Admittedly, squirrels are cute, bushy-tailed rodents, but they can destroy vegetable crops like tomatoes. If you've ever found a little bite mark on one of your fresh tomatoes, it's definitely a squirrel.
The havoc caused by squirrels on tomatoes necessitates this article on how to keep squirrels out of tomatoes. Various techniques can be employed to keep squirrels out of tomatoes ranging from hot pepper spray on tomato plants to predator urine and owl sculptures.
Read on as we discuss some effective techniques that can be used to keep squirrels from destroying your tomato plants.
Signs Squirrels Are Eating Tomatoes
When thirsty, animals consume garden produce. Some of the animals include deer and rabbits. How then do you differentiate when these animals feed on your tomatoes and when squirrels feed on them?
Well, for one, A tomato with big holes nibbled on one side indicates squirrel damage. A squirrel may devour a full tomato, but they usually eat numerous tomatoes, destroying them all.
Also, you may see little holes in your garden or neighboring containers where a squirrel has dug.
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How To Keep Squirrels Out of Tomatoes
Yes, your dog might just be what you need to keep the annoying squirrels at bay. Chasing squirrels is in a dog's nature, and your dog will thus naturally chase squirrels away from your garden.
Consider teaching your dog to bark at squirrels instead of chasing them if you fear it will escape your yard or injure squirrels.
Alternatively, consider using your dog's fur if you don't want your dog running around in your garden chasing squirrels.
Dog’s fur naturally repels gophers, chipmunks, squirrels, groundhogs, deer, and skunks. Thus, when you brush your dog's coat, save the fur and put it near your tomatoes.
2. Hot Pepper Spray
Many gardeners swear that hot pepper spray can be used to keep squirrels at bay. Squirrels dislike the taste and smell of capsaicin - the key ingredient in chili peppers.
To make your hot pepper spray, get 10 cayenne peppers, a gallon of water, garlic cloves, and a spray can.
Chop the cayenne peppers in a large pot (both seeds and skins), then add water and garlic cloves. Boil the mixture for like 10 minutes, then transfer to a spray bottle. Spray around the garden's perimeter and on plant foliage.
Note that capsaicin can cause significant skin inflammation. Thus, when making this mixture, avoid getting hot pepper near your eyes, nose, or mouth and also keep it out of reach from children and pets.
3. Provide an Alternative Food Source for The Squirrels
If you can't keep squirrels out of your garden, then try keeping them out of your tomato plants. If a squirrel sees a bird feeder full of nuts and seeds, it may choose that over your vegetables.
If you don't want squirrels eating your bird food, you can buy a squirrel-specific feeder or make decoy food stations. Nutty, carrot, spinach, bean sprout, and celery are healthy squirrel treats.
Consider planting their preferred trees (oak, beech, sweet chestnut, and hazel) in your yard for a more sustainable alternative food source.
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4. Owl Sculptures
Have you heard of gardeners using scarecrows to deter birds? Well, owls are a better decoy for squirrels. This is because owls and other raptors prey on rodents.
Note that employing fake owls to dissuade squirrels requires frequent moving since squirrels being smart animals, can easily deduce that the owl sculpture is just a decoy.
5. Predator Urine
Well, here is a fun fact about squirrels: they have acute senses. In fact, they can smell a female in heat a mile away. This strong sense of smell helps them to avoid predators.
Now, this strong sense of smell can be used to your advantage when you spray actual predator urine around your garden. Fox and coyote urine is widely available in garden centers. Weekly and always after a rain, spray the scent throughout your garden.
6. Consider Fencing/Caging Your Tomato Plants
To protect your tomatoes from squirrels, instead of searching the internet for the best method to deter them, you should simply fence them in.
There is a simple DIY project that you may do to cage your vegetable crops. Build single cages to protect individual plants or larger cages to cover a small bed depending on the size of your garden and the number of tomato plants you have.
To build a cage for your tomato plant, you will need 6 feet of wire hardware cloth, pliers, stakes, twist ties or string, and 6 feet of bird netting.
Start by digging a 6-inch-deep ring around the tomato seedling, then roll the hardware cloth into a circle. Using pliers, loop the cut end strands into the wire squares on the other end to keep the circle shape.
Place the circular fence around tomato seedling, packing soil against the fence to secure it.
Place a small stake beside the fence and fasten it with twine or twist ties.
Cover the hardware cloth cage with bird netting and secure it with twist ties or string.
7. Companion Plants
Instead of using predator urine or cayenne pepper tea to dissuade squirrels, maybe it’s time to plant some squirrel-repelling plants. Plants like mint, marigolds, nasturtiums, and mustard are said to repel rodents.
Thankfully, these plants mentioned are terrific tomato companion plants, and they'll add to your homegrown feast. Note that mint is a spreader. It follows that if planted with tomatoes, it will quickly take over the whole bed.
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No squirrel wants to get wet trying to eat a tomato, and this is exactly why you need a sprinkler in your garden. Sprinklers act as pest deterrents, and thus squirrels will learn not to enter your garden if they see a motion-activated trap.
A swarm of squirrels may raise your water bill, but your tomatoes will thank you.
9. Remove Squirrel Attractions
One method for controlling and eliminating squirrels from your garden is to remove all of the things that draw them there in the first place.
Squirrels are attracted to garbage cans and food scraps and thus will swarm into your yard if you've opened garbage cans and food scraps all over your yard.
If you prefer to leave your garbage cans outside, make sure they are securely closed. Also, squirrels are attracted to bird feeders! It is better not to put out bird feed if you have ripening tomatoes.
Lastly, squirrels are drawn to trees such as acorn trees and other nut-bearing plants. It would be a good idea to replace these nut-bearing bushes somewhere else to remove the squirrels' interest.
10. Motion Sensor Lights
These lights, like the sprinkler system, will switch on as soon as they detect movement. However, this is not the most successful strategy because it only works at night, and many squirrels are active during the day.
Place a handful of mothballs in a container near your tomato crop. Don't worry; squirrels do not consume mothballs, but rather the smell of the mothballs alone is enough to keep the squirrels away.
12. Lastly, Extra Tomatoes
Luckily, tomatoes are easy to care for. Thus, if all the techniques discussed above fail, assume that squirrels will take half of your tomatoes and plant extras to compensate for the loss.
Plant twice as much as you would for yourself (triple if you have a deer problem, too).
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