It can be troublesome when you plant bulbs or have freshly sown seeds and the squirrels dig around in your plant pots. However annoyed we get though we still want to find humane and kind ways to discourage them from our digging.
Why Do Squirrels Dig Up Plants
It can sometimes seem like the squirrels are deliberately destroying your hard work in the garden, but really it is much more intuitive than that.
Freshly dug soil is easy for squirrels to dig up and bury their nuts, ready for a Winter harvest. Your garden is their store cupboard. However they also forget the nuts and leave them to germinate the following year. Nobody wants an oak tree in a flower pot!
So our tactics must include ways to make it harder for them to bury their nuts, but not mean that they are harmed in any way.
Ways To Protect Your Plants From Squirrels
Squirrels are not digging up your garden to destroy it, but to bury their Winter stash of nuts. By doing this they also happen to rearrange and destroy a lot of your hard work in the garden.
We can make it harder for squirrels to dig up our plant pots by putting a physical barrier in their way, by using unpleasant smells, or by using bright colors hanging in the form of CD’s to scare them away. We must be cautious with using pepper sprays or chili as it can harm them though.
Whatever we do must be kind and not to harm them.
1. Decorative Stones
Stones will be hard for the squirrels to dig around. When I say decorative I’m talking about using them in a way that wont ruin the look of your planting scheme. Shale and flint make for good mulch as they keep moisture in as well as retaining heat. Just be aware that younger plants or tender stem plants may be damaged by this thermal effect.
We collect stones from the beach and paint them on wet weekends. This means that to us the plant pots always look nice, even if to others they may look a bit higgeldy piggeldy. The main thing is that they are too heavy for squirrels to move and bury their nuts under.
2. Bamboo Sticks / Holly Branches
This is not as cruel as it sounds. The squirrels are more than capable of spotting the sharpness and just avoiding it altogether. It’s not to everyone’s taste though as it is unsightly. We do use holly branches on freshly dug beds and this is a good way to deter all manner of pests from digging up your garden.
Holly branches work well with cats as well, have a read here if you want more ideas to avoid cats pooping on freshly dug ground. If you are using them in plant pots be aware that they will take a few years but will biodegrade and need replacing.
3. Chicken Wire
Using chicken wire to deter squirrels from burying their nuts in your plant pots or freshly dug flower beds is great until the young plants start to emerge. I have forgotten in the past and had to unwind the shoots from the chicken wire and literally cut them out using wire cutters.
Instead make sure to remove the wire once you have healthy plants and a decent amount of ground cover to deter the squirrels from digging.
4. Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds are fantastic for your garden and really omit a strong odor that is avoided by squirrels. Ask a local coffee shop if you can make a collection at the end of the day and bring it back to your garden.
5. Strong Smelling Citrus Peel
Fresh citrus peel will give off a natural odor that is quite strong, we even use banana peel for the same effect. Squirrels do not like the smell. It is not enough to harm them though, which is the main thing here. Deterring pests is a good idea but harming them will not make for a happy garden!
6. Dog Hair
Really any hair is suitable for this. It may seem a bit weird but the squirrels are smart and will avoid the scent of a predator. So get your brush out and start to groom your feline or canine pet! Also when you cut your own hair it can be useful to pop a layer in plant pots.
7. Blood And Bone Meal
Blood and bone meal is a great feed for many plants, however the natural instincts in squirrels kick in and they will step away from anywhere with this odor. Pour a thin layer over your plant pots and remember to reapply after heavy rainfall.
8. CD’s As A Scarecrow
The idea of hanging CD’s is a strange one as what works for some wildlife as a toy will deter others. Squirrels sort of see the bright colors as a possible attack and try to avoid the area that they are hung in. We have free ranging chickens who love the shiny colors and will gravitate towards it.
It is also not terribly attractive to look at either. Really Cd’s hanging is more for our allotment than our patio and where we seem to get most squirrels digging to bury their nuts. If you do fancy it, check out your local charity shop as they tend to get given some and it may be worth an ask.
9. Heavy Layer Of Mulch
Mulch can work well to deter squirrels from digging up your plant pots. There is a large range of mulches available and for more on the differences have a look here. Essentially if the layer is thick enough it will be hard work to dig through to bury their nuts.
You will need to replace the mulch however and it is a great way to also give your plants additional feed. In flowerbeds the mulch can be dug through when it has decomposed a little but in pots you can physically remove it.
10. Tactical Planting
This is a great way to stop squirrels from digging up your plants and pots. Essentially you are using strong scented plants such as peppermint and planting them close by to your newly dug plant pots. This aroma is strong for squirrels, but not used as essential oil it shouldn’t be strong enough to harm them, just deter them.
What Next & Further Reading
It is essential that we don’t harm the wildlife in our gardens at all, so go for these options of working with nature rather than against it. It goes without saying that the red squirrel is actually a protected species, so if you are lucky enough to have them visit do make them feel welcome!
- How To Make A Bee Friendly Herb Garden for more tips on working to encourage nature.
- Deer Resistant Herbs – 10 Of The Best for humane and efficient ways to deter deer from destroying your front yard.
- How To Apply Zero Waste Principles In Your Garden For more zero waste ideas in your garden please do have a read, there is always more to learn so please also comment with your tips and tricks.