Do squirrels eat stuff in gardens?

alicate(SW Michigan, zone 5)March 6, 2008

Here I worry about birds, woodchucks and deer, but I never thought about squirrels. Should I be concerned about them too?

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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

Yes. I don't know about Michigan squirrels but Louisiana squirrels will occasionally steal a tomato or two and they will also top corn stalks and bring them up into the trees for their nests.

(A gardening friend of mine also has problems with squirrels burying nuts in his raised bed gardens and uprooting plants when they do so.)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 4:20PM
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Ripe apples, corn, tomatoes. Anything luscious and sweet and almost ready for you to eat.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 5:48PM
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I grew a couple of pole beans on my fence just for the heck of it and damned if I didn't catch a squirrel sitting on the fence pretty much devouring the whole plant. He stripped all the leaves from maybe 5 feet. He'd climb down and grab a handful, then back up to the top of the fence to methodically much all of the leaves.

I also find peanuts all over my yard including in the mulch and raised beds.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 6:00PM
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corin99(7b Triangle NC)

My local squirrels eat tomatoes but they really love chard. I have to grow it in cages or they just devour it.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 8:11PM
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Grey squirrels eat all our apples when the apples are still small, sour, and green. We have yet to see a ripe apple, so we don't know what sort of apple tree we have growing. This has gone on for twenty-five years.... the apples that dropped to the ground, the deer would eat. But no longer, the deer stays outside the fence. Cross my fingers.....

The squirrels also eat sunflowers and tithonia blossoms, and one year they ate all the rose flowers.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 8:18PM
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Yup, they will actually eat almost anything. I keep an expensive scoped air rifle near the back door. .....And then I eat them as well. The rabbits too. heheheheh

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 8:34AM
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corapegia(z5 NY)

I've watched a chipmunk eat my cherry tomatoes. It preferred the Sungolds.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 9:52AM
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now there is a chipmunk with good taste!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 10:17AM
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shot(8 - GA)

rootdoctor, which air rifle and scope do you have? Mine recently died on me and was thinking of buying a new one.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 10:45AM
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Squirrels are weird little animals. Some years they eat everything, then some years they leave most of the stuff alone. I think that this may be due to their short life cycle (3 years) and the fact that maybe some younger squirrels haven't expanded their menu. Yet. The older, wily squirrels will take everything they can get their little claws on.
Squirrels like apples, oranges, strawberries, figs, tomatoes, chard, blossoms of melons, the melons themselves when small, zukes, heck, I think they even eat marigolds. So, I protect some items with cages, but mostly I just hope they leave me some. It is very hard to watch your plants 24/7.
But they do not want your peppers, so that is something!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 12:31PM
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naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

A squirrel has been eating the flower buds off my pear tree. You would think they could at least give my garden a break during the winter. After all, they are alreay getting bird seed at our house.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 4:30PM
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shot(8 - GA)

My dogs prefer sweet corn over field corn.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 5:26PM
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I read an article that had lots of follow-ups promoting scattering mothballs around your veggies. It was a certain brand from Wallgreens. These folks swore they also had fewer insect problems, if any, and no squirrels. Haven't tried it yet. Could this be true???

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 2:42PM
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I will gladly ship you mine. :)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 3:40PM
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I have a daisy 880 with a 3x9 scope and a Shadow Sport from Cabelas also with a 3x9 scope. Lots of cash for the latter, but with the PBA pellets it's 1200 FPS and I can drive nails with it at 30 yards.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 8:18PM
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This little guy ate all but 4 or 5 tomatoes last summer. He was not in the least bit afraid of us. I named him Frankie....

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 8:55PM
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Joeray(Z9 LA)

A couple of years ago my local squirrels ate my broccoli down to the ground, leaving only nubs. I haven't tried growing broccoli since.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 12:38AM
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shot(8 - GA)

Rootdoctor, thanks for the reply about the air rifle. The Daisy 880 is the one that I have and was about to throw away. I d/led the manual and will do a little maintenance on it and try it again.
Thanks again, sir.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 7:05AM
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Your dogs are beautiful and they look so happy and healthy.
Cute picture. :)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 10:32AM
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Thank you for the cute squirrel pictures. :)
My squirrels and I would get along just fine if they just left my garden alone. :(

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 10:36AM
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I am absolutely against shooting or trapping or poisoning wildlife of any kind.

Try using cages of 1/4" mesh around the area or vegetables being damaged. Or try planting a plant the squirrels don't like next to the target plant (companion plnating - marigolds and tomatoes is a good example)).

If that doesn't work, give them a spot of their own with some kind of food they like.

While guns may be necessary in some applications, they are not necessary at all to kill an animal in doing what is instinctual to them.

Just my two cents.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 12:52PM
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alicate(SW Michigan, zone 5)

Thanks all for answering although I can't really say I much like your answers. :)

I know a fence won't keep them out. Hmmm...I'll have to think on this problem. I just assumed all the damage was from the woodchuck and deer. Maybe I'll have to figure out if there is anything additional I can do to keep squirrels away.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 1:16PM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

Alicate, I use a Zebra electric fence charger setup that I bought at Home Depot. Wires are set at 6 and 12 inches and I have a 4 to 4 1/2 inch plastic landscape edging under the lower wire. It works great for keeping small animals out of the garden, particularly raccoons.

I'm not sure our outdoor cat likes it because (when it is on) it prevents him from sleeping in the leaf mulch under the shade of the taller plants. (I'm not sure how, but he seems to know when it's on and off.)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 3:55PM
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shot(8 - GA)

MYDREAM, thanks for the compliment on the dogs. The one on the right we have had since he was just a fur ball. The one on the left took up here and I tried to run him off, but he wouldn't leave. My wife said he saw how fat you and Taylor (big dog) are and knew this is where he wanted to live...
We have three pecan trees and they can hear you crack a pecan 100 yards away...


    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 4:01PM
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Shot, that's so cute.
Your doggies like good food. :)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 5:30PM
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Plant garlic shoots (cloves) 4 inches away from tuilp bulbs in all 4 directions and it should stop them from eating your tulip bulbs . "Havaheart traps" can relocate them .

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 3:20PM
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shot(8 - GA)

GRANDAD, about your cat knowing when the electric is on or off... I use to have cows and used an electric fence. They, too, can sense it. Some say they can smell it...


    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 3:52PM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

Shot, my comment above "I'm not sure how he can tell that it's on..." while true, also served to shorten my response. However, now that you've added your "smell it.." comment, I must tell you that you are spot-on. He did exactly that. I was thinking that his ability to tell that it was on had more to do with the tingling of a few stray electrons hitting his sensitive nose, as opposed to him actually smelling anything.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 4:44PM
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shot(8 - GA)

GRANDAD, I grew up in rural Georgia then moved to the city in an effort to make enough money to move back to the country. When I was growing up everyone had hogs and cows and there was always fences to mend. Not many hogs left and the farmers that have cows generally move them from pasture to fields planted with winter grazing. Most of these are surrounded by electric fence as it provides good temp fence. I had a few head of cattle after retiring and used electric fence in certain areas also. As sure as something fell on the fence to short it out, you could bet the cows would get out somewhere. Puzzled me and several of the old time farmers said they could smell it and tell if it was on. Who am I to doubt it...


    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 5:17PM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

Shot, I think the point for everyone is that animals can put their nose close to the wire and determine if it is on or not. This is important because one year my fence shorted out. Unbeknonst to me, the fence was grounded out by a few stray weeds making contact with the wire. That evening the raccoon(s) raided my sweet corn and in one night ruined about 3 dozen ears. I suspect they too put their nose up close to, but not touching the wire (like my cat and your cows did) and determined if the fence charger was on or off. After that incident I routinely used my volt meter during corn season to make sure I'm not grounded out. So far I've had no other incident. Having read your post above I now know that whatever senses are triggered is a lesser point. Bottom line, I definitely need to continue the practice of making sure the fence is hot when it needs to be...(Thanks you for this tidbit of information!)

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 9:20AM
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The little stinkers ate my first ripe strawberries this week. Let the trapping begin...with my havahart trap...I relocate them to a wonderful oak grove that sits beside a field of blackberry plants.

Additional things to do..this is gross, but human urine deters them if you can bear to have somebody peeing near (not on)your garden. We also have a guy near us who rescues big cats like tigers (yes we have tigers as neighbors) and will give us a bag of tiger poop to ward off predatores (panthers & bobcats) of our chickens. Gross but effective. Maybe you have a zoo or something like the tiger guy who'd be willing to part with some poo.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 6:04PM
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Think I can help with this one-squirrels are allergic to peppermint-buy some peppermint oil 100% pure about $12 for 4 oz. will last for years,and put a couple drops in gallon of water and spay away.Also one drop of p.oil under your tongue will relieve congestion big time.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 6:16PM
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I am in MI too, in a place where the squirrel density is very high. I had minimal problems with the squirrels until the ash trees started dying, about 6 years ago. That took a large seed crop out of their diet (around July) and they started looking for alternatives. Since then they have been in my raspberries (maturing at the same time) quite a bit, and they are a raspberry pest for me. They have also gotten into my mulberry (same time), and I let them have my apples because they are not good, though they don't really eat them, 5% of them at most.

But they generally leave veggies alone. They have never touched my grapes, my greens, or my cucurbitas. They have hit the tomatoes, lightly, only once in 12 years.

One thing to keep in mind is that for them tomatoes or chard are low quality food. They would much prefer to have seeds and water. I never feed them, but I leave a bucket of water out (in mid yard, away from the garden) during dry spells - that helps keeping them off the veggies. An electric wire surrounding the garden is also very helpful. One shock is enough to discourage a squirrel forever (I saw once one get shocked, and the way it flew in the air, it is clearly a big shock to them). I get it lightly every now and again because I keep it off, but turn it on, the problem goes away instantly (same for groundhogs). If you think of taking a single precaution, this is the one you should take.

I am probably lucky that I live in a place with many hickory, walnut, maple, oak, and elm trees, my garden probably looks to them like a patch of grass. If you have the space, consider planting trees that will support them better than the garden does.

Also,if your garden is in an open place, they hate to be out there away from shelter, what with the hawks and coyotes.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 7:34PM
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booboobearbecky(Zone 4)

I agree with your theory that critters sometimes raid gardens to quench their thirst. When the squirrel and chipmunk invasion began in my garden, I created a small critter haven on the opposite side of my property (far away from my garden), and the affect was surprising. The small critters were satisfied with the water and seeds I put out for them, and left my garden alone. Just like that. In addition, my dog was provided with hours of entertainment watching them through the patio door. From Dog TV From Chipmunks From Red Squirrels From Grey Squirrels From Black Squirrels

When the LARGE and EXTRA LARGE critter invasion began, I assumed it was the end of my garden. And then I accidently discovered that my doggie swimming pool was the answer. Also placed on the opposite side of our property (far far far [emphasize FAR] away from my garden). Again, instant results. No more garden invsasions. From The Watering ... From Quadruplet Bears From The Watering ... From The Watering ...


Here is a link that might be useful: More of my critter photos

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 1:50PM
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reeldoc(7 NC)

Looks like you need a bigger pool! Must be nice being able hunt a lot of critters from your patio....................if you are a hunter.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 2:05PM
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susancol(7 Atlanta)

As far as Herbs go, I planted a large variety on my deck last year. And the Squirrels apparently prefer Cilantro.
They ate mine down to the ground, but didn't touch the basil, thyme, rosemary, chives, garlic, oregano or tarragon. Nor did they care about my tomatoes, eggplant, or peppers.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 10:29AM
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For the past 7 years squirrels left not a single apricot from my tree. They eat to bare bones leaves from : beans, chard, zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, italian squash, cucumber. They just about eat everything green in my garden. They eat cherries, and plums too. This inspite of areas behind my backyard having lots of oak trees.

I have two small kids, so I cannot trap them, poison them or shoot them. I got a spray from home depot to deter them. I think they use it for salad dressing. Its expensive to feed them, and what if I double the population next year?

Maye I should stop growing anything for few years. Burn the crops and hope they go away to different place.

So desperate am I that I will try the peppermint solution. Also I invested a huge amount in pvc pipes cages and bird netting to keep them out. Last year they let some of the plants survive after july/august. I have to last just until then.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 1:33AM
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Is there anything that squirrels won't eat? I have 14 trees on my property. Squirrels still invade my garden. I keep a bucket under my downspout that's usually filled with water. Squirrels still steal my produce and dig holes in my beds. Garlic doesn't deter them. They dig up my garlic plants, and they seem to think that the garlic spray is salad dressing.

A couple things that I've found that do seem to deter them are Liquid Fence and Hot Pepper Wax. It's undetectable to humans, and you can spray it right on the produce itself. A light wash and it comes off. But it makes things smell and taste icky to squirrels and other four-footed thieves. It doesn't hurt them, and you don't have to clean up the little mite-ridden corpses after you shoot them.

Shot, your dogs are gorgeous. I've thought about getting a dog now that I have a house and yard, but I'm kind of full up with animals right now.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 2:30AM
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OMG, those pics of the bears in the pool crack me up! I just spotted a squirrel in my neighbor's yard. I've never worried about my garden before because we've never had them around. Now I'm worried that one squirrel will tell all his friends where the food is! Luckily my neighbor has a big plum tree. I hope that distracts him!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 2:58PM
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This city is infested by grey squirrels. They use the city's electricity cables as a highway. Houses are densely built and there are some tall trees. Needless to say, we can't use any physical barriers as they can easily hop onto a tree, a fence or cables and just jump off to wherever they please.

In my case, the worst is my front yard flower bed (I also have two five-storey high maple trees, so they feel right at home). I don't know why, but every time they make holes in the ground, they do it around the root balls. I wonder if it is because they want to munch on the roots (so far, they don't seem to actually have damaged the roots). They keep poking holes around my lavenders, and it really messes with my head, beause every time I feel happy that the lavenders are finally firmly rooted, they pull the earth up around them, and I have to keep patching it all up. They also bury and dig in the lawn, and I am quite puzzled at this, as the soil under my grass is rock hard (there is much softer soil nearby that they won't even touch). They never touched the crocus I planted in the same lawn, just under the trunk of the maple tree they live in. Go figure.

The squirrels have stolen my watermelons (and left the carcasses all shredded up all over my plot). What really bugs me about this is that they don't actually eat the melons. They just tear them up into little chunks and then they leave. I find neat little piles of shredded melon. They have also eaten cukes, but not off the vine, though. They eat the cukes I leave out to dry them for seed. They seem to leave tomatoes alone.

At first, I used the Havahart traps and I relocated them to a nearby park. I soon got fed up with that as they start really becoming numerous and quite motivated starting in midsummer. I just can't keep up with them and the trips to the park take up a lot of my time. There are also some super squirrels each year that seem to be smarter than the lot of them and that seem to want to simply destroy my garden just for the heck of it instead of just feeding, breeding and burying. So, I have started drowning them. Yes, I know, it is quite drastic, but that is the only efficient method I found, and honestly, in my neighbourhood, the squirrel population really needs to be controlled, and people add to that by feeding them for fun. Yes, I know, they just act according to their instincts and they have no bad intentions. But I am not going to live on a barren plot just so they can have their way. Besides, did I mention the entire city is infested by them? My family used to judge me for drowning cute little squirrels, but once they started seeing the damage, their disapproval melted away and all that was left was admiration for being tough enough to hold them under the water until they die (which, by the way, is quite quick and the squirrels don't even have time to panic as they die within a few seconds).

For the flower bed, I am considering laying chicken wire disks around plants and covering that with the usual pine needle mulch I use. I will simply cut a foot square piece of chicken wire, cut into it up to the center and make a hole about twice the size of the plant's stem or trunk in the middle. Nobody would see them, but the squirrels would be stopped dead in their tracks. As for melons, next year, I will simply put the little melons in plastic cherry tomato boxes: they have little holes and let the sunshine in, and they are big enough that the melons can become large enough for the squirrel to find them too large to mess with before I need to remove the boxes. We'll see.

I read that chicken manure supposedly keeps the squirrels away. I will start testing that as I have some pelleted chicken manure fertilizer left. I also read somewhere that daffodils are toxic to them, and sure enough, they don't ever go near my daffodils, so interplanting tulips and crocus with daffodils may be a good idea. I would gladly use a rifle, but living in Canada, that is not a possibility. So, I will mainly just keep drowning them until the city implements their squirrel control policy, which better be soon.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 12:39PM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

Gardening was a constant battle. Then s neighbors moved out and in moved neighbors with a dog. 1 year latter ditto the north neighbors.

Then we got a little terrier. And suddenly - no problems! Hope it is not a fluke - but perhpas as the squirrels that knew there was veg here die off, the new ones won't hazard the doggie dept.

Hoping it lasts....

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 1:26PM
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I had some unprotected beds last year and the squirrels completely destroyed the sunflowers, while the raccoons destroyed the corn. This year I added two strands of electric wire 2 and 5 inches above the beds rims. This is a different setup from my other fence, which has chainlink with a single electric wire on top.

Well, the corn and the sunflowers have been completely untouched. Squirrels and raccoons tend to handle the wire and get zapped easily. A juvenile groundhog was able to break in numerous times, until I saw it. The fur in the back is insulating enough that it could sneak under near one of the gates. I placed my trap with melon rind just outside that gate and I caught raccoons every night for a while. Then I figured what was going on, put the trap inside the fence, and got my groundhog the next day.

But squirrels are relatively easy to zap. I even smeared the wire with peanut butter as soon as the electric fence was on (getting zapped through the tongue must be particularly painful), and I have yet to see a squirrel or raccoon near my new beds this year.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 9:39PM
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