Meagan Francis

Meagan Francis

Portrait of a garden thief.

The first time I grew a backyard veggie garden, I kept discovering nibbled, half-rotten and abandoned tomatoes in our yard.

It never occurred to me to blame the squirrels that played all day on our back fence. Between those short little arms and their small stature (the tomatoes were about twice the size of their heads!) they didn't seem very likely culprits.


15 Ways to Get Rid of Squirrels 18 photos

That's what I thought until the day I walked out onto my deck and caught one of our furry little neighbors red-handed, playing with the fat, juicy tomato I'd planned to pick for my salad that evening. Mr. Squirrel saw me, froze for a moment, then dropped the tomato and bolted for a nearby tree.

Since we lived in a city flat with a shared yard, shooting the squirrels wasn't an option even if I'd had the stomach for it. With little kids and pets I worried about poison, and I could never have gone for gruesome kill traps.

See how to use items from your kitchen to keep squirrels and other pests away.

So I knew we'd have to find a natural, non-poisonous way to keep the squirrels at bay with humane and neighbor-friendly methods.

After considerable research, here's what I learned about keeping squirrels and other rodents away from your prized produce:

  • Pester them back. You may be able to annoy the pests away with sprinkler systems, sensitive motion lights, high-frequency sound emitters or a variety of scent-based repellants, like garlic, hot peppers, or animal urine. Stake out your garden for a while to see what kind of animals are doing the damage, and search the Internet for tips on repelling your specific unwelcome visitor.
  • Bring in a predator. Dogs and cats can make great rodent deterrents, and some dogs, like the Rat Terrier, are bred for the purpose of hunting small animals. If getting a pet isn't an option, consider putting up barn owl houses.
  • Fence them out. Wire fencing can be an effective way to block pests. Be sure to bury the wire to keep out those persistent diggers, and consider electric fencing as extra deterrent. Using raised garden beds can make it easier to block critters with fencing under and above the bed.
  • Play nice. You may be able to entice your small thieves to another area of the yard by providing them with a better option. Turns out squirrels don't really like tomatoes, which is why they kept taking a nibble and then ditching them in our yard. We put up a feeder with sunflower seeds on the opposite side of the yard, and it seemed to do the trick.

23 Comments About this Article

  • Tina Marie Bell
    I couldn't believe what I saw! My tomatoes which I watch close were disappearing. I couldn't figure it out. When I came home today two squirrels on my porch one was digging up my basil and the other was watching and a green tomato was laying there with teeth marks on it. I had no idea it would of been squirrels. I just applied the red flacks and I'm going to get pin wheels. If that doesn't work I'm getting the lax. Does that kill them?

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • Joe macAdams
    I relocate them and other varmints from my garden .I use a box trap .I placed a trail camera in my yard and you would be surprised at what goes on in your at night.

    Posted 12 months ago

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  • Carl Jefferson
    You suggest the use of hot peppers to get rid of these varmints. Well, what do you do when they have aquired the taste of your hot peppers. There has been many a time when I have gone out to the garden only to see were they have nibbled way the peppers.

    Posted 12 months ago

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  • Dawn Gunner Taillon
    I think we need to make gardens in dog runs and sitting areas next to them to enjoy them. I guess we'd have to put smaller wire all around it and under it or raise it up on stilts and put it on a sold bottom base to keep the climbers from climbing in and through the chain link kennel. But it would work for those of us who must have some plants that critters must eat if available at the buffet.

    Posted 11 months ago

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  • anonymous
    DO NOT USE EXLAX. That is animal cruelty!!!!! So sad!!!!!!!

    Posted 5 months ago

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  • anonymous
    A friend told me to try mothballs, it worked for his potted plants

    Posted 3 months ago

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  • anonymous
    In my small garden I grow dusty miller, gerber daisys, stock, and day lillies, and also have a small bird feeder filled with millet, cracked corn, unshelled peanuts, sunflower seeds, and I have several squirrels, a chipmunk, bluebirds, robins, cardinals, and a variety of birds including mourning doves, and an occasional rabbit and no one eats the flowers. They get full enough from the seeds and nuts, and suet in the winter.

    Posted 3 months ago

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  • anonymous
    I have had great luck with tin pie pans strung up with fishing line. The slightest breeze sets them in motion and I have had no squirrel damage of any kind so far. Walmart sells the pie pans 3 for $1. I tried most of the other tricks with no luck, but the pans seem to do the trick without harming anything. P.S. They also keep out hungry raccoons, chipmunks, and most birds. Just wish they worked on bugs.

    Posted 2 months ago

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  • anonymous
    I've had great success deterring squirrels with Orange Peel (no, not the '60's cheesy pop cover band from Florida - though that might work too...). I just save my citrus peel - orange and grapefruit - and toss them around my beds and containers where squirrels (and chipmunks, raccoons, etc.) have been digging and ...no more damage. Smells much better than mothballs, and non-toxic to boot!

    Posted 2 months ago

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  • anonymous
    The squirrels will bite a tomato because it looks a lot like the kind of fruit that has a walnut in it. They hate tomatoes so they don't eat it. They keep thinking the next one will be the real deal. Sigh. I help rehab squirrels and this is what they hate: fox urine, citrus, irish spring soap, fox urine, hot pepper sauce, fox urine, garlic, onions, apple cider vinegar, fox urine, loud noises, cats, dogs, raccoons, and hawks. Also, they can't bite through structures that are totally wrapped in hardware cloth. (It's like a metal screen) If you create a beautiful garden cage, and you do it properly, it can double as a green house if you wrap it in clear plastic or attach plexiglass. This will greatly extend your growing season. Did I mention they hate fox urine?

    Posted 1 month ago

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