Garden Pests | Gardening

Eastern Gray Squirrel Damage Prevention in the Garden (Tip: Blood Meal)

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This year seems as though many things are against us, even with gardening! We had a late freeze on Mother’s Day weekend, when historically we are usually planting outside. We’ve finally got some warmer weather, and what happens? Squirrel Damage!

When heading out to the deck today to water our plants, we found seedlings dug up every which way!

Our kale was almost completely uprooted and red beets at first appeared missing but we soon found they were simply buried. It didn’t take me long to discover this all was due to squirrel damage!

Red beet seedlings squirrel damage container

Stumbling Upon Squirrel Damage

After I’d found the squirrel chew marks and uprooted plants, I decided on using blood meal to humanely deter the squirrel.

Lo and behold, later in the afternoon while washing some dishes, I saw an Eastern gray squirrel jump up on the railing of our deck. The squirrel looked down at the kale with his foot thumping wildly.

I’d never seen this behavior before! A quick Google search produced numbers of references citing this squirrel was either angry or fearful.

I’m thinking it’s the former!

Squirrel Damage

After noticing damage in my garden, I went on high alert to watch for pests.

Within moments, the squirrel climbed the tree in the middle of our backyard, inching his way down to my pea plants at the base. I think I prevented quite a bit of squirrel damage with my quick tricks earlier in the day!

The Eastern Gray Squirrel is quite at home in our yard, despite our dog who believes they are mortal enemies. All you have to do is breathe the word “squirrel” and she runs to the door, barking mad.

I realized I was going to need more than her numerous trips outside to keep the squirrels at bay.

Kale in container with squirrel digging inside

Protecting Plants from Eastern Gray Squirrels

With the coronavirus quarantine, I haven’t been able to get out and buy various gardening supplies on demand. I could think of all kinds of ways to shut down squirrel damage in my gardens and pots!

Unfortunately, I was going to have to get creative, because Amazon didn’t have all the gardening stuff I wanted available for shipping.

Blood Meal to Deter Garden Pests

Blood Meal to Deter Squirrels and Garden Pests

Fortunately, I still had some Miracle Grow Blood Meal to apply to the ground surrounding the plants and inside the flower pots. I first sprinkled a bit of blood meal to deter squirrels and other garden pests.

Does Blood Meal Repel Squirrels?

Blood meal is a great deterrent for squirrel damage, bunnies, and other animals that want to eat or destroy your garden. It’s also actually a fertilizer, so you can help your plants even more.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that too much Blood Meal can inhibit flowering and cause other issues for your plants. Use with care!

Protecting Plants with Plastic Fencing

Plastic Gutter Guard as a Garden Pest Barrier

I started some of my small to medium sized garden containers first, so I needed to act quickly to protect the plants from squirrels. I wished with all my heart that I could go to the Dollar Tree to buy some wire baskets and wire wastebaskets to serve as cloches over my young plants.

Sadly, that was not in the cards with the pandemic and quarantine. Instead, I found an ultra cheap alternative!

I ordered Gutter Guard on Amazon for only $4 in a pinch. Boy, was it worth every penny! I was able to get a 6-inch by 20-foot roll of plastic gutter guard to protect many of my plants.

On a rough count, I put gutter guard around at least 10 plants and still have some left. And, I liked it so much that I went back and ordered two more rolls that same day!

It’s easy to cut gutter guard with regular scissors, and you can make it any size you need it to be. I simply reconnect it in a few places with garden plant ties that I’ve also found very handy for helping to train my plants or giving weakened stems a little extra support.

pea plant with pest barrier plastic fencing

Editor’s Note: Since this post first went live, I discovered a Prop 65 warning on the gutter guard. I contacted the company and they informed me that “The cancer warning label is for state of CA only and you have consume/eat about 50 pounds. This product is non toxic.”

As a parent, I was still concerned with questions – what if anything leaches into the soil from the rain or the sun? What if it hurts by touching the plants?

The company assured me this was not the case, but I still intend to only use these for probably one season just to be on the safe side. They also told me “G636 is made of PVC with uv stablizer.”

I have seen people use PVC pipes to stake tomatoes or make trellises. Hopefully this falls into the same category!

I did luck out later in the year with a trip to the Dollar Tree wearing a mask. The Boyertown Dollar Tree did not have any wire wastebaskets, but the one down in Limerick by the Limerick Diner did! I bought 20 black wire wastebaskets for gardening!

I have placed these over top of our new snow pea seedlings. They have done great and even grew to the tops of some of the wire wastebaskets.

Using wire wastebaskets as cloches prevents animals from digging up my plants and eating the roots or the pea seeds. I’m so hopeful our garden will grow despite the Eastern Gray squirrels!

Other Squirrel Damage Tips

In addition to the blood meal and the plastic gutter guard plant barriers, I set out my owl decoy. The garden owl is solar powered to move its head from time to time. I can’t remember which brand I ordered but mine is many years old.

You can find these garden owl decoys across a range of prices on Amazon. I have found it to be helpful in a multi-pronged approach to protecting our garden from pests.

We’ve planted a bunch of marigolds to add a fragrance that squirrels and other garden pests don’t seem to like. My mom has sworn by marigolds for as long as I can remember. Hopefully this will help!

Finally, I also plan to leave some of my dog’s freshly brushed hair in the garden and a bit in each pot. I’ve put hair from a fresh haircut in the garden before and that seemed to help as well. Here’s to hoping these tricks are enough to keep the squirrels out!

Our neighborhood used to have an adorable albino squirrel. For him, I could probably spare a few snacks so my kids could see him up close.

They’ve named the neighborhood albino squirrel “Lucky” and told me it’s actually a she, but we don’t truly know. At any rate, we do enjoy seeing the white squirrel and it would be fun to have that one in our yard.

In the meantime, I’ll be adding the step of protecting each plant that I transplant outside from our trays. Wishing you all luck with your gardens this year! Please feel free to share any other squirrel damage prevention tips in our comments below.

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