A reader, CCWriter, asked for advice on protecting container gardens from squirrels with the catch that the advice couldn't be cruel. I don't really have a squirrel problem. In the past four years there have only been two incidents of plant damage involving squirrels at my Chicago garden. They rarely come down from the telephone wires around here because of the stray cats and dogs.
So, I turned to fellow garden bloggers from the Chicagoland area and asked for their advice in dealing with squirrels and container gardens. Here is what they suggested:
The best solution I've found is to place large rocks ( as large as the pot can accommodate ) at the base of the flower pot and then spread cayenne pepper on top of them. The cayenne pepper will need to be re-applied occasionally due to watering.
>Sweet Home & Garden Chicago
Unfortunately I have no good suggestions. My husband throws rocks at them. It's not cruel because he can throw worth a damn so he ALWAYS misses.
My solution is to use wire hanging baskets. Remove the liner and the chains, and turn the basket upside-down over the container. With some larger containers the baskets fit inside the rim of the container, and with smaller containers the basket fits around the outside of the container. Although the spaces between the wires are technically wide enough for the squirrels to squeeze through, they never have. I don't think they like the feeling of enclosure, and this has worked very well for me. A few years ago I found hanging baskets on sale at Jewel for $2.50 each, and I bought them out. Then I went to another Jewel and bought all theirs too. (I have enough coco liners to last a lifetime for the baskets that are actually hanging. ;)
If you don't have baskets lying around and can't find them on the cheap, you could fashion an enclosure out of chicken wire. I find the covers can be removed after two or three weeks, as the squirrels here don't bother them anymore by that time.
The only thing that's worked for me is to staple chicken wire to the tops of wooden planters, trim the wire to the edge of the planter and then fill them with dirt up to the wire. Then plant seeds through the wire. As for planting young transplants through the wire, I cut away the smallest section of chicken wire to make a hole for the plant's root ball. The only downside to this is that if the hole is too big, squirrels can reach their paws through it and around the transplant.
Chicken wire on plastic or clay containers is trickier, I have tried two methods of attaching it: one with binder clips around the rim and the other with long twigs shoved at an angle through it into the dirt. The goal being to keep the chicken wire from spinning around the pot and lopping off the seedlings as they grow. Of my chicken wire methods, the one that is least ugly is the stapling method. And once the plants get fuller, it's less visible. Last year I tried tenting chicken wire over the pots but the squirrels just sat on the top and smashed it down. Plus, it was hideous and didn't allow access to the plants.
I would use dog hair. Get some from a local groomer, and then spread it around the base of the plants. Wet it to mat it down and then continue gardening as usual. The dog hair tricks the squirrels into thinking that something larger is there and they keep away. Plus, the hair adds beneficial nutrients to the soil!
And here is a video by the Humane Society on the same subject.