Q: I missed your talk about dealing with squirrels on the radio a week ago. I have a wooded backyard and want to plant some hellebores (Lenten rose) that I have in pots. Every time I put out something the squirrels dig it up. Do you have any suggestions?
A: My information was mentioned more as humor than as a recommendation. I cited a garden writer in Maine who said that “fermented salmon” was a great squirrel repellent for her. I decline to replicate her experience but you can try it if you like! The stuff is available from Coast of Maine.
I do have a recommendation more likely to be effective. Plant your hellebores wherever you like then place chicken wire flat on the ground around them. Cover the wire with straw. This works very nicely to protect fall-planted bulbs and pansies and should keep the furry critters at bay in your garden.
Q: Squirrels are building a nest using the small branches of the hibiscus on my deck. I run out to yell at them but they scamper up a tree. Can I protect the hibiscus?
A: This is the beginning of nest building season for squirrels. Leafy branches from any plant – be it hibiscus or hickory – are their fodder. Try one of the bitter tasting animal repellents; one available product is Ropel. You could also try applying cayenne pepper (mixed with water in your blender) to the plant branches. A small cage made of chicken wire placed around the plant might cause him to look elsewhere for housing materials.
May 12, 1995
Q: Squirrels are digging out the bulbs and plants in my flower pots. Is there a repellent for them?
A: You could try one of the sprays or granular products for animal control but the best control may be simpler. Try cutting 1 inch mesh chicken wire into circles that fit one inch down inside the pot. If you plant bulbs, just insert them normally, then place the wire on the soil and cover it with another half inch of dirt. If you are planting already growing plants, you may need to cut the wire in a few places to give yourself planting room. The squirrels will retreat when the dig to the wire.