How can I gently discourage squirrels from harvesting any young apples or especially strawberries?
Neither the apple tree or strawberry are especially plentiful, but my family and I were hoping to see fruit grow and ripen. Alas, these neighbourhood squirrels are using our semi new plants as their buffet.
Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners with your question.
I understand how you want to protect your harvest from squirrels. It could be a long battle and you may have to use different strategies. Here are some ideas to keep the squirrels away from your apple trees and strawberries.
Pets: A dog or cat is a great squirrel chaser if that’s an option. Keep a dog or a cat outside as much as possible during the daylight hours.
Wire mesh: Consider protecting your garden with a wire fence and make sure it is buried about a foot into the ground, so the squirrels can’t dig under it. However, some gardeners swear by a simple fence made from very fine plastic mesh. It is so flimsy that squirrels seem to have great difficulty climbing up it.
Netting: you may wish to invest in some netting and put that over your plants—just as you would invest in bird netting for berry bushes.
Mulch: You can actually mulch around the plants. There is something about the feel of the mulch that squirrels don’t seem to be a big fan of.
Fruit trees: A special “squirrel baffle” is designed to fit around the trunk of a tree and make it difficult for squirrels to climb the tree. The problem with this method is that squirrels will very easily hop from one tree to the next even if the branches are a few feet apart. You’d have to baffle every tree in the area for this to be even remotely effective.
Plants: plant nasturtiums, marigolds, and mustard as a border around your vegetable garden; these plants have an unpleasant aroma. Squirrels don’t enjoy the minty flavor or aroma. Consider planting some mint to keep them at bay. Mint is excellent with strawberries.
Things in Motion: A motion-sensitive sprinkler can also keep wildlife out of small areas. The movement of garden pinwheel decorations, old compact discs or pie plates in the wind may deter squirrels from digging in your garden beds. However, squirrels can become accustomed to all kinds of sounds, noise and movement. Rotating your use of these deterrents may prolong their effectiveness.
Decoy Predators: Fake owls, snakes and other predator decoys may help to deter squirrels from your yard, at least for a little while. Look for decoy models that involve some movement, as these will look more threatening to potential prey animals. Frequently changing the location of your decoys may also make them more effective.
Repellent: If you would like to just spray something that you can purchase at the store that will simply deter squirrels from your property, then you can actually purchase squirrel repellent.
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