Squirrel standing near pumpkins

Falling evening temperatures, morning dew tipped bluegrass, late-night bonfires, and pumpkin-spiced everything…Fall has arrived in the midwest! You’ve packed up the car, headed out apple picking and pumpkin hunting, and returned home with a harvest of autumnal delights, now what?! Before carving those pumpkins, let’s combine them with some mums, kale, cabbage, and gourds and create a stunning fall decor front porch display!

Squirrels love their pumpkin!

If you’ve spent any time in Chicagoland, you know that porch pumpkins lead to a flurry of squirrel activity around your display. These creatures are attracted to pumpkins primarily due to the soft, edible interiors and the seeds, which are a rich source of essential fats that aid their survival through the winter. The sweetness of the pumpkins also appeals to their taste preferences. Squirrels, particularly the Eastern Gray and Fox Squirrels found in Illinois, are most active during the early and late parts of the day, scouring for food. Their behavior is driven by the availability of food sources, and gardens boasting vegetables, fruits, seeds, bulbs, and nuts are prime targets, making pumpkin displays an irresistible feast for these agile foragers.


Things to apply to your pumpkin to deter those squirrels


Dive deep into that vanity and douse those pumpkins and gourds in a healthy coating of AquaNet! While squirrels don’t appear to dislike one brand more than the other, we like to think the additives in the hairsprays of the ’80s are probably a bit more effective! Squirrels don’t like the stickiness hairspray leaves behind, so be sure to recoat the pumpkins every few days or after rain.

Petroleum Jelly

This is a bit of a messy application, but it lasts longer than hairspray. Squirrels dislike the tacky feel and have a tendency to move on to the neighbor’s house.


Give those pumpkins a freshly waxed shine! Lacquer is not as messy as petroleum jelly and it has a little more lasting power than hairspray. Covering your displays with lacquer can create a texture and taste that is unpleasant to seed-seeking squirrels in one easy spray application.

Hot Sauce

Not unlike your Aunt Karen, squirrels dislike anything spicy! To create an easy to apply concoction; finish up a gallon of milk, rinse out the container, refill it near the top with water, add 10oz of that hot sauce that’s been sitting in the back of the fridge and add about a two-second squirt of dish soap (adhesion). Pour that brew into a spray bottle and let those pumpkins have it! Since this is a liquid application, it will need to be regularly reapplied, but the oils from the peppers will begin to seep into the pumpkin providing a bit of lasting power! Beware, the coloring from the “pepper spray” may stain your pavers or concrete.

Garlic Spray

Garlic isn’t just for warding off vampires; it can also keep those pesky squirrels at bay. You can make your own garlic spray at home by blending two whole bulbs with a small amount of water. Strain the mixture and add it to a gallon of water with a teaspoon of dish soap, which helps the mixture stick to the pumpkins. Spray this concoction on and around your pumpkins. It won’t harm the squirrels, but they definitely won’t like the strong smell, keeping them away from your display.


Vinegar is another household item that squirrels find unpleasant. Mix equal parts of water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray your pumpkins and the area around them with this solution. Keep in mind that vinegar has a strong smell, which dissipates as it dries, but it may be noticeable to humans for a while too. Reapply after rain or every few days to maintain its effectiveness.


And some other things to put near your pumpkins

We get that you might not want to completely ruin the look of your pumpkins for the sake of squirrel prevention! But there are some other things you can do to stop them in their tracks.

Pet Hair

This one looks a little strange but sprinkling some pet hair at the base of your display, in combination with the aforementioned options, may help keep those seed smugglers from approaching your fall arrangement.


No sane squirrel wants to be shot with a burst of water, in fact it may scare them from ever returning again! You could leave the sprinkler on a timer or simply turn it on if you see them coming.

Owl garden statueOwl statues

The appearance of an owl in your garden may just be enough to scare any tempted squirrel from entering your grounds. Be sure to put the owls around your yard to send that message!


The unfortunate reality is that all the squirrels are looking to do is fatten up and attempt to survive the long winter. Some years you win the battle, some years they do! So, layout those pumpkins, slide in some gourds, position a few mums, kale, and cabbage and you will either be the envy of the neighborhood or a smorgasbord for the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed squirrels. Although it means a little extra maintenance in the garden, these tips and this could be your year to win…or not!

fall pumpkin and plants