October 27, 2014

A Cheap Way to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Garden - Photo by Kevin Fogle (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

With cooler temperatures finally arriving in South Carolina, I am starting to see leaves turning colors and a torrent of acorns falling from the nearby oaks. As I sit on the step to my front stoop, I watch the neighborhood squirrels gathering their acorn harvest for the short, mild Carolina winter, and I muse on my experiences with these annoying little mammals.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges that many urban gardeners face are squirrels. In our house, they’re almost a curse word–I’ve begun referring to them as the “s-word” to keep my blood pressure in check. These furry little devils constantly threaten my front-yard garden and are readily finding new ways to be a general nuisance from stealing fruits and vegetables to digging up containers and damaging my taller plantings with their attempted acrobatics.

Gardeners just as readily devise new ways to control these pests: live trapping, getting a family dog, motion-activated sprinkler systems, hot pepper sprays. The only successful solution I’ve found is using flexible plastic mesh as perimeter fencing around my in-ground crops.

A Cheap Way to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Garden - Photo by Kevin Fogle (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

The best type of mesh for a squirrel-proof fence is made of thin-plastic rather than a rigid plastic (only slightly heavier than traditional garden netting) with 1-inch openings. I found mine at a big-box hardware store and bought two 4-by-50-foot rolls. To create my fence, support the mesh by hooking it to a series of simple step-in plastic fence posts placed every 4 to 5 feet. Spade in the bottom of the mesh about 4 inches deep and then recover with earth.

For whatever reason, the squirrels in my neighborhood don’t like to climb this type of fencing, and I’ve had relatively few incursions since I installed it. Only two or three squirrels in the last three or four growing seasons have found their way in, usually by digging under the fence rather than climbing. I stopped these bright digging squirrels by filling their excavations and placing a brick above their entrance on the outside of the fence.

So if your garden crops are being molested by squirrels, think about investing in this cheap and easy fencing solution. As an added bonus, the mesh is so thin that it is largely invisible and you can train vining plants to use the fence as a long, low trellis. I planted several Armenian cucumbers along the inside of my fence this summer, and the mesh was able to successfully support a whole crop of these monstrous cucumber-like melons.

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