BONNIE’S GARDEN – Dealing with Squirrels
A couple of weeks ago, I did a blog on repelling mosquitoes. I had a customer come in and say her biggest problem was not mosquitoes—it was squirrels. So here’s how to live with them.
First, Some Interesting Facts
- The word ‘squirrel’ comes from the Anglo-Norman word “esquirel’ meaning ‘shadow-tailed.’ They are native to every continent with the exception of Antarctica and Australia. There are squirrels in Australia, but they were introduced there, they are not native there.
- Squirrels gnaw on everything because their front teeth never stop growing. They grow up to six inches per year!
- Squirrels pretend to bury nuts to confuse other squirrels or birds which may be watching. When the other animals come to investigate, the squirrel will run away to bury the goodies elsewhere.
- Squirrels are omnivores—meaning that while they do eat mostly seeds, nuts, bulbs, fungi, and fruits, they will also eat insects, eggs, caterpillars, etc. Because they bury so many seeds and nuts and fail to come back for them, they are one of Mother Nature’s biggest helpers in dispersing plant material. Squirrels are born in litters of two to eight.
- The smallest squirrel is the African Pygmy Squirrel, which is less than five inches long. The largest squirrel is the Indian Giant Squirrel, which can grow up to three feet in length. Our common gray squirrel grows 15 or 20 inches long with the tail adding another 6 to 9 inches.
- Some squirrels have been observed chewing on discarded rattlesnake skins, then licking their fur—thereby creating a rattlesnake “perfume” that throws off predators.
- While they can be a problem in the garden, believe it or not, they are easy enough to deal with. Any repellent (granular or liquid) that contains cayenne or capsaicin is very effective against squirrels. You can actually mix crushed red pepper flakes in your birdseed to repel them from bird feeders (birds can’t taste the heat).
Keeping Them Away From Your Tomatoes
Squirrels can go after your tomatoes to get at the moisture content inside the fruit. They tend to go after smaller green tomatoes because they are a size that is easiest for them to handle. They do not usually eat the tomato, they take a bite or two, and suck the juice out.
Spray your tomatoes with Hot Pepper Wax—a spray that contains capsaicin. Then provide an easily accessible water source within 15 or 20 feet of your garden. If you spray the tomato but forget the water source, they may go after the moisture content in the tomato anyway if the weather is hot and dry.
To Keep Them From Digging Up Plants
Plant tulip bulbs around 10 inches deep. Squirrels dig but do not tunnel. Plant deep and they’ll leave them alone. Daffodils are toxic so squirrels won’t bother them.
If they come along behind you and dig up seeds or seedlings you just planted, keep in mind that they’re digging because the soil is loose and easy to dig in. They’re not usually after the seedlings. Keep them from digging by generously sprinkling the soil with crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper after planting to deter them.
Keep tree branches trimmed at least six to eight feet away from your house, so squirrels are less likely to chew though vents and make a home in your attic.
You know, once you learn to live with them, they are pretty fun to watch. My cats love to watch them on the back deck. Kitty-cat Television!
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