With over 280 species present in North America alone, squirrels can be found around every corner, but these common backyard pests do more than raid bird feeders and bury acorns. Squirrels are known for digging up plant and flower bulbs in gardens to snack on the savory treats, nibbling the buds off spring plants and trees, and devouring underdeveloped vegetables. Fortunately, chemical and trap-wary gardeners have a variety of herbal repellents available.
Because squirrels have extremely sensitive noses, the spicy smell of cayenne pepper will drive them away from plants. Sprinkle dried and powdered cayenne pepper liberally around the edges of your yard, around garden beds and at the base of trees. Hot sauce, chili powder and other spicy alternatives work just as well, but are oftentimes quite a bit more expensive. Fresh peppers also work, but must be be finely chopped before spreading. Use only spicy varieties like jalapenos, as bell peppers will be ineffective. Another perk to using these spicy natural repellents is that plant-destroying rabbits will steer clear of your yard as well.
Similar to Cayenne and other spicy peppers, ground black pepper has a strong scent that will repel squirrels. The fresher the pepper the better, as it will contain a stronger scent and flavor. For best results, use a whole peppercorn grinder to apply ground black pepper to the base of plants and garden beds.
If squirrels are continually emptying your bird feeders and driving birds away, you may wish to mix a few handfuls of safflower seeds into your feeding mix before setting out. Many birds, especially winter varieties like cardinals, enjoy safflower seeds, but the bitter smell and taste will drive away squirrels.
Witch hazel, often referred to as winterbloom, are medium-sized shrubs whose leaves are used in the production of witch hazel astringent. The bark and leaves of witch hazel plants are extremely bitter and tangy, and may drive away squirrels when planted in small gardens. For larger gardens, try spraying witch hazel astringent or extract along the edges of garden beds and trees.
With over a dozen varieties to choose from, including spearmint, peppermint and other easy to grow options, mint is one of the best ideas for those who prefer to grow their squirrel repellent themselves. Mint plants are usually small and unobtrusive, and may be planted around the edges of yards or in between plants that are susceptible to squirrel attacks. If preferred, mint leaves, or mint extracts and oils are available at your local grocery or health food store. Mint oils contain an extremely concentrated scent that will repel squirrels, but may also burn plant roots or stems, and must be used with caution.
Cinnamon and nutmeg, both common pantry spices, contain squirrel repelling abilities similar to that of mint leaves. For best results sprinkle freshly ground cinnamon bark or nutmeg seeds around your yard and garden beds.