How to Handle Squirrels on your Tomatoes
Squirrels, the Gardener's Worst Enemy
Nothing spoils a gardener's day like watching, for weeks, as the beautiful vines blossom and fruit, and just as the green is tinged with brilliant red, some monster tears through the tomato patch, biting and dropping one tomato after another. It's a massacre. It happens because squirrels attack. Vicious squirrels, paying no mind to any boundary of man or beast, will climb any fence, chew through any net, and seek the ripe red fruits wherever they grow.
What drives these destroyers? They do not eat the fruit. They merely toss it aside like they are trying to taunt gardeners. A single bite, and nothing else, and then they toss it aside, turning to a new tomato as if that one will be different. The wreckage and carnage and despair after months of careful tending is almost too much to bear. It can make a man want to give up on those precious red jewels.
But, there is hope.
What Are the Squirrels Doing, Anyway?
Tomatoes love heat. The drier the weather, the more intense the flavor in the fruit.
Squirrels do not like heat. The drier the weather, the more intense the squirrels will be in their quest for water.
Squirrels are raiding the tomato patch because they are thirsty. They want water. They want it right now.
So, the first step is to make sure that water is available for animals, in a bird bath on the other side of the yard, away from the garden. Creating an enticing alternative will reduce the impact of squirrels on the garden patch. Actual water will draw them away from the garden. That is phase 1.
Let's Spray Some Stuff
The next step to saving your precious tomatoes is a spray bottle and a blender. Get your hottest pepper. Cayenne powder works. Habanero works, too. The hotter, the better! Add a tablespoon of something super hot to some water, and blend it into the water with one tablespoon of dish soap. The dish soap will help the hot pepper in the water remain attached to the fruit and vines. A little baking soda never hurts if the local water supply is hard or full of minerals.
When to spray? Early in the morning or late at night. Adding soapy wetness to the fruit and vines during the hot daytime will create sun damage on the plant and fruit, when the water acts like a magnifying glass. Do this every day during humid or rainy weather.
You will still lose some fruit. But, one bite from the vine, and the squirrels of your neighborhood will pay the price. They will learn quickly to avoid the tomatoes, and if the squirrels of your neighborhood manage to maintain their life and territory, the memory will linger for a few seasons. Still, a diligent spray schedule will protect the tomatoes from squirrels passing through, and other mammal rodents in the neighborhood.
First, provide an alternative water source on the other side of the yard. Look for a bird bath and keep it full in hot weather. It will draw away the thirsty animals from the tomato patch.
Second, spray every couple days with a spicy, spicy mist, early morning and late at night.
A few will be lost, but the pain the mammals feel will keep them off the rest of the plant.
Oh, and make sure to wash the tomatoes thoroughly before eating them. You're a mammal too.