I think I may have found the cure and need volunteers to repeat my experiment to see if it works for anyone else .. here is how I discovered it.
My neighbor is profoundly depressed and I made it my mission last Summer to get her out of it - (she was in a horrible car accident 10 years ago and never got over it - I'm happy to say my slow but systematic plan is working .. she's interested in gardening again) .. I had been after her all winter to get bags of topsoil and lay the unopened bags in the area where she wanted her new bed. She never did but I started some seeds for her in March anyway .. suddenly about a month ago her anticipation and happiness level ratcheted up amazingly fast and she decided she had to have her garden and asked me for suggestions. I figured what the heck it was worth a try cause I knew whatever she planted would be dead in a week cause she counts on mother nature to water everything. So we went and bought bunches of bags of that cheap Evergreen topsoil (that has to be the sorriest stuff right out of the bag that ever was .. how they call it topsoil is beyond me, but makes a good filler) at Lowes and dumped it out on the grass and planted. I knew in a few days time that everything she had planted would be dug up by the squirrels or parched. Happily and amazingly she's been out almost every day watering, weeding and feeding. Two weeks ago I noticed something that perplexed me .. not one of her plants or actually anywhere in the bed had been disturbed by squirrels! What did she do that I didn't? This is where serendipity occurred. I had set up three large containers for morning glories this year - two were already filled with Pro-Mix and the third one was only 1/3 of the way filled so I dumped some empty 2 liter bottles in it then topped it off to within 4 inches of the top with the aforementioned Evergreen top soil. I was planning to top that off with the Pro-Mix once the mg seedlings were ready for transplanting. I immediately went and looked at the container with the Evergreen top soil in it and it was untouched! The other two containers filled with Pro-Mix had obviously been invaded by squirrels. Whoa!! I picked up a handful of the Evergreen topsoil out of the bag and smelled it .. there was a faint odor of cedar!
So I went and top dressed half of my squirrel targeted pots with the Evergreen top soil. So far not one has been dug into - the other untreated pots had been! So I just came in from top dressing EVERYTHING with the Evergreen topsoil.
My next experiment will be to get some cedar shavings from PetSmart and scatter those around and see if I get the same results to confirm it's the cedar that is deterring them.
I'd love for other squirrel vexed people to try this .. I've only seen this stuff at Lowes .. it's Evergreen topsoil and cost about $1.39 a bag. If you try it .. let me know your results!
I use that evergreen topsoil as cheap fill. It is dreadful stuff but it works to fill holes and low spots. How can they afford to package it at that price????
As to the cedar and squirrels I can't say except that my neighbor just had her whole property mulched in cedar and the squirrels do not seem to be avoiding it. The baby squirrels are out of their nests and romping around. It looks like we have hundreds this year.
It will be interesting to see if your experiment works. If it is not the cedar - what is in that stuff?????
I don't know if it's the smell or perhaps the texture, but so far the squirrels are leaving everything that has been top dressed with it alone which has been wonderful! In the past I've tried chicken wire, wooden skewers with the pointy side up, marbles, rocks etc. This is the first thing that has worked for me.
I'm going to have to try this, I swear it seems like they are out in force this year. And they are definitely digging in the pots. I have most of my yard surrounded by cedar mulch and they do stay out of my yard itself - so maybe this will work. They only stay in the wooded part of my yard where there is no mulch. I never really thought about it, but perhaps that's the trick.
I'm hoping it will work for you - please let me know your results! .. so far they are staying away from everything I have with a top dressing (about 1/4 inch is enough) of it .. I have a bucket full I keep under my bench so I can replenish any areas that get washed away when watering.
Dog story: Have a 6 month old pup who just loves to dig. Also loves to find new ways out of the yard. Spent three days out in the mud and rain fencing in the bottom of my deck so she could not get under there and escape. On the third day, while I was working and sweating, and in a span of three hours, she not only escaped once, but while out in the yard, she also managed to dig up a blueberry bush, italian cypress tree, an 8 ft nectarine tree and three tomato plants.
I was exasperated, but laughing at her industriousness, thinking smugly to myself how I was getting ready to put an end to all her fun with my fence project. Got down to the last board, made sure she was not under the deck, and nailed the last barrier into place. Put the hammer down, turned around to call her and...yes, there she was, already under the deck. Again. Took her five minutes tops to fine a new way to get under there. #(%(%^#(%^#(%(%& DOG!!!!!!
In the end, I won. I watched where she came out, covered the spot with wire (she was nudging a board aside), repotted the plants, scraped off the mud and reminded myself that her brains are a gift, as are the squirrels'. Now, if only we could train them to dig the hole WHERE WE NEED IT.
Has anyone else noticed, btw, that the squirrels seem to dig in the same pots over and over, leaving others alone? This seems to support the idea that some smells (like cedar) may repel them. I have one pot on my porch where they dig daily, and have for several years. The poor hosta in the pot just keeps surviving, and nearby plants are not disturbed. I have no idea why...
I've noticed we have very few squirrels in the yard now. We have a dog that they played chase with - once we even saw one go back for the dog when she turned the wrong way.
But we have a new kitten, now about 10 months old, who is a very good hunter and has all her claws. She does not hesitate to head up high into a tree. She's brought me several voles, a couple baby rabbits. She brought us mice at first, now she just eats them. We think she chased a possum into our garbage can, where it stayed and scared the daylights out of me. She's a wee thing, but always hungry it seems like. We had a baby squirrel in the house that she chased about until we got it out the door onto a balcony from which it disappeared into the night. After that baby squirrel incident, there have been fewer squirrels all together in our yard.
They used to camp below the bird feeders. Now she does and we have to shoo her away. I havent' seen a single squirrel out in the yard whenever she's out, which is all day long. And we have huge old trees. In fact, they haven't dug up any irises this last winter either. We got her about two weeks before I planted the irises.
My son told me last night that he saw this weird creature with a big body and a small head weaving up the road. When he drove by, he saw it was a possum with its head stuck in a mason jar. He didn't do anything with it fearing it could be rabbid (It was probably weaving because of that jar!!) but he didn't want to take a chance.
the one in the garbage can was HUGE, biggest I've ever seen! It may have been sleeping in there. Can was upright and is tall, plastic. There was an inch or so of loose garden debris in the can on which it was curled atop. Why didn't it just lean its weight up one side and tip it? Had to have been the cat.
He snarled big time at me! I called out to hubby, for whom it played possum. LOL He tipped the can, it still played possum. He picked up the bottom, it slid out and the moment it was out it lit out like the devil was after it. Never saw a possum run fast before. BIG sucker, had to be a great granddaddy possum.