Keeping Squirrels out of the Hanging Baskets

hanging basket with geraniums

Critters can invade any garden. Pollinators including bees are indispensable to growth. Spider mites, like those that devoured my friend Carsey’s newly planted balcony garden, are unwelcome. Furry creatures can also wreak havoc on gardens large and small.

balcony garden with tomato and zucchini plants
Carsey’s balcony garden before the spider mite invasion
(photo credit: Carsey Yee)

This past spring a mother bunny decided it was a good idea to build a burrow in the garden out back. We had to be extra vigilant about keeping the dog away from the plastic fence and I was relieved that the kits hopped away before the dog could discover them.

A few summers ago, I was stalked by a skunk. No matter what time I headed out for the evening dog walk, I would see the unwelcome neighbor crossing the street nonchalantly. It even followed me to the neighborhood pool one night. My husband thought I was exaggerating until a skunk strolled in front of the car just as we pulled into the driveway one night. Fortunately, the dog’s eyesight isn’t the best, so we were able to remain stink-free by detour.

back of house and locust tree
squirrel central

My biggest creature problem these past few years has been squirrels. We have a tall black locust tree out back where squirrels have built two large nests in the upper branches. There must be a few squirrel kits up there too.

Since my backyard consists mostly of a brick patio surrounded by a brick fence, many of my plants are in hanging baskets and planter boxes. Through trial and error, I have found that begonias and geraniums do well out in the shaded area. They do well, providing the squirrels don’t dig up the plants when they are looking for something to eat. Apparently, the loose earth in containers is easier to dig through than the regular garden soil.

Family and friends suggested the use of cayenne pepper or tabasco sauce to keep the diggers away. As an animal lover, I just couldn’t do it. I had visions of squirrels running around my backyard sneezing while frantically looking for something to drink.

geranium basked with spork
a strategically placed spork in the geranium basket

One day, a friend suggested I try using sporks around the plants. Sporks sometimes confuse people. “Is it a fork or a spoon?” they say. When Forky recently rose to fame in Disney’s Toy Story 4, his spoon side was largely ignored. I was disappointed by what could have been a great teachable moment.

I say sporks should embrace their own unique and special cutleriness. You don’t neatly fit into predefined categories to be in my garden. If squirrels find you confusing, that is their problem.

After I plant my baskets and containers, I place cutlery around the plants. If I don’t have enough sporks, I will use a few plastic knives as well. I find black cutlery is the best as it is camouflaged by the earth in the pots. I save and reuse the sporks and reinsert after every spring planting. Unlike seasonings, reapplication of sporks is not necessary after rain.


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