Save my mom's tomatoes from the squirrels
July 28, 2011 5:33 AM   Subscribe

My mother has a squirrel problem. She has a ton of tomato plants and now that they're coming in, the squirrels are picking them and eating part of them. Is there something she can do to save her plants? Note: killing the squirrels is not an option--she would rather not have tomatoes than kill the squirrels.
posted by Kimberly to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is there any reason she can't string nets over the plants? Held up by bamboo poles from the garden centre?
posted by Brockles at 5:44 AM on July 28, 2011

i put a little fence around my tomato plants using vinyl-coated chicken wire (I think-it has small holes. Or you could try bloodmeal, but I don't think it works well.
posted by bolognius maximus at 5:45 AM on July 28, 2011

Response by poster: Squirrels can easily chew through nets (they've completely destroyed multiple bird feeders) so I'm skeptical about a net working. The chicken wire sounds interesting though.
posted by Kimberly at 5:49 AM on July 28, 2011

I've heard anecdotally that spreading something spicy (hot chili powder, or cayenne pepper) in the garden will deter the squirrels.
posted by synecdoche at 5:52 AM on July 28, 2011

My folks built a chicken-wire cage for their fruit bushes, which has kept all but the things which can burrow underneath out.

Extra bonus: they keep chickens in there too, and they eat the bugs off the plants.
posted by greenish at 5:54 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

synecdoche's got it -- use hot red pepper flakes. It makes their paws uncomfortable as they dig. You need to reapply after it rains.
posted by cranberry_nut at 5:57 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've heard in some cases - where the squirrels pick, take a bite and throw to the ground that they are mostly going after the moisture - not the fruit/vegetable.

The farmer's solution is to add a bowl of accessible water near the plants.

I haven't tried this, but its potentially a simple fix...
posted by NoDef at 6:18 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get a dog to scare them away.
posted by thylacine at 6:31 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Get a dog to scare them away."

We have a dog that goes absolutely apoplectic when he sees squirrels in our yard and chases them relentlessly. The squirrels just come back when he's back in the house...
posted by Hanuman1960 at 6:55 AM on July 28, 2011

I have heard that planting a border of marigolds will keep most animals away. Apparently the smell of the marigolds is as noxious to little critters as it is to humans.

A variant on the dog theme is to work some dog hair into the dirt surrounding the tomato plants. That was very effective at keeping rabbits from eating my friend's tulips and I would expect the same principle to apply here.
posted by DrGail at 7:45 AM on July 28, 2011

They sell coyote urine pellets in garden stores for exactly this problem. The smell will scare the beejeezus out of small animals.
posted by dortmunder at 7:49 AM on July 28, 2011

if she wants the squirrels to live, tell her to go buy tomatoes at the farmers market.
posted by k5.user at 7:56 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

The only thing that worked for me was a wire cage. Just used cheap galvanized wire from the hardware store.
posted by balberth at 8:17 AM on July 28, 2011

I had a similar issue but replace tomatoes with broccoli and squirrels with rabbits.
What I did, and worked was using ground weed block. With the weed block tarpish cloth, I inserted wooden stakes and placed the cloth over on each side.

Sucess! No more stripped leaves, and the little bastards have tried jumping over it, but I just adjust the cloth when they try.
posted by handbanana at 8:28 AM on July 28, 2011

Oh staple the cloth to the stakes, I left out that part
posted by handbanana at 8:29 AM on July 28, 2011

Same problem here. I've been using a spray capsicum product (do NOT spray into the wind) and a fox urine pellet product (such a stench...) with minimal to moderate success, right up until you forget to apply it after a rain. Then the tomato apocalypse begins. A neighbor has tried live trapping with nearly zero effect. And while she's eager to trap to keep the poor widdle rats alive, she is too scared to get near a cage with an inmate. Guess who gets the call...

I hatesess the squirrelssss

One of the vendors at the local farmers market suggested taking the little ventilated clear plastic cartons that things like blueberries and strawberries come in, clamping them around the ripening fruit and put a rubberband around it. I'm going to try it for kicks. If nothing else, it should be amusing to watch the squirrels try and break in.

FWIW...I asked her if that's what she did. She laughed, and said "We grow a couple of hundred plants a year. That wouldn't work to well". And then, a bit sheepishly, "when we have a varmint problem, we kill them".
posted by kjs3 at 8:41 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tomato cage. (You might need a tighter mesh on the wire, squirrels are freakishly squishy.)
posted by anaelith at 9:31 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

If the tomato plants are potted, place them on a table and grease the legs of the table. Keep the table away from any jumping off point the squirrels could use.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:34 AM on July 28, 2011

Electric mesh fencing. It keeps raccoons off my baby chicks, so I'm confident it'll keep squirrels of your mother's tomatoes. One inch poultry mesh didn't stop the raccoons, the electric does. Even if it's possible to jump an electric fence, most critters I've seen are so terrified of the inexplicable pain that they won't try.

It's a bit of a pain in the ass and there's stuff to learn and stuff to buy, but the nice folks at Premier 1 (linked above) will talk you through it.
posted by stet at 3:32 PM on July 28, 2011

I would go for the net. It's easy to install and is usually enough of a deterrent. Most squirrels aren't as excited about tomatoes as they are about birdseed.

They sell coyote urine pellets in garden stores for exactly this problem. The smell will scare the beejeezus out of small animals.

Just in case anyone cares: "coyote urine" is a by-product of fur farming of coyote, fox, and mink.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:35 PM on July 28, 2011

« Older The science behind contempt?   |   How does one merge google-map pages? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.