Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Phil’s Squirrel Dilemma

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Squirrels in the garden, chipmunks in the garden

Hello fellow readers, Last year, a den of fox provided a reprieve from my chipmunk dilemma. They’re back! – Leaving piles of dirt around the garden pots. But their antics pale in comparison to Phil’s squirrel dilemma in Whitehall, PA, worthy of a standup comedy routine.

a brown chipmunk with cheeks stuffed with nuts

Photo by alex lauzon on Unsplash

Phil asked, “how to discourage a squirrel from eating bulbs and other garden delights? I tried cayenne pepper to no avail. I encountered the squirrel with a broom and was in shock when he started growling at me! Suggestions?”

My comeback, “Hello Phil, I’m chuckling as I envision a growling squirrel. It seems your squirrel likes hot food!”

They say laying chicken wire or black plastic netting over bulbs works. And products with oil of mustard are effective, as is capsaicin, a hot pepper byproduct that deters many pests. Phil’s squirrels may like the taste, though. While I encourage only organic methods of critter control, products with Thiram to soak bulbs in before planting are very effective. Cornell University says it’s not toxic to bees but is to fish, and there’s a myriad of safety warnings and precautions.

a brown squirrel eating a nut on a lawn with fall leaves

Photo by Yiran Yang on Unsplash

Speaking of desperate measures, the Old Farmer’s Almanac lists tips from readers, including piling straw around plants or putting toothpicks in the soil as squirrels don’t like to dig around them. Or, place coarsely crushed oyster shells around bulbs that scratch their feet. Mothballs deter them too, so much for enjoying fragrant flowers. Some say flakes of soap on top of soil work great. It sounds like the Irish Spring soap remedy to deter deer. Plain ugly. The same is true of human or dog hair around your plants.

I read blood meal sprinkled around soil works. At least it’s not unsightly and provides a nitrogen boost for plants. Others suggest bird netting on top of veggies and pots. How about aluminum foil? Thye say squirrels don’t like the reflection. Talk about garden art. Whoa!

I learned squirrels dig up bulbs, not always to eat them but to find a readymade spot to stash nuts. Here I thought planting bulbs they don’t like, such as daffodils (Narcissus), ornamental onions (Allium), snowdrops (Galanthus), and grape hyacinths (Muscari), would work.

Some swear by feeding squirrels corn cobs which keeps them out of the garden, and I’ll bet Rocky the Squirrel made that suggestion. Then there’s a reader who swears by using a shotgun, adding the crows take the carcass. I think he may be onto something, though I challenge him to target a chipmunk.

Last week I checked in with Phil, “Hi Mary, Yesterday, while making dessert, two squirrels were on my screen door, clutching the screen and twitching their noses. I didn’t know they were attracted to chocolate, and I had to go toward the door to get them off. Then I picked up my calico, Lily, and put her near the door. ‘Get the squirrels,’ I yelled. She made eye contact with me and then slowly walked back to her bed. Some watch-cat! I’m ready to call the National Guard!”

Thanks for sharing your antics, Phil. Sometimes the best thing to do about garden dilemmas is to laugh. Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com (and your favorite Podcast App.)

Click through to a previous column on Chipper Control. And, keep smiling.

Column Updated 10/16/21 

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. Diane Dellicker Reply

    Mary, you were right. That IS funny! Thanks for telling me about it earlier. 😀

    • Mary Stone Reply

      Now, shall we chat further about your raccoon dilemma… :^) Thanks Diane!

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