Keeping Squirrels from Digging in Plants

Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 204 Posts
June 5, 2007

Squirrel in clay pot.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

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 523 Posts
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.


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.


Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 170 Posts
January 6, 2020

Squirrels love to hide their food. In the process of doing this, they tend to bury the food in soft dirt which is usually a newly planted garden.


October 5, 2006

If you have pets or animals that roam your area try adding chicken wire under your plants.


21 Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

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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March 14, 20103 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.


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.

March 14, 20101 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.

March 19, 20101 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.

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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October 9, 2017

What do I do if the squirrels seem to like the pepper I've been putting down? I'm trying to get my coleus plants to thrive this year, and now that I realize squirrels have been digging holes in them and eating the roots. I know it's not me that killed them in the past. So, how do I keep them alive this time around? The goofy squirrels around me seem to like black pepper!

I didn't have red pepper so I used black over and over and over. It's weird, but they seem to actually like some of the coleus plants over the others (different colored ones). Any help would be welcome. I don't want to hurt them so the least invasive methods please.


Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 105 Posts
October 10, 20170 found this helpful
Best Answer

Here are a few things you can try.

  1. You will need to buy some cayenne pepper and sprinkle around the plant, soil and leaves. This will heat up their paws and they will stay away from the roots of your plants.
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  3. There are some other home remedies that can be used to repel squirrels in your yard. You can try peppermint oil or vinegar. You would need to spray this on your plants and around your plants.
  4. If you are afraid to hurt them you can set up a food station for them in your yard. Give them some of their favorite foods to eat. They love sunflower seeds, peanuts and feed corn. Make a feeder for them in your yard and add these nuts and grain to the feeder. This will help keep them away from your plants.
  5. You can also try mulching your soil so the squirrels won't dig in your soil.
  6. A dog or cat is wonderful to scare them out of your yard.

Silver Answer Medal for All Time! 424 Answers
October 12, 20170 found this helpful
Best Answer

Before you plant your bulbs in the hole that you have dug, line it with either chicken wire, small stones or foil, then plant and cover with dirt. Squirrels will not dig up your bulbs.

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February 10, 2021

How do I keep squirrels from digging up my lawn?


Silver Answer Medal for All Time! 425 Answers
February 10, 20211 found this helpful
Best Answer

Are you sure it's squirrels digging up your lawn? I have a problem with skunks digging in my yard at night. They are after grubs and earthworms, and the occasional Yellow jacket bee nest underground. I haven't heard of or found ANY way to stop squirrels from digging up a lawn. Flower beds can be protected from squirrels digging up bulbs, by laying 1 inch-holed chicken wire or 1/4 inch hardware cloth just under the surface of the soil or on top of soil but below mulch, after bulbs have been planted.


The bulb's leaves will grow right through the holes in either kind of wire. Good luck and happy growing.


Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 140 Posts
February 10, 20210 found this helpful
Best Answer

There are granules and sprays that you can buy at a home improvement store. But this is a never ending battle. It can be costly to keep up, and they grow immune to it after a while. This would be the same as other wild animals. They make repellent , but doesn't last. I have tried from natural to buying repellent. To no avail, i have given up, the Squirrels win!


Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
February 10, 20210 found this helpful
Best Answer

Do you have trees in your yard? Squirrels love trees of all kinds but especially oak trees. Acorns are their favorite food and they do bury them and later go back and dig them up.


Have you seen the squirrels digging in your yard?
I'm only asking because there are other critters that like to dig in yards/gardens.
Squirrels usually do their digging during daylight hours and they only dig small holes so if hole are much bigger than <half a shot glass it is probably another critter.
I have done research on this several times in the past and, as far as I can find, there is no proven way to stop squirrels from digging in your yard. Well, there may be one way; if you have medium/large trees you can cut them down and the squirrels will probably leave.
Some people have a dog that loves to chase squirrels so that may also be a solution.

It does no good to trap and haul them away as another will surely take their place.
Red pepper is not a good solution as it is only mildly effective and on a lawn would not be cost effective for the little good it does.

You can read information on sites from universities and others but they essentially all say the same thing: if you (or your neighbors) have trees, you will just have to live with the squirrels.

You can contact your county Extension Agency and ask for their advise.

Couple of sites to read:

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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 Lynn Jump from Ocala, FL


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March 16, 20101 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.

March 17, 20101 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.

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.

March 19, 20101 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.

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!

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!

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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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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May 23, 2019

This week I've noticed holes that have been chewed or pecked in the sides of my outdoor plastic plant pots. Any ideas?

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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


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.

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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August 24, 2016

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

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July 5, 2012

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

By susan

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June 8, 2012

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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March 16, 2017

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

Close up of a squirrel.

February 8, 2017

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

A squirrel next to a blue flower.


ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

April 20, 2010

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


March 14, 2010

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


June 13, 2007
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