Squirrel Mania
by Charlie Dobbin
by Charlie Dobbin

Charlie Dobbin, B.Sc. (Agr), is well known horticultural expert with professional gardening experience in a wide range of areas.

Her love of gardening and her easy manner is evident in her delivery of all her gardening seminars. She has a natural enthusiasm that makes her demonstrations both informative and fun.

Charlie was the Editor and Feature Writer of the White Rose Yard & Garden Guide. This company has now ceased to exist.

November 4, 2007

As we head deeper into the chill days of autumn, the squirrels seem to get into more of a frenzy with each passing day. Normally shy creatures, they are now testing the limits of their daring with humans. If I didn’t move and sat very still, I’m sure one would be in my lap in its panic to find enough food for the winter.
I have been sitting in my backyard and watching these little rodents run practically under my feet, dig up my planters and scurry around the yard, seemingly indifferent to my presence. I think, in their frenzy, that they are burying nuts in my planters and then digging them up days later to move them to a better spot. In the course of all this food gathering, they are doing quite a bit of damage to my backyard haven.
Eliminating their presence completely is not possible. They are very determined creatures. So, I have a multi-purpose plan to at least thwart some of their damage.
Many of my planters hold tropicals and need to be repotted and moved indoors so I do this to remove that tempting loose soil that is so attractive to their nut-burying instincts. Other planters that will remain outside until hard frost can be sprinkled with blood meal, critter ridder, hot pepper or other odorous compounds. 
Tulip bulbs are a delicacy to squirrels and they can sniff out and tear up every newly planted bulb in my yard with unerring dexterity. I stop this by laying a piece of chicken wire over my bulbs as I plant them. Daffodils, conversely, are poisonous and squirrels will leave them alone. Sometimes, daffodil bulbs, planted among tulips, will deter them but this is not a guarantee. I have seen them be very selective in their digging and somehow get the tulip bulbs while leaving the daffs in place. Planting only daffodils is certainly a solution for a squirrel with a penchant for fall bulbs.
The bird feeder is another area where I am absolutely adamant that they do not invade. This can take some doing since I have seen some squirrels fly amazing distances through the air to land on a well-filled feeder. I position my feeder well away from trees and fences and place a cone on either the post it sits on or the line it hangs on. These cones work very well and I have seen many a squirrel foiled in an attempt to climb to a feeder. 
For the rest of the garden, well, I know I can’t keep them out totally, so I let them dig and root around in the garden beds knowing that any little holes are helping me to loosen the soil and that by the spring, their little diggings will have disappeared. Besides, they do create some amusement and a true garden is not sterile – it allows all of nature into its arms. Tolerance is and should be a part of every garden. 

Charlie Dobbin, B.Sc.(Agr), is a horticultural expert from White Rose Home & Garden Centres

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