I'll admit it, I used to think squirrels were cute and harmless - but that was before I had a garden of my own.
Now every summer I find myself chasing these pesky rodents away from my tomatoes and cucumbers.
Squirrels will chow down on everything from birdseed to beans, and even daisies, and they never learn when to give up.
If you live out in the country you might get away with shooting them (always check with your state's laws) but here in the city we have to get more creative.
These are 7 all-natural tricks to protect your garden from squirrels.
1. Plant a squirrel-proof garden
Squirrels are not exactly picky eaters, but we all have to draw the line somwhere.
Pungent plants seem to drive squirrels away, and you can plant them as a barrier around the rest of your garden.
Smelly marigolds, mustard, and nasturtium will all repel squirrels.
Gardeners who have lost their bulbs to squirrels also notice these pests don't seem to like tulips as much as other flowers.
You can even swap your regular birdseed for safflower seeds, a bitter variety that birds enjoy but squirrels don't.
2. Raid your pantry
Along with garden plants, there's a long list of other smells that squirrels are said to hate, and you can find most of them in your pantry.
Hot peppers and garlic are the two most popular choices. You can grind them and mix them in water for a handy spray - just keep it out of your eyes.
Turning to more obscure smells, human hair, dog hair, and moth balls have all been shown to drive squirrels away.
And if you're really desperate, garden stores sell wolf and fox urine pellets that no squirrel is brave enough to get near.
If you choose a spray or scented product, remember to reapply it after any rainfall for best results.
3. Get technical
If you feel like splurging on high-tech squirrel repellents, there's a number of options available.
You can find motion-sensing sprinklers and lights at the hardware store. Electric scent emitters and ultrasound devices (said to drive away rodents) are also popular.
But bear in mind that these machines make your yard a pretty scary place for your pets.
My family had a classic, low-tech solution: a pinwheel with CDs taped to the arms, which scares away squirrels pretty well.
A wind chime made from pie tins is annoying, but does the trick too.
If your squirrels are too dumb for their own good, a good scare could help.
Tie newspaper around a mousetrap and lightly bury it near the plants they nibble. The harmless trap will trigger with plenty of noise and kicked up dirt, but no harm to the squirrels.
4. Get a four-legged helper
Plenty of amateur gardeners depend on their pets to watch the garden for them.
Most dogs need no training to chase after squirrels, and whether or not they catch them, they give the pests a good scare.
If you don't have a dog or cat handy, don't rule out this tip.
Most neighborhoods have a roving cat that will gladly work on commission as a squirrel hunter.
Leave a bowl of cat food in your yard and you're sure to make a new friend. Notice if you see less squirrels after the cat arrives...
5. Guard the perimeter
Setting up cages and gates can feel like a chore, but a little work goes a long way.
The key is to work smarter, not harder.
Squirrels are, of course, crafty climbers. Make note of any trees in your yard or around your fence, and check if it's even possible to keep squirrels out.
A simple frame of wooden stakes and chicken wire is 100% squirrel-proof, but some cheap bird netting will also do the trick.
Finally, don't forget the ground. Check the fence around your property for holes that might be letting squirrels in - you can easily stuff them up with steel wool.
6. Welcome birds to your yard
While birds are sometimes guilty of eating your fresh produce, they're usually less pesky than squirrels.
A large presence of wild birds is also known to ward off squirrels, so it pays to make your yard bird friendly.
In short, focus on providing bird-friendly food and plants, fresh running water, and plenty of natural shelter.
Depending on where you live, a bird-friendly yard could even attract wild owls and hawks, who will help control the squirrel population.
Here are some extra tips to attract large birds of all sorts: invest in larger nest boxes, keep a tree-filled section of your yard as "wild" as possible, and leave large bare branches for birds to roost on.
7. Distract them
Let's face it, squirrels can be just as smart as us humans, and sometimes they manage to beat all of our clever traps.
Maybe the best you can hope for is to distract the rodents, keeping them far away from your prized plants.
If you have garden plants that repel squirrels, set up a squirrel-friendly space far away from your veggies.
Put a handy squirrel feeder on the ground, with large nuts or tasty seeds inside.
Hopefully, the easy pickings will keep them from climbing your tomato boxes.
What's your go-to trick for keeping squirrels out of your garden?
Here are more articles with handy gardening advice:
- Fill your garden with wild birds in 4 simple steps.
- 18 garden hacks guaranteed to give you a green thumb.
- 20 plants you can easily regrow over and over.