Extreme Measures: Squirrel Proofing Your Fruit Trees


I’ve been thinking a lot about this fruit tree cage that Kelly spotted on the Theordore Payne garden tour this spring (see some more images of that lovely Altadena garden here). Squirrels just stripped our peach tree of every single fruit (though I’ve found that I can still eat the half-gnawed ones I find on the ground). Other options I’ve considered:

  • Bird netting. But this stuff is a real pain to work with. And it doesn’t always work. Squirrels are persistent!
  • Removing fruit and ripening it indoors. I did this last year with some success, but I was not on top of the situation this year.
  • Squirrel stew. I just don’t have the heart for this option.

Two Running Violet V Forms, UCSD.jpg

Robert Irwin, “Two Running Violet V Forms, UCSD” photo by Tktktk – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I think there’s a way to make aesthetically pleasing fruit tree cages. Crazy idea: what if they were as carefully crafted as Robert Irwin’s running fence piece at UC San Diego? It’s too late to fence the trees in our own garden, but I think if I were planning a new garden I might try to find a way to make those fruit tree cages look like 70s era land art.

How do you deal with the squirrel/fruit tree menace?

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  1. on a smaller scale site what about using cats? As a kid my family took in strays and they certainly cleared the yard of birds…

    • This is true–when we had a dog, we had no problems with skunks and raccoons (except for the occasional skunking of the dog!). Now it’s raccoon heaven in the back yard. The squirrels, though, are intractable. The dog didn’t scare them much, and I think they’re too big for cats.

  2. I have had some luck with the radio. Once they get the initial scare of your favorite talk radio station you can try and turn it off for a day so they don’t get immune to it, then turn it back on for a few more days. i put the radio in the tree so i can keep the volume low to not bother the neighbors or my slumber.

    this link had some interesting ideas

  3. We cannot have a fig in this neighborhood because of squirrels. We grow them and squirrels eat them before anyone can get one. Pecans are not safe either. I would not care if a cage for a fruit tree were aesthetically pleasing or not. If I had fruit trees, anything to keep animals out would work for me.

  4. We have blueberry bushes, apple trees, and cherry trees. Nothing is safe. I started throwing food scraps out and about and keeping the bird feeder full so the squirrels would be distracted by other yummy things (they can empty that bird feeder very easily), but that was a super dumb plan because now I have the fattest squirrels you’ve ever seen…and they can still empty my fruit trees and plants.

    My cat is happy about the bird seed because it attracts more birds, but he ignores the squirrels. They’re just too fast.

  5. Have you ever tried floating row covers? I’ve had great results using them to keep my cat, bantam hens and birds out of my raised beds. I put them over my strawberry bed just before they are ready, to stop the robins from taking one bite out of each one! I agree that bird netting is horrible stuff to work with…I’m going to wrap my few blueberry, currant and hascap berries with floating row covers this year, again, to keep the birds off, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t keep squirrels off a small, dwarf fruit tree.

  6. To me, a squirrel is just a pretty rat that climbs trees. I kill them all and have minimal fruit and vegetble losses.

  7. While I have not done this for squirrels, try wrapping some fruit in a Foot Sox (the lightweight nylon sock used in shoe stores) that has been soaked in something really smelly like garlic or pepper water to see if it repulses the squirrels.

    The Sox work somewhat well to prevent bird damage.

    Good luck!

  8. I have bent half-inch conduit to make hoops, which I then stuck into a couple of holes drilled in 2×3’s. I didn’t take any photos of the final version, but I raised this whole contraption up and propped it on top of four fenceposts to make a ‘tomato chapel.’ Bird netting gets draped on the outside of this frame, and if the bottoms are tucked in place it keeps the squirrels out. I found it to be a million times less obnoxious than draping the bird netting directly over the plants.


    • Yes! Lovely! We have something like this, except a bit shorter, over one of our beds. That bed is long and narrow, so the instead of a chapel, it looks like a covered wagon–so it’s known as the covered wagon bed. 😉 Now if only we had one large enough to encase the peach tree!

  9. A major problem in these parts is BEAR-proofing your fruit trees. Basically, it cannot be done. All you can do is to try to pick all the fruit as soon as it is ripe, before the local bear has decided that it is worth smashing its way through your fence to get at it. Throwing rocks at the bear to scare it off is not recommended. A hungry bear is pretty much omnivorous and its diet could include you.

  10. Our squirrels must have other sources of food, because they generally leave our garden stuff alone. It’s the chipmunks here. They’re so absolutely brazen that they steal strawberries and sit, right out in the open, eating them as if to taunt us. Not only are they superior thieves, but they can squeeze their way through almost any barrier I’ve been able to erect. One year, I created a Gitmo-like thing out of 1/4″ hardware cloth and electrical pipe (hubby’s an electrician so we have plenty of that, stockpiled for just the right DIY project, he says) and it worked passably well, although some still managed to wriggle their way under it.

    No small mammals bother the raspberries, though – maybe it’s the thorns – but their big enemies arrive in early July in the form of Japanese beetles.

  11. Might be too late for your trees, but I saw a lot of cool orchards in Japan where all the trees were espaliered to the same height, with wires strung above so that a roll of netting could be unfurled over the whole orchard…and all the fruit was right within reach!

  12. We have given so many strawberries to squirrels that we just gave up. We may have to go for the cage method as well.

  13. I should have taken a picture of the arrangement I saw yesterday. I think it is the most practical (and aesthetic) solution I have ever seen.

    The key is that the trees need to be spaced far enough apart from each other and the house/wall/garage so that a squirrel is unable to jump from one onto a tree (and then from tree to tree). The trees themselves had steel sheeting nailed as a band all the way around each trunk. Here’s a video of the look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0gG3u9QiXY

    Good luck!

  14. Such a relevant topic, I hate squirrels. Hate. They uproot and eat everything in my garden and what they’re not uprooting, they’re depositing. I’ve pulled a small orchard’s worth of pecan seedlings out of beds this spring. Several home orchardists in my area have created a relatively cheap, tree-draping system that works pretty well. They take a length of pipe (1-2 ft higher than the height of the tree) and drill it into the ground near the tree so that the top is close to the apex. At the top of the pole, they have fastened a large square out of fitted pipe (1′ or 2′ square) and then they drape the bird netting over the entire tree and secure the bottom with bricks or large stakes made from bent metal (like large hairpins). This is the method I am going to use once my citrus, blackberries and blueberries reach maturity. Or you could just knock ’em off with a .22 which is what my dear grandmother did to protect her garden.

  15. I’ve actually never seen any squirrels at our place, but the tree completely wrapped in metal reminds me of my recent efforts to protect 6 one day old turkey chicks from the rats nesting in the loft of my garage where I keep my chickens. Battling those suckers has completely changed my view of things… I’m ready to commit acts of violence I was never before willing

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