Squirrels can be entertaining creatures, but they can cause major damage in a garden if left alone. They dig up flower bulbs, overturn or dig out potted plants, and steal tomatoes and other fruit from the garden. They are notorious for their ability to get into bird feeders and may even gnaw through the siding on your house to take up residence in the attic. Once squirrels are established in your yard, it can be difficult to encourage them to move along, but you can take some measures to discourage them from getting comfortable in the first place.
Protect bulbs in flower beds by laying wire mesh over your flower beds at planting time and covering it with soil or mulch. The wire will discourage squirrels from digging and the flowers will grow through the mesh. Protect potted flowers from digging by cutting a piece of wire mesh to fit inside the container on top of the soil.
Protect individual plants with fences or cages. This method works to protect just the plants the squirrels keep damaging or to stop them stealing your vegetables.
Use taste repellents on plants, trees, fences or anything else the squirrels chew on. Apply repellent to seeds and bulbs before planting to discourage squirrels from digging them up. Reapply repellent periodically or any time it rains. Try cayenne pepper if you don't want to buy commercial repellents.
Make your yard and garden less squirrel-friendly by removing overhanging branches and other access to bird feeders and buildings. Apply tanglefoot or another sticky material to buildings and downspouts to discourage climbing.
Put your feeders on posts protected by baffles, and put them in locations some distance from hanging tree branches or other structures squirrels can use to bypass the baffles. Squirrels that find their way into your garden will be encouraged to stay if they can gain easy access to bird feeders in your yard.
Offer an alternative food source in a specific area away from your garden. Give the squirrels their own feeder stocked with corn or nuts to distract them from bulbs and other garden plants. Keep in mind, however, that offering food this way may attract more squirrels to your yard. Try it only if the other methods fail.
Trap and remove the squirrels as a last resort. Bait a live trap with peanuts, peanut butter or apple slices and tie the door open for two to three days to allow the squirrels time to get accustomed to feeding in the trap. Set the trap and check it twice daily. Remember that if you plan to relocate squirrels you will have to get permission from the property owner. You may have to trap several squirrels before you notice any change in activity levels or damage.