When it comes to gardening, one of the most common challenges faced by gardeners is protecting their crops, especially tomatoes, from wildlife. While squirrels may look cute and harmless, they can wreak havoc on your tomato plants, often causing significant damage. This comprehensive guide will provide you with an array of strategies to keep squirrels out of your tomatoes, helping you to enjoy a bountiful harvest.
To keep squirrels out of your tomatoes, you can build cages or fences around your plants, use natural repellents like chili peppers or garlic, employ scare tactics like wind chimes or noisemaking devices, encourage the presence of predators like birds of prey, and harvest tomatoes early. Companion planting with squirrel-repelling plants and providing alternative food sources can also help. Remember to use multiple methods and remain vigilant.
Identifying Squirrel Damage
Before implementing any squirrel deterrent strategies, it’s crucial to ensure that squirrels are indeed the culprits. Squirrel damage is usually identifiable by medium to large holes chewed in one side of a tomato, with bites taken out of multiple fruits. Damage usually occurs during daylight hours, as squirrels are active during the day. You might also notice small holes in your garden or nearby containers, indicating a squirrel has been digging there.
Effective Methods to Deter Squirrels
Building Cages and Fences
One of the most effective methods to deter squirrels is by constructing cages around individual plants or a whole bed using chicken wire fencing or hardware cloth. You can also place bird netting on top for added protection. Make sure to bury the lower edge of the fence about 6 inches deep to prevent squirrels from digging under it.
Natural repellents such as chili peppers, garlic, and commercially available repellents can be sprayed on the plants to keep squirrels at bay. Homemade sprays made from cayenne pepper and water, or essential oils like peppermint and clove, can also be effective. Remember to reapply these sprays after rain and avoid spraying parts you intend to eat.
Scare tactics involve placing noisemaking devices like pinwheels, metal tape, and wind chimes around your garden. However, these usually only work for a few days, so it’s important to swap them out frequently.
Encouraging the presence of birds of prey like hawks can help control the squirrel population. Providing them with perches, nesting places, and other needs can attract them to your garden.
Harvesting tomatoes when they are not quite ripe can also deter squirrels, as they prefer ripe, juicy tomatoes.
Planting certain plants and herbs alongside your tomatoes can deter squirrels. Plants like mint, marigolds, nasturtiums, mustard, and spicy peppers are known to repel squirrels. However, be aware that mint can be invasive, so it’s important to manage its growth.
Providing Alternative Food Sources
Setting up squirrel-specific feeders or creating decoy food stations with nuts and seeds can help divert squirrels away from your tomato plants.
While it can be challenging to keep squirrels out of your tomatoes, it’s certainly not impossible. By implementing the strategies outlined in this guide, you can protect your tomato plants and enjoy a successful harvest. Remember, the key is to use multiple methods and remain vigilant, as squirrels can become accustomed to some deterrents over time. Happy gardening!
Frequently Asked Questions
What other plants can squirrels damage in my garden?
Squirrels can damage a variety of plants in your garden including corn, strawberries, sunflowers, and fruit trees. They are also known to dig up and eat bulbs.
Do ultrasonic squirrel repellents work?
The effectiveness of ultrasonic squirrel repellents is debatable. Some gardeners report success, while others see no difference. It’s worth noting that squirrels can become accustomed to these devices over time, reducing their effectiveness.
Can I use a live trap to catch and relocate squirrels?
Yes, you can use a live trap to catch and relocate squirrels. However, you should check your local laws and regulations first as some areas may prohibit this practice.
Will a pet dog or cat help deter squirrels from my garden?
Yes, the presence of a cat or dog can deter squirrels. However, this method may not be effective if your pet is indoors most of the time or if the squirrels in your area are particularly bold.
Are squirrels harmful to humans or pets?
Squirrels are generally not harmful to humans or pets. However, they can carry diseases and parasites like ticks and fleas, so it’s best to avoid direct contact.
Can I use mothballs to repel squirrels?
While some people report success using mothballs to deter squirrels, this method is not recommended. Mothballs are toxic and can be harmful to children, pets, and other wildlife if ingested.