Container Gardening & Squirrels

Overview

Container gardens represent smaller versions of the more common flower gardens that decorate the home landscape. These smaller gardens experience the same trials as a standard garden bed in the form of pests such as squirrels. Squirrels love to dig and often find the perfect spot in your plant pot to store a nut for the winter. Squirrels don't only dig through container garden soil. Some squirrels will decimate container-grown vegetables in the quest for their next meal.

Significance

Gardens and wildlife go together in the perfect blend depicting nature in the backyard. Sometimes this perfect harmony experiences a major disruption as a squirrel takes a liking to a favorite plant. Planting spring bulbs can result in an abundance of empty holes dotting the flower garden---or worse: no flowers gracing your garden in the spring. Squirrels need to eat and you want a nice landscape. It takes patience and perseverance to find a happy medium.

Types of Damage

Squirrels can wreak havoc on a landscape, attacking bird feeders and upending flowerpots in the never-ending quest for food. Damage usually results in piles of potting soil trailing over the sides of container gardens. Squirrels will pick tomatoes off a container plant vegetable garden before the fruit has the chance to ripen. Even worse, the critter might leave a partially eaten tomato, cucumber or bell pepper right next to the container. Squirrels will gut the expensive coconut-grass liners used in hanging container arrangements while searching for the perfect material to line a nesting site.

Physical Obstructions

Humane treatment is the key to dealing with squirrels plundering a container garden. While you might want to wring the little rodent's neck, your best bet lies in creating a more inviting meal somewhere else. Place corn feeders away from the outdoor living space decorated with your container plants. Protect bulb-type container plants by placing a section of mesh 1/4 inch beneath the soil surface to deter digging. Container displays can be surrounded by mesh wire to deter visiting squirrels bent on damaging your annual flowers. Sometimes simply moving container gardens close to the human living space will discourage squirrels from visiting.

Deterrents

Spraying hot pepper spray on the rims of the container may deter squirrels from climbing on planters. Most humane treatment products use capsaicin from pepper plants as a deterrent. Squirrels intensely dislike the smell and taste of mothballs, so consider using this deterrent to combat the squirrels. Applying any form of repellent to a plant, bulb or seeds requires regular reapplication after watering or rain.

Considerations

Sometimes simply modifying your own behavior will discourage squirrels from trashing your container gardens. Try to plant vegetables that the squirrels won't bother. In some cases, squirrels will munch on full-size tomatoes but ignore cherry tomatoes. Choose daffodil or narcissus bulbs instead of tulips and crocus for your spring container gardens since squirrels tend to dislike this variety of bulb.

Keywords: container garden pests, squirrels, gardens and squirrels

About this Author

Currently studying for her Maryland master gardener certification, Sharon Heron has written professionally since 2006. Her writing includes hundreds of articles on a wide range of topics including gardening, environment, golf, parenting, exercise, finances and consumer how-to articles.