Our yards provide habitat for many different kinds of animals as part of an area-wide ecosystem. This means your lawn is part of the neighborhood buffet, and squirrels are one of many visitors who will be glad to browse for their favorite items, including grass seeds and tender grass sprouts.
With some planning before sowing your grass seed, you can decrease the chances that squirrels will ravage your freshly planted lawn before it’s able to grow.
Seeds Are Nutrient-Dense
All kinds of seeds contain vitamins and minerals inside their shells to contribute to the germination process, which is why they are so healthy. Squirrels know seeds give them the high energy they need to get through the day, and the winter, so they will take advantage of a readily available source, like a recently sown lawn.
Will Squirrels Eat New Grass Seed?
Related to chipmunks and prairie dogs, squirrels are the bigger relative of the group. They are well adapted to various climates, and they have a fat-rich diet to be able to survive winters. Not all squirrels hibernate, but they all will collect foods to store over the colder months, and seeds are a good choice to hold long-term.
Squirrels are omnivores, and many are predominantly herbivores. Their diets consist of stems, seeds, roots, leaves, berries, nuts, and fungi, and they’ll also eat insects and birds’ eggs.
Many of us are also familiar with squirrels rummaging through trash or picking up pet food from the outdoor dish. As omnivores, the limits of their diets aren’t well defined, so squirrels will eat what they think will be nutritious and energizing.
Foraging In Your Yard
Squirrels will dig around the thatch layer of the yard, on top of the soil, to find ungerminated seeds to eat and dried plant materials for their nests. Sometimes they can’t find easy energy foods like berries and nuts, which is why squirrels eat grass roots sometimes.
This nutrient-dense part of the plant may be nourishing, but they have to be ripped from the ground, which can wreak havoc on the health and integrity of your grass.
A squirrel will prefer young grass blades that are soft and easier to eat, so when you’re thinking of regrowing your yard, it will be important to be vigilant from seeding throughout the germination period.
How To Keep Squirrels From Eating Grass Seed
Whether you have a bunch of trees in your yard or they’re visiting from down the block, squirrels will check all over their area for food. It may be a challenge to keep them away from your newly sown grass seed, but there are several ways you can do it; trying more than one can give you the best results.
When you overseed your lawn or till it to replant anew, the seeds will be exposed to the open air and sunlight and easily found by the animals that may want to eat them. For the average of 6 weeks it will take for your lawn to grow from seed to grass, try some of these tactics to keep the seeds in the ground:
- Protect the seeds
- Repel the squirrels
- Redirect the squirrels
Cover With Metal Or Plastic Wiring
If you’re planting grass seed in bare patches, you might be able to cover the areas by securing down squirrel proof netting or chicken wire to keep them out of the dirt. Fencing it off probably won’t work since squirrels can climb or jump over most boundaries, but they’ll have a harder time digging through a barrier. This option won’t work for total lawn coverage.
What About Grass Seed Under Hay?
Using hay or other organic materials to cover grass seed won’t be as effective as an unbreakable barrier. Squirrels will brush the hay away to dig under it and might even take some to build their beds. Straw and mulch are great for keeping the soil moist and providing some fertilizer for the seeds, but they aren’t suitable for protection.
Use Pepper As Deterrent
Squirrels don’t like the hot smell or taste of pepper. This includes all kinds of peppers, like black pepper, cayenne pepper, and the many other varieties available. Ground pepper is safe to mix into soil and is even an antimicrobial that protects squirrels, bacteria, and some fungi. The plants growing in peppered soil may also absorb some of the pepper’s space, further deterring predators.
Ultrasonic Noise Maker
Small electronic machines that emit a high-frequency sound can be used to keep squirrels and other wildlife away from an area. You can put one up temporarily to keep your grass seeds safe from not only squirrels but birds and other small animals that like to forage in the lawn.
Motion Sensor Sprinkler
Motion activated sprinklers are a good choice for full-lawn replanting. They’ll keep animals away while giving your lawn a good rinsing.
Stock A Squirrel Feeding Area
Providing food in another area of the yard is an optimistic option, but setting out food for squirrels that are more appealing than scattered grass seed may keep them away from your growing lawn. Squirrels are already happy to go to bird feeders and outdoor pet bowls where they know they’ll find a source of food.
You can buy nutrient-rich squirrel food and set out dog or cat food and corn cobs to pacify your yard’s squirrels. Results may vary on the number of squirrels (and other wildlife) you attract and whether they’re satisfied with the provisions.