I absolutely love seeing squirrels scampering around my backyard, but they can do a number on my vegetable garden if I don't take measures to keep them away. As a gardener and animal lover, I want to protect my hard work without causing any harm to the local wildlife. Over the years, through trial and error, I've found some effective squirrel deterrents that keep my veggies safe and send the squirrels elsewhere to get their food.

Understand Squirrel Behavior

To outsmart squirrels, you first need to understand their behavior and habits. Squirrels are highly intelligent, nimble creatures with excellent senses of smell, vision, and hearing. They are naturally curious and use their keen sense of smell to find food. Some key facts about squirrels:

Knowing squirrel behavior helps you identify the tactics they use to get into your garden and determine the best deterrent strategies.

Protect Your Garden Plants

Since squirrels use their sense of smell to find food, disguising the scent of your veggies can help hide them. Here are some tactics I use:

Use Repellent Sprays

Squirrel repellent sprays containing ingredients like capsaicin or garlic oil deter squirrels with unpleasant smells and tastes. Apply these periodically on and around your plants. I've had success with brands like Repels-All and Shake-Away. Just be sure to reapply after heavy rain.

Try Companion Planting

Certain strong scents from companion plants like chives, onions, and garlic help mask the scent of vegetables. Interplant them throughout your garden beds. The herbs also repel insect pests, so it's a win-win.

Use Mulch

A thick layer of mulch over the soil disguises scents from below and makes it harder for squirrels to dig. Shredded bark, pine needles, or gravel work well. Replenish the mulch as needed.

Block Access Points

Squirrels are excellent climbers and can jump up to 10 feet horizontally. Taking away their routes into your garden helps obstruct them.

Install Fences

Fencing is the most surefire perimeter defense. A 4-5 foot tall fence made of wood, wire mesh, or metal is ideal. Bury the bottom at least 6 inches underground to prevent digging underneath. Make sure the gaps in the fencing are less than 2 inches so squirrels can't squeeze through.

Use Netting

Draping bird netting or horticultural fabric over vegetable beds creates a protective ceiling barrier. The netting should be buried around the perimeter to prevent squirrels from crawling underneath. Look for netting with 1/2 inch holes or smaller.

Prune Back Branches

Trim back any overhanging tree branches to prevent squirrels from jumping down into your garden. Also clear away piles of wood or brush near the garden that they could use as launching pads.

Employ Natural Predator Scents

Sprinkling predator urine, like coyote or fox urine, on the perimeter mimics animal smells that squirrels avoid. Reapply weekly. I've also heard of people using bars of deodorant soap with some success.

Remove Food Attractants

Minimizing what draws squirrels into your yard reduces their interest in raiding your garden in the first place.

Take Down Bird Feeders

Bird feeders are like an open buffet for squirrels. Removing them cuts off this convenient food source and makes your yard less attractive. If you can't take them down completely, try moving them farther away from your garden.

Secure Trash Bins

Squirrels will scrounge through any open garbage cans or compost bins for food scraps. Make sure lids shut tight and latches are secure on these containers so squirrels can't get in.

Pick Up Fallen Tree Fruits

Prevent temptation by promptly harvesting any ripened fruit that falls from trees and picking up windfall nuts and seeds. Checking daily and removing these squirrel favorites deprives them of an easy meal source.

Store Bulbs Indoors After Blooming

When spring-blooming bulbs like tulips and crocuses finish flowering, dig them up and store the bulbs indoors over the summer. Squirrels love to dig up and eat fresh bulbs. Removing them eliminates this tasty treat.

Scare or Distract Them Away

Using fright tactics and distractions can effectively deter squirrels by making your yard seem unsafe or undesirable. Options include:

Motion-Activated Sprinklers

Motion-activated sprinklers deliver a sudden, startling spray of water when squirrels come into range. This is more effective than regular sprinklers since the randomness keeps squirrels guessing. Place them along the garden perimeter.

Scarecrow Sprinklers

Similar to motion sprinklers, these devices emit a quick burst of water combined with a loud bang, hiss, or other alarming sound effect. The combo frightens squirrels away. Position them where squirrels enter your garden.

Noise & Light Repellers

Ultrasonic and noise emitters create sounds outside the human range of hearing that annoy squirrels. Flashing strobe lights also scare them away. Place repellers in problem areas. Downsides are habituation and impact on pleasant backyard ambience.

Scarecrow Decoys

Life-size plastic owls, snakes, coyotes, and bobbing scarecrow decoys placed around your garden look ominous and unsafe to squirrels. The unpredictable movements spook them. Relocate decoys every few days so squirrels don't get used to them.

Pepper Sprays

Cayenne pepper sprays make plants unpalatable. Apply liberally on fruits, vegetables, flower blossoms and peripheral garden areas. Reapply after rain or watering. Exercise caution when spraying - cayenne can irritate eyes and skin. Wear gloves and goggles.

Give Them an Alternative Food Source

One way I've found to prevent squirrel damage is offering them an appealing substitute food source somewhere away from my garden. This satisfies their need to eat and distracts them from my veggies.

Provide Squirrel Feeders

Put up dedicated squirrel feeders stocked with corn, nuts, and seeds. Position the feeders away from your vegetable beds. This gives squirrels a productive place to expend their boundless energy other than invading your crops.

Plant Sacrificial Gardens

Designate small "sacrificial gardens" with plants and flowers you don't mind squirrels nibbling. These decoy plots lure them away from more vulnerable veggies. Daffodils, chrysanthemums, impatiens, and pansies work well. Locate them along your garden's outer edges.

Offer Fruit and Nut Trees

Fruit and nut trees make ideal natural food sources. Plant or maintain ones like oak, walnut, or hazelnut trees that provide squirrels with their favorite foods. The bounty keeps them happily occupied and out of your vegetables.

Monitor and Adjust Deterrents

Paying attention to activity in your garden helps assess the effectiveness of deterrents. Look for signs of entry, damage, tracks, or droppings. If a certain tactic doesn't seem to be working, try something different. Persistence and adapting your defenses is key to finding the right balance.

With some clever planning and deterrent methods, I've been able keep squirrels away from my veggies without having to use any harmful poisons or traps. A mix of repellents, barriers, scare tactics, and food alternatives has given me great results. I'm able to enjoy wildlife in my backyard while also protecting my garden harvest. If squirrels are invading your vegetable plots, give some of these eco-friendly techniques a try. With patience and consistency, you can safeguard your garden without hurting your fluffy tailed friends.