Growing your own veggies is a rewarding pastime, and there’s nothing worse than seeing the fruits of your labor destroyed by some greedy squirrel. Unfortunately, this is all too common a problem. Squirrels will nibble away at all kinds of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and berries, including pumpkins!
But why are they so hell-bent on destroying your veggie garden, and is there anything you can do to protect your pumpkins?
Why are squirrels eating my pumpkins?
According to some, squirrels don’t even like pumpkins. So why are they eating them?
It’s all to do with the seasonal habits of squirrels, and how they prepare for winter. Lots of squirrel species hunker down in their nests over winter, and some hibernate for months at a time. To survive through months of sleep, squirrels rely on their fat stores for sustenance. A skinny squirrel won’t make it to New Year so, during fall, squirrels get to work bulking up.
This means stuffing their faces with anything they can get their paws on. They may not preferentially eat pumpkins, but in areas where their preferred food sources (often seeds or nuts) are scarce, they’ll make do with what’s available.
How to keep squirrels away from your pumpkins
Provide an alternative food source
If squirrels are eating your pumpkins, it’s probably because there aren’t a lot of alternative food sources in the area.
If you don’t mind having squirrels in your backyard (as long as they leave your pumpkins alone) you could consider setting up a squirrel feeder. Or, you could leave a selection of treats on the opposite side of your garden to lure them away from your pumpkins.
Providing them with something tastier than pumpkins (like peanuts, crackers, or apple slices) may cause them to lose interest in your veggie patch altogether.
Use a squirrel repellent
If you’d rather keep squirrels out of your garden altogether, a feeder may not be the answer.
Instead, try spraying your pumpkins with a squirrel repellent to discourage them from feasting on your veggies.
Ready-made squirrel repellent can be bought in stores, and usually has a pungent odor that sends squirrels running.
Alternatively, you can whip up your own concoction at home!
Squirrels don’t like spicy food, so hot pepper is often the chief ingredient in homemade squirrel repellents. You can use cayenne pepper, hot sauce, or liquified hot peppers to give your spray the kick it needs. Once you’ve chosen your spice, mix it with enough water to make a liquid. Then, add a drop of dish soap or vegetable oil to help the solution stick to your pumpkins.
Finally, pour the lot into a spray bottle and get to work spritzing every inch of your pumpkins. The spicy smell and flavor should discourage squirrels from taking a bite!
Scare them off with predator scents
Squirrels are prey animals and are frightened of anything that might eat them, including dogs, coyotes, and even cats. Scattering dog or cat hair around your pumpkins can, therefore, help to keep squirrels from eating them, as they’ll naturally avoid any area that smells of a predator.
The urine of certain predator species (like red fox or coyote) is also known to effectively repel squirrels. Spraying fox pee around your pumpkin patch can protect it from squirrels, but this may not be the most desirable option if you’re planning on eating the pumpkins yourself.
Install an owl decoy
Squirrels are also afraid of owls, and you can use this to your advantage! Installing an owl decoy near your pumpkin patch may be enough to frighten squirrels away from the area.
Slather your pumpkins with petroleum jelly
Another way to protect your pumpkins from squirrels is to cover them in petroleum jelly. A thick coating of goo can make pumpkins less appetizing to squirrels, as they don’t like chewing through the sticky, slimy jelly.
For added protection, use a petroleum jelly-based vapor rub, as the strong odor can further help to repel squirrels.
Use motion-detector lights and sprinklers
You can also discourage squirrels from attacking your pumpkins by startling them into submission. The sudden bright glare of a motion detector light can help to scare night time visitors away from your pumpkins, and may also help to protect them from squirrels.
Motion detector sprinklers also exist and will fire a jet of water at any squirrel that triggers the sensor. The blast isn’t strong enough to injure them, but will hopefully frighten them away from your pumpkin patch once and for all.
Does hairspray keep squirrels away from pumpkins?
You may have heard that hairspray can keep squirrels away from your pumpkins, and many people claim this method works well.
Spray your pumpkins all over with a thick layer of hairspray until they’re sticky to the touch and gross to chew on, and squirrels won’t go anywhere near them.
Pumpkins may not be a squirrel’s favorite food, but that won’t stop them from plundering your patch as they fatten up for winter. Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to keep squirrels away from your pumpkins.
Coating your pumpkins with something unappetizing (like spicy pepper, sticky hairspray, or slimy petroleum jelly) can be an effective way to protect them from tiny teeth. Predator scents can also scare squirrels out of your backyard, and surrounding your pumpkins with dog hair or pee may keep them safe from attack. Finally, motion detector sprinklers and lights can frighten squirrels (and other wildlife species) away from your patch.