Although they may be cute, quirky and fun to watch, squirrels can quickly move from adorable to nuisance once they start picking your tomatoes before you have a chance to. Exclusion is the best way to keep them away, but you may find it to be a difficult and expensive task, depending on how many tomato plants you have. More than a few home remedies and other repellents are floating around, as well, and some work better than others.
Hammer 4-foot-tall stakes 8 to 12 inches into the ground around the perimeter of your tomato plot. Stakes should be approximately 1 foot from the edges of the tomato plants or planting holes. The stakes should be no further than 4 feet apart from each other for stability.
Use a straight-bladed shovel to cut a 6-inch-deep trench on the outside of the stakes for the fencing to sit in. Tree squirrels are powerful diggers, as are ground squirrels.
Roll out 4-foot-tall poultry wire or other wire-mesh fencing into the trench and attach it to the stakes. For wood stakes, nailing or stapling the fencing is more than sufficient; metal fence stakes are designed with small hooks to hold the poultry wire.
Place poultry wire, wire-mesh fence or hardware mesh over the top of your fence to keep the squirrels from climbing over it. Attach it to the sides of the fence with cable ties.
Repellents and Other Tactics
Place squirrel feeders around your yard and fill them with sunflower seeds, ears of corn or peanuts. Squirrels are typically more fond of these than they are of tomatoes and other vegetables.
Apply fox urine granules around the perimeter of your tomato plot. Fox urine granules are available at nurseries, garden centers and some hardware stores. This repellent takes advantage of the squirrels' natural fear of predators.
Spray pre-mixed taste and scent repellents on your tomato plants, but only those that are labelled for use on food crops. Many of these products are natural and include ingredients such as capsaicin, the chemical that makes hot peppers hot; garlic; or putrescent egg solids. In general, spray the entire tomato plant with these products and reapply every month or so, or after rain. Each product varies; read the label prior to use for proper application rates.