How to Keep Squirrels From Your Garden Without Chemicals, Poison, or Traps

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Photo: Leena Robinson (Shutterstock)

I used to laugh at my grandfathers because they both hated squirrels so much that they would go to comically great lengths to keep them away from their bird feeders. Now that I have my own garden, I’m beginning to understand their obsession with getting rid of these fluffy-tailed terrors. They will eat tender new shoots, seeds, and any veggies they can find.

There are various methods to discourage squirrels from using your seedlings as their own personal snack bar: noisemakers, fake owls, and flashing lights are all options, but their effectiveness tends to wear off over time. But there’s a solution for a garden ravaged by squirrels, and it’s simpler and cheaper than you think.

Use a cheap wastebasket for smaller plants

The answer to squirrel woes is an upturned wire wastebasket. Yes, that’s right, a wastebasket. For young plants in need of protection from scurrilous sciuridae, all you need to do is place a wire wastebasket upside-down over top of them. For more security, using tent stakes or landscape garden staples to hold the basket down. The mesh of the basket will allow sunlight and rain to get through, but not squirrels. Their free lunch buffet will be over and your smaller plants will thrive without being gnawed on by tiny teeth.

Make a larger squirrel barrier for large gardens

You may notice a fatal flaw in this plan: What do you do when your plants outgrow their basket? To keep squirrels away from your larger plants, you can use hardware mesh and fence posts to make your own netting enclosure by placing a post at each corner of your garden bed and stretching the netting around it and over the top. Use landscape garden staples to hold the bottom edge of the netting down to the ground, or bury the edge of the mesh six inches deep (because squirrels will find any gap they can fit though and then go to town on your vegetables). If you’re not up to making your own mesh enclosure, you can find ready-made mesh enclosures to buy as well, although they’re more expensive.

Other materials to keep squirrels out of your garden

Garden mesh and hula-hoops cut in half will make an excellent squirrel barrier tunnel. Cut the hula hoops in half, and place them about every three feet along a row; then, stretch the mesh over top of the hula hoops and attach the bottom edge of the netting to the ground or bury it.

You basically want anything that allows light and water to pass through, but doesn’t have holes big enough for a squirrel to get through. One thing to consider when choosing your barrier material is that it should have holes that are big enough for pollinators like bees to still get through them.

The great thing about using squirrel cages and barriers is that they won’t harm the squirrels or other wildlife. Your “squirrel cages” can be reused every season and are simple to reconfigure for different garden layouts. As always, just remember that you should call 811 in the U.S. before you dig or drive fence posts—that way you’ll make sure your local utilities are well clear of your path.