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Dealing With Pests In a Container Garden: Squirrels

by Fern on June 15, 2009

in Pests & Problems

Last month I started a new series on dealing with pests in container gardens. First up was one of the grossest pests around: snails and slugs. I shared my snail control ideas, and you all shared some great ideas too.

This month, let’s discuss squirrels. They’re pesky enough when your garden is on the ground, but when your garden is on a balcony, it is often even easier for the cute, yet destructive, little buggers to get at your plants. Your garden is now just a hop, skip and a jump from the nearest tree. Literally.

Photo by INJ

To be totally honest, I don’t think there is any truly effective method of keeping squirrels out of your pots. All of the things that work 100% of the time, or even enough to say “consistently deters squirrels” are methods that are either difficult to implement in a container garden, overly tedious, or are so ugly/obtrusive that they defeat the purpose of having a balcony garden in the first place.

So…when you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Try leaving out nuts and other treats for squirrels to attract their attention away from digging in your pots. Or put the nuts in pots that won’t be harmed by a little squirrel activity (i.e. with an established “tough” plant). Hopefully the squirrels will be so busy with the treats you’ve left for them that they will forget about those pots newly planted with bulbs or large seeds that squirrels seem to love digging up and nibbling on.

Here are some other things to try (no guarantees though!)

  • In pots with trees and nothing else, I’ve found that large river stones covering all the exposed dirt works pretty well in keeping squirrels out of the pot. Mere gravel won’t work. The rocks need to be large enough that squirrels can’t easily push them aside. Obviously this won’t work in pots newly planted with seeds or bulbs because it will prevent them from being able to push their leaves above the soil.
  • For pots newly planted with seeds or bulbs that must stay outside, you can create a chicken wire “sleeve” by forming a loop just big enough to slide all the way around the pot. Secure the ends with twist ties and then slide the pot inside the loop. The weight of the pot will keep the squirrels from being able to get under the chicken wire. This isn’t the most attractive option, but it might be worth it for bulbs that must be outside during the fall and early spring to get enough cold weather.
  • A cheaper option than the chicken wire method for pots with seeds or bulbs would be to put a stick in the pot and then drape clear plastic (like the plastic covering your clothes from the dry cleaners) over the stick and either tuck it under the pot or use duct tape to secure the edges to the sides of the pot. The downsides are (1) plastic all over your balcony is ugly, and (2) it’s difficult to water the pots while you’re waiting for the bulbs or seeds to sprout.
  • I’ve heard that growing tomatoes and other vegetables in one of those upside down pots keeps the frui outside the reach of squirrels.

So…what are your tried and true squirrel deterrents? Anyone out there douse their balcony in wolf pee (yuck!)?

Photo by lesleymcl

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