While squirrels are known for stashing away nuts for winter, they munch on strawberries and other fresh fruit when available. Some options for protecting strawberries from squirrels, such as wire fencing, can be expensive and others, such as traps or poison, are probably not ones you want around your kids or pets. There is a simple, safe solution, though. Squirrels will avoid hot peppers, and hot pepper sprays for your garden are quick and inexpensive to make.
Hot Pepper Spray
Toss one of the hottest peppers you can find into the blender whole. Habanero, Thai bird, Serrano, and jalapeno all have high levels of capsaicin, the component that makes peppers hot. If you end up using milder peppers like Anehieim or banana peppers, add a couple of extra peppers for better results. Add two or three cups of water and blend until the peppers are broken down.
Donning a pair of disposable plastic gloves, carefully strain the mixture through a fine strainer or cheesecloth. The gloves protect your hands because hot peppers can not only irritate the skin, they can burn it, leaving blisters. Pour the mixture slowly to prevent splashing. Discard the pulp.
Add enough water to the liquid from pureed hot peppers to equal a gallon total. Add 1/3 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid. This will help the spray stick where you want it to go. Handle the spray carefully; it is still strong enough to irritate your skin if you come in contact with it.
Fill a spray bottle with the liquid. Spray the ground around the strawberries. Some strawberry plants can be sensitive to the capsaicin in the hot peppers, so test by spraying a leaf or two and leaving for a few days before spraying the plants directly. Plants that don’t wilt or show burn marks where you sprayed can have the spray applied to the leaves, but avoid spraying fruit you plan to eat. The spray can leave the strawberries tasting like hot peppers, even after washing. If you know the path the squirrels are taking to the strawberry bed, you can also spray a few of the berries nearest to their path. A bite or two of hot pepper sprayed strawberries will discourage a squirrel from eating any more strawberries from the patch.