Squirrels perch adorably on that fine fence line between entertainment and nuisance. While a welcome sight for many, many gardeners will already be aware of the trail of subtle destruction squirrels leave behind.
Today, we’re exposing the garden squirrel. We’ll look at its good and bad side, examining all angles and figuring out why they do what they do – let’s get to it!
Starting with the good
Squirrels are nature’s gardeners
First and foremost, we think it pertinent to give Squirrels their dues. Squirrels have a significant ecological role, and they play it exceedingly well.
The natural play unfolds as follows:
Scampering from pillar to post, they pick up nuts and seeds along the way. Some eat them directly, others store them in their cheeks, and our squirrel of the moment? Well, they store it in the ground, burying it for later use. Fortunately for us, squirrels have a lacking memory. So plenty of the treasure gets left behind, only to spurt, grow, and blossom into the beauty of nature.
We do acknowledge, however, that this spontaneous growth can be quite the headache if your aim is a prim and proper garden.
A fun fact: Squirrels have been known to stage fake nut burials to divert potential nut thieves.
Squirrels are nature’s exterminators
Another reason to love your backyard squirrels is that they hoover up insects. Ground squirrels are primarily omnivores. They mainly munch on plant-based foods like nuts, berries, flowers, and acorns, However, they also eat insects and the occasional small vertebrate. So, while you’ve probably heard the rumors that squirrels are pests, they’re really doing pest control.
Squirrels are friendly
Very few wild animals feel comfortable approaching humans. On the other hand, Squirrels can be convinced to even out of a person’s hand on occasion. This friendliness makes for a nice garden guest (or visitor), adding a touch of charm and excitement to all setups.
Squirrels are Adorable
Did you know that squirrels can consume their entire bodyweight (4lbs) in one week? And they do it often, especially around the wintertime. So, as you can guess, the result is a pudgy, well-rounded one that spends most of its time sleeping, only popping out now and then for you to snap a glimpse (or photo!)
Bird Feeders Beware
While squirrels can be intrepid explorers, it just so happens that most of their endeavors have one clear destination – the bird feeder. For these little critters, it’s a delightfully easy source of sustenance. And while you can’t always be there to shoo squirrels away from their bird feed buffet, you can set up some deterrents.
One being suspended, bird feeders. Squirrels find it hard to perch themselves comfortably on these feeders, making it nigh-on impossible for them to get their little paws on some seedy goodness. But that doesn’t always stop them. You can put an end to their tight-rope walking excursions by tying an impediment (plastic bottle or paper) to the rope, preventing squirrels from reaching the feeder.
If you have a bird feeder attached to a pole or tree, a downward cone surrounding the pole or trunk should do the trick.
Moreover, squirrels hate the scent of garlic, onions, peppermint, cinnamon, lemongrass, and clove – use this information wisely!
Note: you might have heard of the Vaseline trick for deterring squirrels. This is not a recommended strategy as both squirrels and birds could be harmed.
Looking at a squirrel, you’d never imagine it could fell a whole tree. However, their tiny claws and razor-sharp teeth can do a lot of damage. In their search for food, squirrels will pry open cracks in the bark, chew it up, and feast on the nutritious sap underneath. That’s bad news for trees, seeing that they need the sap (and bark) to survive. Moreover, squirrels are the enemy of growing twigs, biting them off and stunting their growth. But really, it’s no harm. Likened to tip-pruning, it’s just another expression of squirrels’ gardening tendencies.
A diminishing effect
Looking at their preferred menu, it seems that no part of a garden is free from the threat of the squirrel. Some of their favorites are flower buds, bulbs, fruits, and vegetables. Over time, as squirrels munch their way through your garden, you may notice less growth and widespread damage.
A holey show
Squirrels need special caches to hide their nuts in, especially in the run-up to Winter. As they use their tiny claws to dig out storage, grass, seeds, and roots are destroyed in the process. All of this small-scale landscaping makes for a rather disheveled garden that could do with some TLC.
If you have decking or any other outdoor wooden furniture feature – you’ll want to hear this. Like rabbits, squirrels’ teeth never stop growing. As a result, they need to wear them down regularly, much like we trim our nails. However, Squirrel’s favorite choice of trimmer when their diet of nuts just isn’t doing the job is, yes, you guessed it – wood. And they don’t care what type of wood it is. So, your wooden benches, chairs, or decking could all be at risk of getting a little chewed up.
Attention: squirrels have also been known to chew through outdoor cables. This isn’t good news for them or your lights.
Now that you know the pros and cons of having squirrels in your backyard, you might be wondering how to welcome or unwelcome them. We have the short and sweet answer here:
How to attract squirrels
- Hang corn cobs from tree branches or place them around the garden.
- Make bird feeders accessible (or buy a squirrel feeder) and fill them with squirrel-friendly food (walnuts, hickory nuts, and acorns.)
- Scatter sunflower seeds or other such seeds around the garden.
- Consider setting out trays of sunflower seeds, unroasted peanuts, or field corn kernels for them to eat.
- Plant Orange Blossoms – squirrels are attracted to the scent of the compound indole, which just so happens to be abundant in Orange Blossoms.
How to repel squirrels
- Be diligent about cleaning up fallen nuts, acorns, and berries.
- Consider getting a dog.
- Turn up their noses by using scents they dislike such as coffee, garlic, onion, and peppermint.
Many gardeners have quarrels with squirrels – and for good reason. However, squirrels also have their good side, redeeming themselves with their overall eco-friendly and generally friendly nature. That said, on a smaller scale, they can certainly enact their share of damage and chaos. At the end of the day, it’s every gardener’s choice whether or not their garden is a squirrel-free or squirrel-filled zone – choose wisely!