. They pull things out by the root, bite them in half and then then discard them. They've also chewed through 2 strings of lights and a phone line.

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March 18, 20110 found this helpful

Also if you put out ears of corn the squirrels may enjoy that as a treat. Think about it, if you were hungry and you saw free food growing fresh, would you not want to nibble?

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March 16, 2010

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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Answers

March 16, 20100 found this helpful

After you plant the seed put some hot pepper sauce on top of the soil,also hang some foil near them, keep the soil damp, keep a watch for them. I keep 2 cans near the door outside, when I see critters near my garden I beat the cans together, they run away. I also keep some twillers (looks like windmills)in my garden. They go around when the wind is blowing, good luck.

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March 17, 20100 found this helpful

Go to a hardware store and buy some chicken wire. Spread the wire over the area that has the seeds. Anchor the wire with some rocks. When the plants start to grow remove the wire.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

I had the same problem last year, the squirrels kept eating them and I kept replanting. Then I used the chicken wire and anchored it with tent stakes. I shaped it into arches so the plants could get a little growth before I removed it. It's hard to tell but they are about 3 inches here. With some of the wire arches I bent the ends down and others I put big rocks on the end to keep the squirrels out. They will try their best to get in so you have to make sure it is secure.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

When squirrels ravaged my seeds and plants, I put cat hair in and on the ground, and attached some to the plants. It kept the squirrels away for a good while.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

Dang squirrels! I have had the same problems! I planted 75 Gladiola bulbs and every one was dug up and eaten! My 75.00 market umbrella eaten, the 200 and something dollar gazebo on my deck had a skylight eaten out of the center! Tablecloth eaten! My Mom told me to do the chicken wire for the gladiolas & I think I remember hearing about sprinkling cayenne pepper? The damage that was done last year drove me to the point of trapping and relocating! In 2 months we relocated 21 of the little buggers! I am also told you have to go at least 10 miles away or they will come back!

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March 21, 20100 found this helpful

Sprinkling cayenne pepper over the area should deter them. That has worked for me in all but one circumstance. That was a little pot of cactus plants on my front porch, and even though they often hurt themselves enough to bleed, even cayenne pepper didn't deter them enough to keep them from going back to dig, and get hurt again! LOL Try the cayenne pepper, and remember to re-apply if it rains, or if you water, and also after some days have passed. The squirrels will still go after them, even after they've sprouted, so don't stop too soon!

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April 9, 20100 found this helpful

Just have to add a funny story to this. Several years ago we were feeding the birds and along came a chipmunk and stole all of the sunflower seeds from the bird seed. Lo and behold about two weeks later I had all these sprouts coming up in my garden all over the place. At first couldn't figure out what was growing in my garden since I hadn't planted anything new. Apparently the chipmunk buried all of the sunflower seeds he collected in my garden. I had the most wonderful sunflowers that year.

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May 1, 20100 found this helpful

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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By 0 found this helpful
March 30, 2016

Squirrels come onto my patio and dig dirt out of my plant/flower pots. How can I keep them from doing that? I know they like to dig (ground squirrels), but why my flower pots? This is the second year in a row.

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September 10, 2011

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

By Elizabeth A.

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Answers

September 10, 20110 found this helpful

Squirrels like to dig in soft dirt, so you might try covering the soil with gravel or rocks.

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September 13, 20111 found this helpful

I've been using a the same method for years with great success. I found a roll of plastic mesh at a garage sale many years ago--my husband says it's used for keeping leaves out of gutters on the house. I cut it to fit whatever area I want to protect and simply lay it over the soil. I've cut metal pins out of old hangers to secure the mesh in place. But I've also just used sturdy bits of twig or even stones to hold it down. I've used it to cover seeds in the flower beds (they love to dig up sunflower seeds!) and on the soil in potted plants outside. Hope this helps, it's worked wonders for me and I always seem to find another roll at a garage sale about the time I need a new one. Though it's not expensive if you have to buy it in a home store.

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By 0 found this helpful
August 24, 2016

What is the best way to deter squirrels from digging up flower pots and gardens?

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By 0 found this helpful
April 20, 2010

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

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April 20, 20100 found this helpful

Why don't you go to the hardware store and buy a roll of chicken wire and spread it over the area in question? You can anchor it down with some rocks. That way you don't have to use chemicals and sprays. Forget the moth balls. They don't work.

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April 20, 20100 found this helpful

I haven't found anything to apply to the flower pots on my patio to keep the squirrels out. They dig the dirt out and eat the roots. Unfortunately, it is illegal in the city I live in to even shoot them with a pellet gun. I would recommend screen material rather than chicken wire, because the little devils can probably get their grubby paws in the openings of the chicken wire. However, unless you have a large number of pots and/or storage room, buying a roll of either one isn't really feasible.

I also have trouble with rabbits eating the plants---they must think it is a salad bar, lol. I have tried the pepper spray, sprinkling cayenne pepper on them, and using the bags of animal hair. Living in a apartment complex there isn't much I can do in the yard. All I can say is I have decided these little critters that some people think are so cute are a real pain in the you know where. Oh yes! We also have a flock of about 14 wild turkeys that roam around here. I know some of the people around here are feeding all of the wild things around here, and if they would quit, the critters wouldn't find the complex so inviting.

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April 21, 20100 found this helpful

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!

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By 0 found this helpful
July 5, 2012

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

By Susan

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June 8, 20120 found this helpful

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.

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April 20, 20101 found this helpful


By Ellen Brown


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. 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 http://www.sustainable-media.com

Answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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: dirtylittlecover-up.com (11/18/2007)

By Lisa

RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

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

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: http://www.squirrels.org/control.html

Good luck! (05/16/2008)

By Paul R. Lewis

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

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

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

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

Comment Was this helpful? 1

March 14, 20100 found this helpful

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

Answers:

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.

Dorie (06/14/2007)

By Dorie

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

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

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.
(06/14/2007)

By Pauly-Wauly

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

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

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June 13, 20070 found this helpful
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