Planting fresh herbs in your garden only to have eaten by hungry squirrels can be frustrating. I wondered if squirrels actually ate herbs or if they were being ravished by other animals, so I did some research on the topic. Do squirrels actually eat herbs?
Squirrels eat some mild, leafy herbs such as cilantro, parsley, and watercress. Squirrels will avoid most herbs with a strong flavor native to the Mediterranean like basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and mint.
In this post, we’ll once and for all settle the question of whether squirrels eat herbs. I’ll go in detail over what herbs squirrels don’t and do consume and which herbs actually keep squirrels away. Lastly, I’ll also share some tips on keeping squirrels out of your garden for good.
Do squirrels eat garden herbs?
Squirrels eat certain garden herbs that are not too heavily fragranced. These include watercress, parsley, and cilantro. More often than not squirrels may also dig around herb gardens to bury nuts and other bounties for the winter.
Since nuts and seeds of various trees are a squirrels preferred food it will likely only touch your herb garden when there is not much else available. However, depending on the exact species of and region, local squirrels might have developed different eating habits that include your precious garden herbs.
Let’s look at some of the herbs that are in danger of being eaten by passer-by squirrels and others are safe from these rodents!
What herbs do squirrels eat?
Squirrels have a finely tuned sense of smell and taste and are picky eaters when it comes to herbs. Most common herbs are too strongly fragranced for squirrels to enjoy. As such squirrels will only touch milder scented herbs native to northern and central Europe and America.
According to the Avian Animal Hospital squirrels eat the following herbs:
Growing abundantly in milder climates, cilantro, parsley, and watercress have a mild flavors that squirrels prefer.
While the above herbs may seem like a delicious meal to many squirrels there are some herbs that squirrels will simply not touch. We’ll have a look at these next.
What herbs do squirrels not eat?
Squirrels do not eat mint, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and basil. These Mediterranean herbs are flavored too strongly for most common squirrels to enjoy.
Squirrels don’t eat the following herbs:
Most animals including squirrels especially dislike the scent of fresh mint. While to us it may seem clean and fresh to a squirrel the fragrance of mint is its worst enemy.
Although squirrels tend to avoid the above herbs anyway there are actually some herbs that actively keep squirrels away. Let’s have a look!
What herbs keep squirrels away?
Fresh peppermint keeps squirrels away. In fact, squirrels dislike the scent of peppermint in any form including peppermint plants, oils, and even toothpaste. While it may not be a great idea to distribute peppermint toothpaste in your garden, we can certainly work with the former two.
Planting peppermint among herbs that are commonly eaten by squirrels is a great natural way to keep squirrels from eating your parsley or cilantro. The scent of the peppermint plant will overpower that of the other herbs and thus will it more difficult for squirrels to even spot other edible herbs.
In addition to planting peppermint plants, you can also use their essential oils to keep squirrels at bay. Raw peppermint oil will – similarly to the live plant – emit a strong fragrance that squirrels avoid.
A great way to make use of peppermint oils in your garden is to apply them to cotton balls or old socks (not smelly ones) and place them in your herb garden. This will deter squirrels and help keep your herbs alive and well.
Besides peppermint, there are also some other natural ways to protect your herbs from squirrels. I’ll share two of my favorites in the following section.
How to keep squirrels from eating your herbs
You can keep squirrels from eating your herbs by using cayenne pepper or garlic (or both). Both spices exude heavy scents that not only mask the scent of milder herbs but also actively repel squirrels. In fact, these scents can even keep bears at bay.
Here’s how to use each of the methods to protect your herbs from squirrels:
- Cayenne Pepper: Almost all animals hate the scent and taste of cayenne pepper. To keep squirrels away it can be sufficient to sprinkle some cayenne pepper flakes onto your herb plants that are being eaten by wild rodents. You can also mix your own cayenne pepper spray and lightly apply it to your herbs.
- Garlic: Turns out that garlic does not only work great against vampires but also against squirrels. Make sure to crush your garlic cloves before placing them into your herb garden to maximize their scent.
Try out any of the two methods above to keep squirrels away from your herbs and you will not need to rely on any chemicals in your garden!
Squirrels don’t eat a lot of herbs. But sometimes parsley, cilantro, or watercress can look like a delicious meal to a squirrel. However, keeping squirrels away is as simple as planting fresh peppermint or using cayenne pepper and garlic as natural repellents.
Not that I think of, my uncle in Illinois used to have an airgun at hand to scare squirrels away from his bird feeder. I should probably share this article with him 😀