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How To Keep Squirrels Away From Tomato Plants (Safely & Humanely)

Have you ever gone to pick your tomatoes, only to find out your neighborhood squirrels cleaned you out? You are not alone, and today we’ll look at what you can do to keep squirrels away from tomato plants. This is a common problem many gardeners face, but the good news is there are many possible solutions to it. Before you can understand which of these methods is best and how to make them work for your needs, let’s take a look at why this problem exists in the first place. 

Squirrel eating a tomato

Why do squirrels eat tomatoes?

Well, because they are yummy, of course! Squirrels go for your tomatoes because they taste good, but also because they don’t understand the difference between something that is wild and something that belongs to you. They have no way of understanding that they are stealing from you or harming your crops. If it’s outside and accessible to them and they want it, they will take it. It’s just their nature. It’s not meant to be malicious, but it can have a big impact on the success of your tomato plants. 

While squirrels love ripe tomatoes in general, they’ll attack both green and ripe ones if they are thirsty. The moisture inside the tomatoes is a great source of hydration for them. There’s a fairly easy fix for this: just place a water source away from the garden. That way, they won’t be eating tomatoes just because they are thirsty.

Adding a birdbath will do double duty: let the birds bathe and water for the squirrels. Bird baths can also be very decorative and look nice on the lawn or in the garden. That’s a win-win-win all around. Next, let’s look at some other ways to deter them from your plants. 

One reason squirrels are challenging to keep off your plants is that they are natural gymnasts. They are fast, agile, and strong and they can climb up fences, over wires, and squeeze into small spaces too.  If they truly want to get at something, they will find a way. 

How To Keep Squirrels Away From Tomato Plants

So, now you put a water source by your tomatoes, but squirrels are still feasting on your harvest. What else can you do to stop squirrels from eating your tomatoes?

It seems everyone I talk to has a different method they swear by so I decided to just collect all of the answers for you and then you are free to try the ones you want and see what works best for you.

Squirrels from different areas can have varying behaviors and might have different preferences of what they like and what repels them. Some trial and error is perfectly normal and once you find the method that works the best, you’ll be glad you did!

I asked my Facebook followers, and here are some of their ideas: 

  1. solar electric fencing
  2. bird netting
  3. sprinkle hot pepper on them, or Tabasco sauce (cayenne pepper is good too)
  4. hang a plastic owl on a plant hook near the tomatoes: it’ll swing around in the breeze and the squirrels will stay away
  5. cage your tomatoes 
  6. get a Jack Russell Terrier (or another dog): dogs keep all squirrels, deer, and rabbits out of the yard! I think just their scent on the property does wonders.
  7. put out food for them as well as water: they are most likely hungry and especially thirsty with the heat of summer
  8. fence your tomatoes or garden in with 2 ft of one-inch chicken wire
  9. buy cheap feed and/or give them scraps (be careful if you do this: they’ll get used to it and come to expect it)
  10. put dog hair around all  your plants ( I personally don’t like this, as I don’t want dog hair around my food, but may work for others)
  11. place mothballs into an empty plastic water bottle and stand it up close by. They will run away. Animals can’t touch the mothballs and get hurt since they are in a bottle, but the smell deters them. While the mothballs are not on the ground, we don’t actually recommend this method, as rain can drive the moth ball toxins into the ground and affect your crops.

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More ways to prevent squirrels from eating tomatoes

Now, while those are all great suggestions, they’re actually not all you can do. Let’s look at some more ways you can prevent squirrels from eating your tomato plants.

If you have a squirrel problem, you probably want to deal with it fast. They can run through your crops really quickly once they realize a good meal is nearby. The best way to find out which method is going to work for your squirrels is just to try a couple of things and monitor how the squirrels respond. 

Also, do squirrels eat your bird seed from the feeders? Here’s how to keep squirrels away from your birdfeeder.

Placing some noisemakers in your garden is very beneficial.
  • I have a friend who keeps an outdoor radio playing all summer long in his garden. He never has trouble with rabbits, squirrels, and deer.
  • wind chimes are also great noisemakers

Try adding some shiny objects around the garden: pinwheels, metal tape, disposable aluminum baking tins, etc.

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How to Get Rid of Squirrels Naturally

If you’re looking to get rid of your squirrels naturally and without causing them any harm, here are some tips: 

  • Don’t feed them (this makes them come back for more and they don’t understand what is off limits)
  • Use netting to protect your plants
  • Use mulch or something else to cover the ground
  • Be dedicated to monitoring the situation and changing things up, as needed 
  • Get a dog
  • Use companion plants
  • Place plastic fake owls around the property to act as “scarecrows” for the squirrels
  • Use a sprinkler system – they won’t like getting sprayed and they will stay away
  • Use predator urine – you can buy predator urine and pour it around the area, which they will smell and stay away from
  • Place coffee grounds around the individual plants
  • Some people say cat hair makes a good deterrent too

Predator urine as a squirrel repellent can usually be found at your local garden centers. If you have trouble locating it, you can also order online. 

You should also be mindful of your bird feeders. If they are too close to your tomato plants, they may be just drawing in the squirrels. On the other hand, if the squirrels go to the bird feeders instead of your plants, they could be a nice deterrent. Squirrels do like bird seed and sunflower seeds but you have to be careful about intentionally feeding them. They are smart and will come to expect it and you’ll have squirrels chasing you down for seeds every time you come outside. 

Let’s look at a few more squirrel deterrent solutions and if they work. 

Does white vinegar work to keep squirrels away?

Your tomato garden is important to you and you want to keep it safe from predators like squirrels but you don’t want to hurt them. You may have heard about white vinegar and that squirrels hate it and it will keep them away. Does it work? And does it harm your plants?

Squirrels have been shown to hate the smell of cider vinegar so white vinegar or apple cider vinegar can be a good deterrent. You can spray it around your plants, or immerse hardware cloths in it and place them around the plants. Just be aware that too much vinegar can actually kill your plants.

What other animals like to eat tomato plants?

As we talk about keeping the squirrels away, it’s important to note that there are other small animals who like to eat your plants as well. Most of these methods above will also work on the other animals. This may include mice and rats, rabbits, deer, groundhogs (woodchucks), voles, raccoons, chipmunks, and even local birds.

It’s a good idea to learn about all the potential pests in your area so that you can choose a natural way of deterring them that works for them all, not just the squirrels. 

What is a natural deterrent for squirrels?

In general, any strong odor is a natural deterrent for squirrels. That’s why some of the things above on the list have worked so well for people. They don’t like the smell of white pepper, black pepper, or garlic, nor do they like peppermint or other mints.

You can sprinkle some pepper or peppermint oil around your plants and this will often be enough to keep the squirrels at a distance. You can also find commercial repellent sprays that you just spray on. These are often made of chili peppers or have capsaicin of some type in them. If you’re making yourself at home, cayenne pepper will usually do the trick. 

Some gardeners make a concoction of cayenne, paprika, red pepper flakes, any hot peppers, or a combination of other spicy seasonings and spread around the base of the plants with a spray bottle. If you are placing it directly onto your plants, always use food-safe chili pepper spray.

Squirrels have a strong sense of smell and usually, these scents alone are enough to keep them back and away from the plants. 

How do you keep pests off your tomato plants?

Squirrels are not the only problems tomatoes will suffer in your garden. There can also be other pests, and many of the same things that work for squirrels will work for these pests. In addition, there are some diseases or environmental issues that can impact your tomato plant health, too. Check out these common tomato problems and learn how to fix them. 

Conclusions to Keeping Squirrels Away From Tomato Plants

Those pesky squirrels can be hungry critters but they don’t realize they are being a nuisance to you. There are many humane ways to keep them away from your tomato plants without harming them. Squirrel traps are not considered humane and they’re also not very effective because they will just return. At the first sign of squirrel damage, if you deploy one or more of these humane methods, you should be able to get the problem under control before it gets too severe. 

Lots of squirrels might require a bit more work on your part, but it’s worth it when you can all live in peace and your beautiful tomato plants do not get damaged. Is there a method we missed on our list that you would add? Tell us about it in the comments.  

how to keep squirrels away from tomato plants safely and humanely

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Adriana Copaceanu is a passionate nature lover living in the country on her dream property where she grows vegetables, lavender, and wildflowers that she shares with the wildlife they attract. When she's not in the garden, she loves spending time with her chickens and planning her next nature project. Check your her books below:

How to Grow Lavender for Fun and Profit: Lessons Learned from Planting Three Hundred Lavender Plants

How to Raise Chickens for Eggs: A Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens for Nutritious, Organic Eggs at Home

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Common Tomato Plant Problems (and How To Fix Them)

Wednesday 28th of June 2023

[…] I gathered several ideas from my Facebook audience that worked on deterring squirrels from the tomato garden. […]

Susan A.

Wednesday 14th of June 2023

We spray predator repellent around the plants and I also have two bowls of water at the back of our property which keeps them away. Personally, I like squirrels and if humans would take the time to observe them we would realize how smart they are. :)

Al Haase

Friday 23rd of June 2023

@Susan A., When you spend $250 on heirloom tomatoes, only to get your fruit-ALL of your fruit- wiped out in two days, they lose their cuteness. Especially when you have two acres of Hickory and Oak with loads of nuts for them to eat. Not cute…rats with bushy tails.

Backyard Vegetable Garden Ideas

Wednesday 17th of August 2022

[…] How To Keep Squirrels Away From Tomato Plants […]

Jeff

Thursday 4th of August 2022

Thanks, bought a BB gun. Took care of the problem.

Gloria

Sunday 16th of May 2021

Windchimes don't deter the squirrels in my backyard. They climb right past them getting to the bird feeders. I can be within a few feet of them and they just look at me as if to say thanks for the food.

Barb K

Thursday 23rd of September 2021

@Adriana, I tried all the above suggestions and none work.They dig around the dog hair I placed in garden same with mothballs, I kept my radio playing all night only to find squirrels dug up my plant bulbs. I hung aluminum pie pans around my flowers which was a waste of time.The plastic owl idea does nothing. I tried putting netting around my tomatoes, they chewed through the netting and chewed up the tomatoes. Wind-chimes don't work, I have 2 set up in the yard they do not deter squirrels, whoever said squirrels are cute & cuddly is a mystery they are destructive rodents

Adriana

Tuesday 18th of May 2021

If you had the same windchimes for a long time, it's possible they got used to them, and find another way to keep squirrels away.