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How to Stop Squirrels Digging up Your Flowers and Plants

Nell loves gardening and is often found with her hands in the dirt on her small balcony, potting and seeding her new plants and flowers.

How to stop Squirrels digging up plants

How to stop Squirrels digging up plants

Signs that Squirrels have been Digging out Your Flower Pots

I love the little fella's but they can be a real pain where potted plants are concerned. You only get to see the end result when you check on your plants, and there are huge holes in the dirt.

The trouble is because our balcony is made from concrete and glass, it's very easy for the squirrels to climb up, dig the hole and scoot back down the wall and back up the tree.

Now that Spring is on its way the fight between man and squirrel is about to start. Many times we have stepped out onto the balcony only to find the flowers strewn on the ground, and dirt flung up at the door.

If you look carefully you will probably see a few nuts hidden in the pot where the squirrel has placed them for Winter.

In Britain we only have tree Squirrels, not ground squirrels, unlike the USA, so these do not hibernate like the ground squirrel. And this is where the problems lie.

Throughout October through to December, our squirrels are literally rushing around searching for food.

And a very good place to hide them.

Trouble is, they have very good memory capacity. So if they bury a nut in October, you can bet they will remember where they put it, and come to dig it back up in February.

Squirrels can find food that is buried beneath a foot of snow. And did you know? Their front teeth never stop growing!

How to Stop them Digging holes

  • Cover the surface with stones or rocks. You can buy loads of different colors from the garden center.
  • Place sticks upright in the pot to deter the squirrel. They won't like the points and it should put them off.
  • Chicken wire or something similar is a great idea. In fact, we did this last year. It works but can be a bit of a pain when you need to plant, or just check on seedlings. But it does work. Unless you have very determined squirrels as we have. But so far, so good.
  • Sprays can be made out of hot pepper and add either a small amount of washing up liquid or egg so that the spray stays on the plant. It won't hurt the plant, but the squirrel will hate the smell.
  • Unlike the rest of us, squirrels don't like coffee! Sprinkle the grounds around the plant and then top up with a layer of dirt.
  • Bone meal. Sounds revolting? Well yes, but it does work. It is made from the blood of cows or pigs. I am sure your local butcher can help. And of course, it is great for the plant as it acts as compost.

British Red and American Grey - Squirrels in Britain

red and grey squirrels

red and grey squirrels

Squirrels are great for the environment purely because half of the buried nuts are left behind or forgotten, which then grow into trees.

Remove Anything That Squirrels Will Eat or Use

A few years ago, I placed an old mattress out on the balcony to be collected. I came downstairs one morning and noticed two squirrels sitting on top of it, pulling and tugging out the lining!

There was pink and blue wool everywhere. They were obviously going to use it to make their drey. It did look very cute, but the problem was after that they were constantly clambering up onto the balcony to see what else they could take.

Squirrels are very intelligent and inquisitive. Once they have you in their sights it's very hard to get rid of them.

So make sure you do not leave food, cloth, or anything else outside that will attract them.

One of the best ways to keep squirrels at bay is Outdoor Sensor Lights. There are loads to choose from, and they don't have to look out of place. I recently bought a Dusk to Dawn Sensor Outdoor Wall Lantern.

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It looks amazing and definitely works to stop the squirrels in their tracks. And the added bonus is that the Lantern looks so cute on my balcony.

Sensor Outdoor Lamp

I just bought this, it is so nice on the wall next to my back balcony door!

I just bought this, it is so nice on the wall next to my back balcony door!

My Night Time Balcony with Sensor Light

Photo taken from next door. Night light sensor. This is a smaller version, as I am still waiting for the large one

Photo taken from next door. Night light sensor. This is a smaller version, as I am still waiting for the large one

Are Squirrels Protected? Yes and No.

Over here in Britain, we have two species of squirrel. The red and the Grey. Because the grey squirrel is an invasive pest according to British Wildlife, if one is caught it can be despatched by a professional. In plain English, the poor little blighter gets killed. I know, maybe I am soft but I personally have a problem with that.

On the other hand, the red squirrel is protected purely because it is rare to find one in Britain, apart from a few selected areas that have been chosen for them to live safely.

I remember red squirrels when I was a child, but sadly I haven't seen one up close for many years, but you can find them as I mentioned in various hot spots. These are mainly in Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Wight, England.

British Red Squirrel

red squirrel

red squirrel


Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Nell Rose


Nell Rose (author) from England on June 12, 2020:

LOL Ah bless! I love squirrels! Thanks Suzanne.

Suzanne Sheffield from Mid-Atlantic on June 12, 2020:

At last count I had nine of the little bastards running around in my garden.

Nell Rose (author) from England on February 19, 2020:

Hi Char, really? I have never ever seen a black squirrel! I don't think we have them over here. Shame, lol!

Char Milbrett from Minnesota on February 19, 2020:

I live in southern Minnesota, and I have large grey squirrels, and there are little red ones, but in November I was in Duluth, and they are black...

Nell Rose (author) from England on February 19, 2020:

Thanks Denise, yes red squirrels are rare over here these days. I remember when I was small there were loads of them. Thanks for reading.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on February 18, 2020:

This is good information. I had no idea about the red squirrel being scarce. Around here we have grey squirrels but there is so much space for them that even in the cities they mostly stay out of the garden.



Nell Rose (author) from England on January 14, 2020:

Thanks Nithya, always good to see you.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 14, 2020:

Lol! Yes maybe we should! Thanks as always Peggy.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 14, 2020:

Lol! They have good taste then Shauna! I love Pineapple!

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 14, 2020:

Thanks Brenda, yes all these help. Especially the lights that I installed, magic! lol!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on January 11, 2020:

Useful tips for keeping squirrels from digging up flowers and plants, thank you for sharing.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 11, 2020:

We have many large old established trees in our neighborhood and we have loads of squirrels. They are cute to watch. We just put up with the occasional plant that is disrupted by their digging. The main problem is digging out all of the little oak trees that they keep planting. It keeps us exercising! I guess we should thank them? Ha!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on January 10, 2020:

Nell, I have gray squirrels on my property. Lots of them! I don't mind them and they know it; they're not afraid to eat acorns that have dropped on my lawn, while I watch. However, they love my pineapples and that does bother me. I have to keep a close watch on them to be sure I can harvest them before the squirrels do! Even so, if I only lose one or two out of seven or eight, I can tolerate the squirrels treating themselves to the luscious fruit.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on January 09, 2020:


We have lots of squirrels here in the United States.

I love watching them and the black ones are really cute.

But I do hate it when they get into my flowers. They do seem to have quite the memory.

I have tried coffee grounds and this works reall great. But after a few days or especially if it rains, you must put fresh coffee grounds on them.

Thanks for sharing your article.

Lots of great advice.

Good write.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 09, 2020:

Thanks Dora, always good to see you.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 08, 2020:

Have seen only grey squirrels and I love them too. They're not in the Caribbean, else I would follow your plan to keep them from digging. Very helpful.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 08, 2020:

Yes, they stay here winter and summer. I only have to feed them a bit of meat and I get at least 30 wizzing around my head! lol! we are very lucky. There is one that lives in the tree just out the back, and when I open the door to go on my balcony it starts yelling! I call him the watcher. Thanks for coming back.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on January 08, 2020:

You have kites? How exciting. We had a pair of them that were flying around the village last spring and summer. My husband says they're endangered and it was rare to seem them. I tried to get photos but they had the most annoying habit of showing up when I didn't have my camera to hand and nowhere to be seen when I did. Typical. I've not seen them for since September. I hope they appear again this spring. They're beautiful to watch as they soar past. Don't know if the other birds in the area agree as I don't see or hear them when the kites show up. lol

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 08, 2020:

Could be Zulma. We have so many where I live, up the tree, in the allotments and so on. They live in one tree, Red Kites live in the rest. At least they don't try to eat the squirrels as they are too big! lol

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 08, 2020:

Hi Linda, I love them to bits! lol! I just want my plants too, so its a friendly 'get off' lol!

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 08, 2020:

lol! Thanks Char!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on January 08, 2020:

Thank for the reply, Nell. We don't have trees in our garden but our neighbour has a couple of apple trees in his yard and a small hazelnut tree growing against the fence we share. Perhaps that's where it's hiding out.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 07, 2020:

Squirrels live near my home. I think I've been lucky, but they haven't bothered me or my garden. I'm sorry that you're having problems with the animals, Nell. Thank you for being kind to them, despite their effects!

Char Milbrett from Minnesota on January 07, 2020:

Sorry....well, it was my co-workers wit... There are people, in private homes, that care for those that cannot take care of themselves...

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 07, 2020:

I haven't seen one in Bucks either Diana, but yes I do love the squirrels, just not in my pots, LOL! thanks as always.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 07, 2020:

Thanks Char, private homes? not sure what you mean? But thank you.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 07, 2020:

Thanks Devika, glad you liked it.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 07, 2020:

lol! Thanks Bill, I feed them too, can't help it, lol!

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 07, 2020:

Hi Zulma, if she has trees around then yes it probably is caused by a squirrel, it seems that they do it everywhere. Thanks as always.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 07, 2020:

What a lovely idea MG Singh! I love that. thank you.

Diana Grant from United Kingdom on January 07, 2020:

I love watching squirrels in the trees just beyond our garden, but don't encourage them to come near the house. We used to keep bird seed our garden shed, and the dear little squirrels actually managed to rip out part of the door to gain access and eat the seed. We had to put in a new door. They also steal the seed put out in our hanging bird feeders. These are all grey squirrels, as they have taken over from the red squirrels round London where I live. I haven't seen a red squirrel in this area for about 40-50 years.

Char Milbrett from Minnesota on January 07, 2020:

Well, here in Minnesota, we just talk to ours and say, "Hairy, (the squirrels name) now Hairy. We would really appreciate it if you would just stop this digging."

That usually works. Someone just pointed out that you have to be gentle, as squirrels

Tend to be a little sensitive. You can tell which squirrels have been dealt with ruffly, as most end up in private homes, being cared for on an individual basis's sad, really sad, when you know that squirrels, when managed in a thoughtful manner, will be very cooperative.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 07, 2020:

Hi Nell I have squirrels that pick our walnuts and don't have a problem with them digging up my garden. Your tips are useful and wildlife is full of surprises.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 07, 2020:

We have a neighbor who feeds them. Needless to say, our neighborhood has a squirrel problem, and they drive our dogs crazy. lol

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on January 07, 2020:

Now, this is interesting. My daughter uses pots to plant her vegetables in early spring. (The soil in our garden is clay-based so not ideal for anything except grass and flowers.) I've occasionally found the odd plant that looked as if it had been torn out. I had always put it down to really strong winds but now you've got me wondering if it might be a squirrel. The only ones I've encountered are in the park, but that's about a mile away. Would they travel that far? I'm going to suggest my daughter try some of your suggestions when she starts planting again.

Thanks for the info and have a lovely day.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 06, 2020:

This is a wonderful article. Squirrels are very gentle creatures and mention is made of them in the Ramayana, where the God Ram had caressed a squirrel and its stripes on its back was because of him.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 06, 2020:

Thanks Pamela, I love them, but it's my other half that keeps moaning about them, lol! thanks for reading.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 06, 2020:

Thanks Tim, yes I would never hurt them, just watching them climb up the tree and chase each other is fascinating. I have just sent off for another sensor lamp so that should sort it.

Nell Rose (author) from England on January 06, 2020:

Wow Flourish, I would imagine it would be really upsetting. I am glad you figured out how to stop it. And yes, I love my squirrels but they can be a pain with the plants, lol!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 06, 2020:

We have some squirrels but they are not a problem most of the time. They did get in my bird feeder for a while but we moved it and the problem stopped. You made a lot of good suggestions if squirrels are a problem.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on January 06, 2020:

Great article, Nell. Interesting about the coffee grains. We do use bone meal on our flowers, too. Our best tool for controlling squirrels has been our three little doggies. They chase them out of the yard and up trees. We don't let the dogs kill them if we can help it. They are around here all year round and tend to be friendly. But they are smart like you wrote. Thanks for another well written and researched article. Peace be with you.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 06, 2020:

I feed the little boogers good birdseed rather than fight them. Because of territoriality they will only permit so many competitor squirrels within their turf. They are fun to watch and I feel sorry for them because many young squirrels actually starve during winter months.

This is odd but human urine repels unwanted wildlife (possums, raccoons, squirrels, deer, etc.). Occasionally you must reapply it. You really have to wonder at that point whether it’s worth it especially if it’s flower pots!?! I did this one time when something kept digging up my dead cat in my yard. (He was deep enough but something kept digging his body up. It compounded the grief.). I am confident it was no squirrel who did this. Pee totally worked and my deceased pet could then Rest In Peace.

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