How to stop squirrels eating your pumpkins – experts share their tips

Follow our expert methods to save your pumpkins from being destroyed by these backyard critters

Pumpkin eating near a pumpkin
(Image credit: Getty Images/Nancy Rose)

Whether growing proudly in your vegetable garden or part of a beautiful front porch display, you want your glorious pumpkins to remain intact this fall. Unfortunately, at this time of year pumpkins can fall victim to hungry backyard dwellers, namely squirrels. 

So, how can you stop squirrels eating your pumpkins? The good news is there are plenty of options to try. You may be familiar with how to get rid of squirrels if you have had experience of these bushy-tailed rodents destroying your precious crops before, however, there are a few specific steps you can take to protect pumpkins.

5 expert ways to stop squirrels eating your precious pumpkins

Follow these steps to protect your pumpkins from becoming unwanted squirrel fodder this fall. 

Pumpkin plants being removed from a vegetable garden in fall

(Image credit: Getty Images/Johner Images)

Invest in a wire mesh for your veg garden 

If you know how to grow pumpkins, protecting them with a fruit cage or a net is a great idea for deterring unwanted dining guests in your vegetable garden. 

Avery Addison, a pest control expert at Addison Pest Control, advises using a wire mesh around your pumpkins in the garden. 'You'll want the holes to be small enough that squirrels cannot fit but big enough to let vines grow.'

There are lots different protective nets or mesh on the market, included this pop up net covering available on Amazon, which is great because it is so easy to install and move once you've harvested your pumpkins. 

Avery continues: 'Keep your garden clean and free of fallen fruit, nuts, and seeds, as these can attract squirrels. Regularly clean up any rotting pumpkins or food sources that might entice them.'

It's also a good idea to pick your pumpkins off the vine as soon as they're mature. Leaving them in the garden for too long can increase the chances of squirrels discovering and damaging them.

Avery Addision headshot
Avery Addison

Avery Addison is a pest control specialist at Addison Pest Control.

Squirrel next to pumpkin

(Image credit: Getty Images/arlutz73)

Use an ultrasonic repellent

If you want to stop squirrels eating your pumpkins, it could be worth investing in an ultrasonic animal repellent. 

These devices emit high-frequency sound waves or vibrations which are imperceptible to the human ear, but which small garden dwellers do not like. They therefore flee your backyard for a quieter space to live, and leaving your pumpkins free of holes. 

You can choose a battery operated or solar ultrasonic repellent, such as this one from Amazon, meaning no need for an outside a power source. 

They are a fairly inexpensive solution, and have the added bonus of also repelling other garden pests including rats, mice and even cockroaches.

Pumpkins on porch

(Image credit: Getty Images/ninavartanava)

Make a natural spray 

Natural repellents can work really well to deter squirrels from your pumpkin patch and your carved jack-o'-lanterns.

Avery Addision suggests sprinkling cayenne pepper or a mix of chili powder and garlic powder around the base of your growing pumpkins, as well as on and inside your carved pumpkins.

'Create a natural squirrel repellent by mixing water with a few drops of hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper. Spray this mixture on and around your carved pumpkins. The spicy scent and taste will deter squirrels,' he explains.

Avery also says squirrels dislike the smell of peppermint. 'You can dilute a few drops of peppermint essential oil in water and spray it on your pumpkins.' 

If you're lucky, you'll already have some of these tried and tested natural repellents in your kitchen. The only thing you might need to buy is a spritzer bottle such as this inexpensive option from Amazon, to ensure quick and easy coverage of your pumpkins. 

Lindsay Chastain, founder of gardening blog The Waddle and Cluck suggests coating the outer surface of your carved pumpkins with petroleum jelly to make them slippery. 'Bring jack-o'-lanterns inside at night when squirrels are most active,' she says. 'And be sure to promptly compost pumpkins after Halloween so that squirrels aren't further enticed.' 

Lindsey Chastain
Lindsey Chastain

Lindsey started gardening in 2005, when her first son was born, as a way to save money. It started with a small window herb garden, then expanded to potted vegetables, and now, she and her husband can regularly be spotted in the garden on their homestead.

Pumpkins on front porch

(Image credit: Getty Images/akaplummer)

Use LED candles in jack-o'-lanterns  

Typical candles can often produce too much heat when placed inside a carved pumpkin. This contributes to internal rotting, which may entice squirrels and other pests. Instead, try using battery-operated LED lights such as these available from Walmart to make your jack-o'-lantern glow. This useful guide shares other ways to help stop pumpkins from rotting

It's also a good idea to thoroughly hollow your pumpkin before adding your LED candles. Squirrels are attracted to pulp and seeds inside your pumpkin, so the more thoroughly you clean out your jack-o'-lantern, the less likely they are to ruin your pumpkin carving creation.

Squirrel on pumpkin

(Image credit: Getty Images/arlutz73)

Consider deterring with pet hair  

Another natural and free way of keeping squirrels away from your prized pumpkins is by using pet hair. If you have a dog or cat who enjoys a good groom, you can place their hair at the base of your pumpkins as a deterrent. Squirrels will not want to go close to the hair, as it signals to them that there is an enemy in their yard. 

Lindsay Chastain adds that keeping a feeder and a birdbath with water well away from her home and garden can help to stop squirrels eating her pumpkins. 'I find this helps deter them from looking for food elsewhere since they already know where to find a good snack,’ she says. 


Why are squirrels eating my pumpkins?

In the fall, squirrels are looking everywhere for calorie-rich foods to help them fatten up for the winter. Sadly this means the flesh and seeds of your pumpkins are prime fodder for them. 

Can hairspray stop squirrels from eating pumpkins?

Hairspray is known as a way to stop squirrels from eating pumpkins, as they do not like the smell or the sticky texture it leaves on the pumpkin skin. There are, however, lots of natural repellents you may want to try before reaching for the chemicals. 

If you're planning a stylish Halloween display on your front porch this year, have a look at some of these pumpkin carving ideas and gorgeous pumpkin painting ideas to see if they offer any inspiration. 

Rachel Bull
Head of Gardens

Rachel is a gardening writer, flower grower and floral designer. Her journalism career began on Country Living magazine, sparking a love of container gardening and wild planting. After more than a decade writing for and editing a range of consumer, business and special interest titles, Rachel became editor of floral art magazine The Flower Arranger. She then trained and worked as a floral designer and stylist in London for six years, before moving to York and joining the Homes & Gardens team. Her love of gardening has endured throughout, and she now grows an abundance of vegetables and flowers on her rambling Yorkshire plot.