Q. How to deal with squirrels in your garden?
Squirrels can be a problem in the garden. They can eat flowers, bulbs, fruits and vegetables, they can dig holes in flower beds or lawns in order to bury their finds, and they can steal seeds from a bird feeder. Many methods have been suggested for keeping squirrels from damaging gardens but, unfortunately, none of them offer a permanent solution. Your best bet is to use a variety of deterrents all at once. Here are a few to try:
1. A dog or a cat can help to deter squirrels. Dogs love to chase squirrels but obviously they can chase only squirrels on the ground. After a while the squirrels will learn to make their way around the garden by staying up in trees (if you have trees in your garden) or fences. However, dogs are probably more effective than cats. Cats can climb trees after the squirrels but after a time they get lazy (unlike dogs) and prefer to just sleep in the sun!
2. Mount a fake owl on a post in the garden. This is a common solution but rarely works. Squirrels detect movement and a stationary owl will not scare them.
3. Offer the squirrels something else to eat. They will prefer to eat offered peanuts, corn or sunflower seeds rather than your plants. The drawback to this method is that if the bait is too plentiful then the squirrels will take it away and bury it in flower beds or in the lawn.
4. When planting bulbs, plant them deep enough so that their location is not immediately obvious. It is usually recommended to plant bulbs twice the bulbs height. Also, clean up any bulb or packing debris on top of the soil so that there is no indication of the bulbs below. There are some types of bulbs that squirrels do not like to eat so these can be planted preferentially. These include narcissus (including daffodils), alliums, scilla, chionodoxa, muscari, hyacinth, and bluebells. On the other hand squirrels love tulips, crocuses, colchicum and gladiolus. Placing chicken wire over the planted area and burying the edges in the ground is often effective in discouraging squirrels. The wiring can be removed when the leaves appear above ground. Applying a thick layer of leaves or mulch can also work.
5. Use squirrel deterring chemicals. Both home-made and commercial products can be effective. Hot peppers, which contain capsicum, are a commonly used deterrent. You can make a spray at home by placing 4 - 5 chopped peppers in a mixture of hot water and vinegar (1:1) for a few days, strain the mixture and add one teaspoonful of dishwasher liquid and two spoonfuls of cooking oil. Many commercial products are also available, e.g. Hot Pepper Wax Animal Repellent™, Expel® Natural Animal Repellent or Ro-Pel® Animal and Rodent Repellent. Dusting the ground with cayenne pepper or chili powder can also be effective. With any of these products it is necessary to reapply the compound after rain.
6. For vegetable patches, a chicken wire fence can be effective. Use 1 inch mesh wire and erect a fence that is at least 30 inches high and buried 6 inches below ground. A wire mesh over the top will make it even more effective.
7. To stop squirrels chewing the bark of young trees, wrap the trunk with thin, flexible metal sheeting.
8. To prevent squirrels from climbing trees and bird feeders, installing a baffle is the best solution. A baffle is a thick sheet of metal or plastic that fits around the tree or post such that squirrels cannot climb past it. You can make your own or again many types are available commercially. Baffles should be located at least 6 ft. above ground as squirrels can jump to this height. Squirrels can be discouraged from climbing trees by eliminating low branches and by planting the trees far apart.
9. Even if trapping or killing squirrels is legal in your locality this should not be considered as it simply creates an environment for new squirrels to move in to.
Courtesy of the NYBG Plant Information Service