How to Keep Ground Squirrels Out of Your Garden

Last Modified on January 16, 2024 by Zachary Smith

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Ground squirrels destroy gardens by eating and damaging plants and ruining seedlings.

For over 15+ years, we’ve helped homeowners in the San Francisco Bay Area eliminate burrowing pests.

In this blog, we provide our top tips to keep squirrels out of your garden for good.

8 Ways to Keep Ground Squirrels Out of Your Garden

ground squirrel yard damage

Want to get rid of ground squirrels in your garden? Follow these smart tips to keep them out:

Natural Deterrents and Repellents

Natural deterrents and repellents can be effective options to keep ground squirrels out of high-interest areas.

1. Pepper Spray

Capsaicin-based deterrents are excellent, non-toxic ways to eliminate ground squirrels without killing them.

To make your own capsaicin repellent, soak red pepper flakes in hot water for 12 hours. Add a bit of dish liquid and more water and strain the mixture into a spray bottle.

Spray the plants and leaves you want to keep ground squirrels away from in your garden.

Pros: Affordable, easy to make and use, non-toxic, safe for use in vegetable gardens

Cons: May cause irritation for pets, kids, and non-target species, must be reapplied regularly

2. Predator Urine

Since ground squirrels are prey animals, predator urine can be an effective repellent. Don’t worry, though – you don’t have to go out and source it yourself.

Today, you can purchase fox and coyote urine at most home improvement stores.

For best results, apply the predator urine as a barrier around any garden area you want to protect.

Pros: Safe, effective, non-toxic, suitable for households with kids and pets

Cons: Must be reapplied after heavy rain or watering

3. Thiram

Thiram is an organic disulfide commonly used as a fungicide to prevent crop damage.

It can also, however, be used as an effective repellent for ground squirrels.

To use thiram as a repellent, look for a store-bought, thiram-based repellent that you can spread around your yard, garden, and other areas you’d like to protect.

Be sure to follow all label directions carefully.

Pros: Humane, non-toxic, easy to use

Cons: Must be reapplied regularly

Physical Barriers & Exclusion Techniques

garden mesh fencing

If you want to keep ground squirrels out of your garden, physical barriers and exclusion tactics are some of the most effective methods you can use. Here’s what we recommend:

4. Bury Galvanized Hardware Cloth

If you’re considering planting a new garden, bury galvanized hardware cloth in the ground first.

For best results, look for ½” hardware cloth that will also protect against larger digging pests, like skunks and gophers.

Bury the mesh under the entire area of your garden before laying topsoil over the top of it. This will prevent ground squirrels from digging up into your garden from beneath.

Pros: Effective, long-lasting, non-toxic, safe for kids and pets, will also deter other pests

Cons: Labor-intensive, not ideal for implementation in existing gardens

5. Install Fences Around Individual Plants

Want to protect individual plants or new seedlings? Use ¼” mesh fencing, hardware wire, or chicken wire to keep ground squirrels from gnawing on the plants.

To ensure the ground squirrels can’t get around the barrier, extend it at least 30” above ground and at least 6” below ground.

Pros: Effective, safe, non-toxic, humane, ideal for deterring other pests

Cons: Labor-intensive

6. Use Bird Netting or Floating Row Covers

To prevent ground squirrels from targeting seedlings or young plants, cover your garden in floating row covers or bird netting.

This is a great option for in-ground gardens, raised beds, and potted plants. Just be sure to secure the row covers or bird netting with landscaping stakes so non-target species (like birds) don’t get trapped beneath it.

Pros: Effective, easy to use, non-toxic, humane, long-lasting

Cons: Can be difficult to install, requires regular maintenance

Habitat Modification & Other Preventative Measures

Keep ground squirrels from infesting your garden with these habitat modifications and preventative measures:

7. Destroy Burrows

To remove ground squirrel habitat, use ripping shanks to rip through existing ground squirrel burrows to a depth of at least 20”.

While this may not be an ideal solution for ground squirrel burrows in yards and smaller spaces, it’s an effective way to get rid of ground squirrels in fields and on larger lots.

Pros: Effective, humane, long-lasting

Cons: Difficult, time-consuming, only suitable for large lots

8. Practice Yard Sanitation

Make your yard less attractive for ground squirrels by removing rocks, wood piles, prunings, and other elements that ground squirrels may use for shelter.

Check your yard regularly for signs of ground squirrel damage and plant all new plantings in gopher-proof wire baskets.

Pros: Ideal for controlling a variety of pest species, including ground squirrels, humane, non-toxic, effective

Cons: Likely will not prevent ground squirrels without the addition of other prevention tactics 

Methods That Don’t Work

ground squirrel food

While there are many ground squirrel prevention tactics that effectively control pests, there are some that just don’t work.

With that in mind, don’t waste your time on these unproven ground squirrel control products and techniques:

  • Ultrasonic devices. Ultrasonic devices claim to use sound to deter ground squirrels. Unfortunately, these devices don’t work, and ground squirrels will just get used to them over time.
  • Motion-activated sprinklers. For hazing tactics to be effective, you’d have to use them all the time, which isn’t realistic for tactics like motion-activated sprinklers. Like ultrasonic devices, ground squirrels will get used to motion-activated sprinklers and learn to navigate around them.
  • Repellent plants. There’s no evidence to suggest that repellent plants actually deter ground squirrels or other pests.

Looking for Pest Control in the San Francisco Bay Area Garden? We Can Help!

Stop trying to keep ground squirrels out of your garden on your own! Contact Smith’s Pest Management for ground squirrel control and prevention services in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We use humane, EPA–approved ground squirrel control tactics and will provide a comprehensive prevention program to protect your property now and in the future.

Our team helps residential and commercial customers in Northern California – from Marin to Monterey.

Contact us today for a free ground squirrel prevention quote: (408) 871-6988

FAQ

What attracts ground squirrels to my garden?

  • Food. Ground squirrels are voracious eaters and will happily consume most of the plants and vegetables in your garden, including flowers, flower bulbs, acorns, and ornamental shrubs, bushes, and trees. Since ground squirrels like to live near their food sources, they’ll quickly create infestations in any area they can find ample food sources.
  • Shelter. Ground squirrels live and breed in networks of underground burrows, which they make in large, grassy areas like yards, parks, and fields. They like light, dry soil and prefer to create burrows near their food sources.
  • Water. Like all mammals, ground squirrels need water to survive. As such, they tend to burrow, live, and feed near fish ponds, streams, birdbaths, and other sources of moisture.

How do ground squirrels damage gardens?

  • Plant damage. Ground squirrels will consume entire seedlings, eat the tops off of your plants, and devour ripe fruits and berries, quickly ruining your garden and your harvest.
  • Burrow damage. As ground squirrels burrow underground, they move soil and rock to the surface, leaving it in mounds at the entrance of their burrows. Over time, they’ll enlarge their burrow systems, which results in even more excavated dirt in and around your garden.
  • Damage to irrigation lines. Ground squirrels may gnaw on or destroy the irrigation lines or sprinkler heads if your garden is sub-irrigated. This can create costly, frustrating repairs.

What kind of ground squirrels are in my garden?

While there are an estimated 38 different ground squirrel species in the United States, the most common variety in California is the California ground squirrelOtospermophilus beecheyi.

These pests are easy to identify since they tend to forage above ground in the areas near their burrows. Their bodies are between 14”-20” (including the tail) and tend to be mottled brown in color. They have a white ring around each eye and are known for their erect, prominent ears.

When should I call a pest management professional?

If your DIY tactics aren’t working, or you want more support to prevent ground squirrels in your garden, contact a pest management professional.

A team like Smith’s Pest Management can help you remove ground squirrels from your property and prevent them from coming back in the future.

Want more information on the types of control methods available to get rid of ground squirrels? Check out our comprehensive blog on the topic.

How do I keep squirrels out of my tomatoes?

Install ground squirrel-proof fencing around your tomato plants and plant all new tomato seedlings in squirrel-proof wire baskets to prevent squirrels from digging into them from below.

How do you keep ground squirrels from digging up roots?

The best way to do this is to create an underground barrier that ground squirrels can’t dig through. We recommend planting new seedlings in gopher baskets – large wire baskets designed to prevent digging pests from accessing a root system without girdling the plant. You can also use floating row covers or bird netting to cover your garden from above or bury wire mesh under new gardens to prevent ground squirrels from targeting the roots of your plants from below.

How do I trap ground squirrels in my garden?

We published a comprehensive article on this. Check it out here.

Author Bio: Zach Smith

Landscape Pro Turned Gopher Pro: Owner, Zach Smith, graduate of Cal Poly’s Horticulture program worked nine years as a landscape professional- dealing with gophers, moles, and ground squirrels and was quickly recruited by other local gardeners. Fast forward to the past 15+ years, where Zach and his team trap and remove burrowing pests from residential, municipal and commercial properties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, from Marin to Monterey.