Urban container gardening and squirrel control for tomatoes

brooklyn-slopeAugust 15, 2006

So, I just joined this site this evening and yes, before posting, I did a search.

This is the situation and to give you a little background, I live in an area of Brooklyn, NY called Park Slope and do a great deal of container gardening on a deck that is approximately 250 sq. ft.

I have two 5 ft tall Brandywine tomato plants and a 4 foot tall Roma that are constantly ravaged by a vicious band of marauding urban squirrels that have prevented me from having a single piece of fruit this year, despite the beautiful amounts of buds and new fruit on the plants. I have tried everything in my arsenal to no avail-- I should note that I do not use chemicals on my plants only natural ingredients, cayenne pepper around the pots, spraying the leaves and fruit with hot pepper wax, dried blood on the topsoil and my tried and true methods from my previous homes in urban areas of the south - mixing habaneros in between the tomato plants and placing them on all four corners of the deck where the squirrels enter and sweet gum tree pricker balls on the top soil all to no avail. I even found a walmart (no comments) in Texas that delivered an air compressed bb gun to my home in brooklyn, but after a few uses, in an urban area, my neighbours complained about the gun shots and frankly, I can't blame them. My last resort is to find a super soaker squirt gun on line and fill it with habanero oil and water and just blast them when they approach the deck.

Any other suggestions I'm overlooking? I would like to get at least one tomato to enjoy for myself this season considering the love and care I've put into this. It's strange, they don't bother the yellow and green pepper plants, or any of the herbs for that matter, just my tomatoes.

Is there anyone out there who can help me??

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kevin_l(Z6 Eastern PA)

When I had a deck at my apartment in Astoria I used to knock the squirrels off with a high powered pellet rifle. You couldn't really get away with that today though. My other suggestion would be to get a motion detector that you can hook up to a sprinkler. When the squirrels come around and set of the detector, they get hosed down and run off. Not as permanent as the rifle, but still works.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 10:56PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Bird netting. Holes are about 3/4 to 1" square. Available in various sizes, I think the one I have is 14ft x 14ft. Drape over the plants or get more complicated and build posts to fasten to and make "walls & ceiling."

Hope this helps.

Mark

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 11:45PM
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HoosierCheroKee(IN6)

For the Brandywine sized tomatoes, would it help to sock the fruit at breaker stage in old stockings to let them ripen? Or pick the fruit at breaker stage and let them ripen indoors?

Other than the wire netting and pellet guns (and do your neighbors have a legal complaint ... or is it just their "moral" indignation?) you might try a rat terrier ... but they're a lot noisier than pellet guns.

I have rabbit, bird, and squirrel problems too but not to the extent that requires eradication yet. Besides, it isn't squirrel fricasse season for another month ... but they are gettin' fatter by the week.

If your problem is epidemic, doesn't it bother your neighbors too ... or are you the only one feeding the squirrels tomatoes?

Bill

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 7:34AM
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keithaxis(z4 Wash State)

i would put one of those electric dog fences around the area and unplug when you need to work within the safety fence...

I see so many people with critters eating their veggies. How come I never have them eat my veggies? Is it that I live in the foothills where the critters can find much more to eat? I mean each week I see deer in my yard (they do eat rose leaves and raspberry leaves) possums, squirrels, rackoons and have never once had a tomato touched (50 plants)...I would assume maybe living in the country these animals and critters have better things to eat than garden veggies or fruit....

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 11:43AM
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daylilydude(7 Tishomingo Ms.)

Ok now you have done it my stupid red-neck side has come out and now i'm gonna show it to you all! I bought one of those plastic owls at walmart and i drilled a 1" hole from side to side and i put a 3 ft. broom handle thru it and i attached a 1 1/2" x 2 1/2" peice of black plastic on each side so when the wind blows it looks like the wings are moving and no more problems now my cat wont even go to the garden ! now you do have to move it around about every 3 or 4 days but its better than losing tomatoes so now you see what ya'll made me do (LOL).And if being stupid means i dont lose my tomatoes than call me stupid but i'll have all my maters.
Richard

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 1:24PM
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feldon30(N Houston (8))

Squirrels are smart. They'll figure out that ain't a real owl in a week or two.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 3:32PM
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daylilydude(7 Tishomingo Ms.)

Well mine has been there since april and its now aug.no problems yet but i do live in the sticks i have a little over 5 acres so if need be i do have one other way!(LOL)

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 3:50PM
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HoosierCheroKee(IN6)

Richard,

Maybe yer backwoods squirrels jest ain't as smart as them suave, slick, urbanite New York City squirrels.

Bill

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 5:15PM
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dcarch7

Posted by hoosiercherokee IN6 Richard,
"Maybe yer backwoods squirrels jest ain't as smart as them suave, slick, urbanite New York City squirrels.
Bill"

But if you take out the label "Made in China" on the bottom you can even fool New York smart squirrels.

dcarch :-)

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 5:23PM
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kangell_gw

Oh, do I feel your pain! They are actually eating my chili peppers too! Actually, knocking them off, maybe taking a nibble, then leaving them. I've only had a few cayennes (out of 6 plants) actually make it to maturity.

I've tried the arsenal too...fox urine, cayenne pepper, pepper wax. I have a fake fox on order, but they'll figure it out.

Second floor deck, so sprinkler solution would be a pain. I think I'll look into the electric fence idea...

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 7:15PM
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gw:brooklyn-slope

thanks for all your thoughts on this issue. I got home today, and yet again, the tree rats had done some damage. In response, I am not the only one with this problem, my other neighbours are struggling and those who object do so because it's a noise issue- scares the kids, etc. They could care less as long as I don't frighten the neighbourhood. Although I'm not sure, I pretty sure it's illegal - something about posession of a false fire arm, hence the reason they talked to me rather than calling the cops. Not to mention, my senator, Chuck, lives across the way and well, that just puts a damper on the eradication.

So, I think I'll try the bird netting and possibly the motion detector.

Thanks for all your help! I'll keep you posted.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 11:51PM
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ozmantis(VIC Aust)

I am old enough to remember the Beverly Hillbillies. Don't squirrels make a good stew LOL
You could leave some of the stew made with aforemention squirrel,and some of your beloved tomatoes on the deck. The others would see what they were in for, and do double time back over the fence. Just a thought. :-)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 5:50AM
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delta_charlie(Z9)

Hi brooklyn-slope and the group.

"So, I think I'll try the bird netting and possibly the motion detector."

The squirrels might chew through plastic bird netting, I'm sure steel chicken wire would keep them out (use the small 1 inch size). Maybe you could rig up some type of encloser that would not look too bad???

Hope this helps, DC

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 6:31AM
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mikec4w

Squirrls are tough little buggers.
I have never had them raid my garden though.....
I fight with them all winter with the bird feeders.
WOODCHUCKS are the buggers i fight with all summer in the garden. they take 1 bite out of the tomatoes and leave them.... what a pain....

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 6:56AM
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reginacw(z5MA)

The birdseed with capsacin all over the seed works great in my feeders. My squirrel/chipmunk problem disappeared in about a week.

But if the cayenne oil isn't working on the tomato plants...that's bad.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 6:25PM
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donn_(7b-8a)

Use the air rifle on Chuck S., and chicken wire cages on the 'maters.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 6:46PM
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mikec4w

i find if i just put thistle seed out for the gold finches the squirrls stay away. I feed them all year & it is worth it to see them in those hidious summer colors!!!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 8:30PM
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dilbert(z5 IL)

Has anyone tried rat traps (the kind that look like big mouse traps)?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 11:19AM
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brooklyn941(z7 NY)

I'm now in Prospect Park South, with a yard and, surprisingly, I've had no problems with the squirrels. But, previously, I had the same set up as you: A 250 square foot roof deck in Brooklyn Heights. The only thing that worked was hav-a-heart traps. I put a bit of peanut butter on foil and caught, I believe, sixteen squirrels during the season. The squirrels have to be released several miles from where they've been captured (if you've got a car, try to take them to a place separated from your home by a major road). Squirrels are territorial and will find their way back to your garden if you release them too close to home. So, it's probably best not to release them on the other side of Prospect Park, when they can just scamper back to you. Best of luck. Just don't release them in my neighborhoood!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 3:01PM
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trudi_d

I'd try a RoboDog, it will certainly keep you out of trouble.

RoboDog

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 5:19PM
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coolbythecoast(10b)

Have you tried spraying with buttermilk? I have some success with deer and ground squirrels.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 11:31PM
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oldroser(z5)

Wire netting the only sure fire method. That idea of an electric dog fence sounds good but won't work - note that the dog wears a collar that responds to the signal. Putting a collar on the squirrels isn't a very practical idea.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 6:07PM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)

brooklyn slope,

There exists a commercial motion detector sprinkler that worked really well for me when I had an urban garden and marauding raccoons (I swear Toronto's raccoons wear gang colours; they didn't content themselves to raiding my garden and compost but actually ripped through window screens to raid my apartment kitchen!!)

I can't attest personally to its efficacy with squirrels (maybe they like getting sprayed, the little *&%$()&ers), but it works well and was easy to set up.

It's called the Scarecrow and you can get it various places but Lee Valley Tools has one of the best prices and excellent customer service --- I've posted the link. (Hey, I see they have them redneck plastic owls, too! ;-))

The sprinkler saved my corn from the coons and kept them from making a mess of my compost. Though one year the local raccoon family numbered ten, and when the young 'uns got to the teen phase the sheer number of them made 'em a nuisance even with the Scarecrow; one would set it off, then run away, and another would run up to it, and get chased away, etc., till by the time all nine kids had tried it the first one was cocky and ready to try again, so the thing was going off all night. At that point we resorted to the Have-A-Hart, and relocated one or two of the family each morning for a week till they were all reunited in a ravine in another part of town. Even relocating wildlife is illegal in Toronto, mind you, but I have no regrets. It was a last resort!

My friends back in T.O. with herbs & peppers on their deck resorted to building a chicken-wire enclosure (the "herb sanctuary") to keep squirrels out; it isn't the handsomest thing in the world but it does the job.

THeir other pots, out of the sanctuary, are mulched with river rock, which keeps the squirrles from digging in them to bury nuts.

Hope you find something that works! I salute anyone who grows food in an urban setting. Good for you.

(Now I have moved to a very small town surrounded by farms and woods, and do you know, I have FAR less trouble with wildlife than when I was in downtown Toronto???)

Zabby

Here is a link that might be useful: Lee Valley Scarecrow

    Bookmark   August 24, 2006 at 1:36PM
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chalstonsc

Try spraying Garden Safe (brand) "Fungicide3" .... non-toxic extract of neem oil...they don't seem to like the smell and/or taste

    Bookmark   December 30, 2006 at 10:18PM
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doof

I liked the rat terrier idea. A small yappy terrier would do just fine.

I have never had a squirrel problem. (Just gophers and crows, here.) But I might throw out a thought. How about poison? You know they like tomatoes. Anything else? Take a tomato or some other tasty looking squirrel delicacy, but inject it with some rat poison first.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2006 at 4:21AM
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al_apeno

I've heard of people using cayenne or habanero peppers to keep squirrels away from tomato plants. How exactly do you apply the pepper?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 10:49AM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

There have been several ways suggested including crushing the dried peppers until they are like a dust and then sprinkling it on and around the plants (must reapply after rain) - OR- you would soak it (preferably the actual pulped or processed peppers but some use the flakes) in water, let it steep for a bit, strain, add a couple drops of liquid soap, shake, dilute, and then spray on the plants. You would want to test a small section of the plant first to make sure it isn't phytotoxic (causing a burn on the plant) and also do it when it is overcast. May still have to reapply not long after rain.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 11:08AM
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bill-inpnw(7)

I feel for you. seems like you aren't adverse to terminating the varmints. since you know how they are getting onto the deck, could you build a funnel type of device to make them go a certain way and the put a snare in the opening. That way you don't have the "gun" nor the noisy dog issues. come home, pick up the dead squirrel and cook'm or trash'm.

You can do a search online for the proper size snare.

Bill

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 11:40AM
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wamaterhead(z6Oregon)

Put some TEA TREE OIL on the outside of the pots! My dog hates it as it smells very strong. He stays away from anything that has it on it. I'll bet the Squirrels would hate it too. It's non-toxic and can be bought in most grocery stores. Otherwise....OPEN FIRE with the pellet gun and take care of business. The Owl thing works too!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 12:52PM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

Them's good eatin'

-- Jethro Bodine

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 7:34PM
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bill-inpnw(7)

Here is a neat little trick for squirrels I found on the web.

Here is a link that might be useful: squirrel snare

    Bookmark   June 1, 2007 at 10:07AM
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schwankmoe

my rooftop container garden (park slope/prospect heights) was getting ravaged by squirrels this year, so i built frames around everything and put plastic chicken wire all over it. kinda overkill, but i'll be damned if squirrels ruin my tomato crop this year.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2007 at 1:47PM
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troykd(7b SE VA)

You'll need 4 or 5 squirrels to make a stew. They're kinda greasy but not to bad with corn bread. Yee ha.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2007 at 3:31PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

Concrete Wire Cages (CRW) around the tomatoes. Removable chicken wire barrier around the cages to keep the squirrels out.

Have-A-Heart medium size cages with chunky peanut butter on the trip-lever. Barrel of water. Drown the squirrels.
Into the garbage bag...

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 4:08AM
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triple_b(BC 5b)

slingshots are silent...and deadly.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 2:32PM
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