Do Coffee Grounds Keep Squirrels Away (we find out)

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Out here in rural North Carolina, we have lots of squirrels. As you might have guessed, I was furious at finding several curious ones digging around in my vegetable garden until someone suggested I use coffee grounds to deter them. So, do coffee grounds keep squirrels away, or is it just a myth?

Coffee grounds effectively keep squirrels (and other pests) away from your property, as they dislike the strong odor. Freshly used coffee grounds are best sprinkled around the perimeter of your garden or along boundaries you want to protect.

closeup of gray and white squirrel with blurred green background

In this article, I explain why coffee grounds are among the best natural, least-expensive pest control options and squirrel deterrents you can employ to keep your garden free of these pesky critters.

I’ll also discuss the pros and cons of using coffee grounds to keep squirrels at bay, along with several other effective deterrents, and how coffee grounds may affect particular plants.

Humble Highlights

  • Save money by learning the four main sustainable benefits of using coffee grounds to repel squirrels so you can quickly and humanely get (and keep) these pests away from your garden.  
  •  Save energy by knowing the four basic steps to use coffee grounds to deter pesky squirrels, PLUS learn what other natural alternatives keep squirrels at bay.
  •  Know exactly how coffee grounds affect your garden soil and the plants growing within it and why using them as a slow-release fertilizer is a good idea. 

Why Keep Squirrels Away From Your Garden

Although cute from afar, squirrels can be quite destructive in your garden. They can dig up root vegetables like carrots, disrupt your garden soil by burrowing, trample your flowers, and take bites out of your ripening tomatoes. Before squirrels turn your gardening world upside down, it’s best to use several techniques to help stop these damaging pests. 

does coffee grounds keep squirrels away
Protecting your garden, home, and yard is paramount when it comes to wildlife.

Any responsible gardener wants to protect their property from unwanted guests like squirrels, rabbits, and other furry critters without resorting to cruel methods such as traps and poisons. Instead, many people turn to everyday household items like coffee grounds to help solve their issues while respecting the balance of nature. 

As you know, I have a garden that I tirelessly keep in pristine condition, but squirrels can be a huge pest. They dig up the plants, eat my tomatoes, ruin my flowers, and generally make a big mess of things if not kept away. 1

If a squirrel takes a liking to your garden and finds a viable food source from your plants, there’s no telling where it will stop. Further, squirrels are notorious for chewing into homes and staking claim to attics or crawl spaces where they inevitably hoard their stolen loot and build a nest to raise their young. Unfortunately, these crafty critters have also been known to gnaw away at exposed wires, creating potential fire hazards as a result.

Fortunately, coffee grounds are an effective way to deal with my squirrel problem while being affordable, eco-friendly, and straightforward to apply. It takes just a little time to sprinkle some fresh coffee grounds around my garden, and my plants are alive and well because of my efforts. 

So let’s take a closer look at some benefits of using ground coffee beans as a squirrel deterrent.

Benefits Of Using Coffee Grounds To Keep Squirrels Away

Using coffee grounds to deter squirrels from your backyard garden has several benefits. Some of the most common benefits are:

  • Eco-friendliness. Coffee grounds will eventually break down into nutrients for your soil.
  • Affordability and Sustainability. This is a great way to use leftover kitchen waste if you drink fresh coffee – and who doesn’t? 
  • Safe for animals and humans. Coffee is non-toxic to common garden pests, pets, or humans.
  • Easy to use. There are no traps to set, nor any worrying about the safe application of poisonous substances.
do squirrels hate coffee grounds
The strong penetrating aroma of coffee grounds deters pests in the garden and makes a great addition to your homemade compost pile.

Unlike traps, pesticides, and poisonous chemicals, coffee grounds are harmless to family pets, people, children, and wildlife. Instead, coffee grounds act purely as a deterrent due to their strong, pungent smell and acidic taste, making them one of the more beneficial household recyclables you can use in your garden. 2

Drawbacks Of Using Coffee Grounds To Deter Squirrels

Although there are many advantages to using coffee grounds as a squirrel deterrent, it’s not a foolproof method. It is essential to recognize some drawbacks, including:

  • Squirrels are persistent. If a squirrel wants to enter your property, it will find a way. Thorough application of coffee grounds over your vegetable patch and flower beds will help deter a squirrel, but putting coffee everywhere isn’t practical – nor advisable.
  • The coffee smell may deter beneficial insects. Due to coffee’s pervasive odor, beneficial insects that may serve as natural pest deterrents and garden pollinators may not smell the flowery scents that attract them.
  • Coffee may mask the flower scent in your garden. One positive benefit of your backyard garden is the smell of fresh herbs and flowers you grow within its borders. Trading that pleasant fragrance for a constant smell of coffee may not be ideal.
  • Requires constant reapplication. Fresh used coffee grounds will quickly break down or wash away, needing to be replenished regularly. However, a short-term application may be enough to deter any squirrels in the area when they first notice them.
what animals do coffee grounds keep away
It’s best to gently sprinkle used coffee grounds around the perimeter of your garden every two to three weeks to keep squirrels from eating your prized fruits and veggies.

However, if the constant, overwhelming smell of coffee is not something you feel you’ll enjoy, or your pest problem is more persistent and invasive, you should seek other alternative methods. Likewise, you may also consider contacting a professional to address this challenge humanely. 3

Humble Tip:

Another potential disadvantage of using coffee grounds in the garden is that if they are spread too thick, they tend to clump together and become a hotbed for mold as they begin to decompose. Any good gardener understands that mold and plants don’t mix. 

To avoid this challenge, consider sprinkling a conservative amount of coffee grounds around the perimeter of your garden. Then, for any considerable amount of spent grounds, add them to your compost pile, making sure not to exceed twenty percent of the compost volume. 

How To Use Coffee Grounds To Deter Squirrels

Here are a few common tips on how you can make use of leftover coffee grounds to ward off curious squirrels, including:

1. Spread fresh coffee grounds around the perimeter of your property by using freshly brewed leftovers. The coffee grounds will emit a strong scent that squirrels find unpleasant. This method requires frequent application since the smell begins to weaken after a few days.

2. Conservatively sprinkle used coffee beans directly around the base of your vegetable plants and atop the soil. Also, consider sprinkling used coffee beans onto areas where squirrels often frequent your garden.

3. Add other ingredients to your mixture. If you want something more potent than just plain coffee grounds, try combining other natural ingredients, such as peppermint oil or cayenne powder, which are also offensive against many pests, yet are still naturally environmentally friendly.

4. Place mixtures into containers and hang them. For example, perforating a used 2-liter plastic cola bottle and then filling it with used coffee grounds ensures the mixture won’t be tampered with and ensures the smell will carry further thanks to the wind.

do used coffee grounds keep squirrels away
There’s no need to throw away used coffee grounds and beans when they can be used appropriately in your garden.

These simple methods allow the humble gardener to use waste materials for pest control without harming themselves or the very squirrels they are trying to repel. And while these easy DIY solutions can be incredibly useful, you must use them wisely to get the best results. 4

Now that you understand the best way to use your coffee grounds let’s consider which kind of coffee grounds work best for squirrel deterrence. 

Which Kind Of Coffee Grounds Deter Squirrels

Not all coffee grounds are created equal when used as a DIY squirrel repellent. To achieve the best results, you’ll want to use freshly brewed beans and avoid anything sitting out for long periods, as coffee grounds can be less effective from their weakened scent.

how to keep squirrels away naturally
The best way to repel squirrels is when you first notice them. Practice preventative maintenance so these pesky creatures won’t make a habit of raiding your garden’s vegetables.

All coffee beans are effective, however, the stronger the coffee flavor, the stronger the smell. So, a richer, darker, roasted bean requires smaller amounts when applied. Remember, a little goes a long way.

If you want a more potent mixture, combine additional natural ingredients, such as peppermint oil or cayenne powder, to create an even stronger squirrel deterrent. These mixtures make great natural pesticides that work well to remove many common garden pests without causing them harm. 5

Home remedies like these have become increasingly popular because they provide simple solutions without investing too much money and time. While there are no guarantees that it will work every single time, it certainly doesn’t hurt to try and see what kind of results you get from using leftover coffee grounds in your DIY pest control efforts.

Do Coffee Grounds Attract Pests

Although coffee grounds are great at deterring many rodents and insects in your garden, some pests are attracted or at least aren’t bothered by the powerful smell. The most common pests that you’ll see in your garden, even after spreading coffee grounds, include:

  • Cockroaches. While perhaps not completely put off by coffee, it’s not their favorite scent in the world. However, these common pests aren’t picky and eat just about anything and everything. The smell of some detergents and synthetic chemicals are the only known roach deterrents.
  • Ants. The acidity contained in coffee grounds is initially attractive to ants. However, these common insects are susceptible to caffeine, often causing them to become disoriented and eventually leading to a decline in population size around your garden.
  • Fruit Flies. Like ants, fruit flies don’t mind the acidity of coffee grounds. Surprisingly, if their numbers are large enough, fruit flies can damage some vegetable and fruit crops in your garden. If these tiny-winged invaders become problematic, seek additional pest control measures. Fruit flies are drawn to light and moisture and are typically noticed more indoors.
do coffee grounds keep squirrels away from plants
Worms love the acidity found in coffee grounds, making your garden more enticing to these natural fertilizers.

On the upside, worms are attracted by the acidity of the coffee grounds, and there is nothing more beneficial to a garden than nature’s best fertilizers. Worms help aerate the soil, deposit nutrients, improve water infiltration, and amend compacted soil. 6

Additionally, earthworms have big appetites and eat anything they can find. And what comes out of the other end (castings) is the best free fertilizer that can help your flowers and vegetables to grow.

Despite the few pests attracted to the smell of coffee, most are repelled by the powerful aroma and prefer to opt for the sweeter scents of a nearby unprotected garden. That’s why coffee grounds remain a reliable staple in my gardening habits. 

Are Coffee Grounds Bad For Plants

Thinly spreading coffee grounds around the boundary of your garden is fine. However, use caution when applying these coffee grounds around your vegetables or flower beds, especially if your soil is already acidic or high in nitrogen. General soil pH should be around 6.5, which is considered neutral to slightly acidic. Adding coffee grounds too liberally around your garden may cause acidic soil, affecting the quality and growth of certain plants.

do coffee grounds keep squirrels away from tomatoes
Coffee grounds won’t be tolerated by some plants. Likewise, avoid spreading spent grounds around seedlings as the acidity can completely arrest their germination.

Remember, coffee contains caffeine and is therefore considered allelopathic. Allelopathy is a process whereby one organism creates biochemicals (called allelochemicals) that affect other organisms’ structural development and growth. And just as with any natural process, the resulting allelochemicals have positive and negative consequences for nearby plants.  

While coffee grounds have a wide pH range between 4.6 to 8.4, most gardeners believe these spent grounds will create an acidic environment within their garden. Depending upon the coffee, that may initially be accurate. However, pH levels fluctuate over time, especially as the grounds begin to decompose. 7

When first applied, highly acidic coffee grounds may hinder and even stunt the growth of some plants, such as tomatoes, rosemary, and asparagus. In addition, the high nitrogen content within these grounds can burn and kill these more sensitive plants. Even plants that enjoy acidic conditions, like blueberries, for example, may find coffee grounds too much to handle adequately.

On the other hand, when appropriately used in the correct proportions, coffee grounds can act as a natural, slow-release fertilizer for your garden. As mentioned above, coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen but also contain decent quantities of phosphorous and potassium your plants enjoy. Therefore, when used appropriately, coffee grounds can be an excellent fertilizing addition to your garden. 

Humble Tip:

It’s also important to note that coffee grounds have been known to suppress several typical fungal issues in the garden. Moreover, coffee grounds also appear to repress wilt and some bacterial pathogens like E.coli, making them excellent disease fighters.

What Else Deters Squirrels

Coffee grounds aren’t the only good natural deterrent that can help keep squirrels from ransacking your garden. There are other natural methods to help eliminate these pesky creatures without resorting to chemical treatments or more extreme measures. Planting certain herbs and flowers will help naturally repel squirrels due to their pungent odors and flavors. The best plants and flowers to use as repellents include:

  • Allium
  • Marigolds
  • Hyacinth
  • Snowdrops
  • Daffodils
  • Lavender
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Chili peppers
what do squirrels hate
Garlic, peppermint, and marigolds are just some of the unpleasant smells squirrels actively avoid. Consider growing a few of these strong herbs and flowers in pots and situating them accordingly around the garden.

It’s also good practice to ensure you create a garden environment where no animal food is available. Of course, this is easier said than done when growing fruit and vegetables in abundance. However, you can take practical steps by placing bird feeders far from your garden during the growing season is a great start. Likewise, removing any fallen fruit or vegetables from the ground to prevent squirrels’ access to potentially fallen snacks is another good practice.

Keeping your garden well organized lessens the chances squirrels will raid your fruits and veggies. For example, any piles of wood, dirt, mulch, or compost are best placed away from your plants. And to keep curious squirrels and other garden pests from wandering into your space, consider investing in a rubber owl or snakes. You can even move these around the garden each day, and if you add some kind of noise maker along with these decoys, the better.

do coffee grounds keep mosquitoes away
Keeping your garden organized and ensuring no fruits or vegetables litter the ground is an easy way any humble gardener can help prevent unwanted visitors, like squirrels.

More extreme methods of keeping squirrels away from your garden are fencing and netting used to help protect and barricade specific areas of entry. In addition, consider investing in a practical but harmless deterrent of motion-sensing water squirters or ultrasonic animal repellent. Squirrels won’t take kindly to being squirted each time they stroll into your garden, nor will they enjoy the high-frequency tones and will quickly learn to forage elsewhere. 8

So if you’re looking for creative and effective ways to protect your garden while still enjoying its beauty and natural smell, these methods are worth considering!

The below video provides plenty of alternative methods to help keep squirrels away from your garden so your veggies can have a fighting chance against these persistent critters.

There are plenty of humane and natural ways to get squirrels out of your garden. It’s best to try several methods to see what works. Remember, the earlier you start, the better.


Using coffee grounds to repel squirrels effectively keeps them away from your garden, so long as you don’t use too much within one area. Applying a thin layer of coffee grounds around the perimeter of your garden every two to three weeks works fine. However, with extra moisture, you’ll need to reapply more often.

As with most gardening-related practices, there are pros and cons to using coffee grounds and beans in the garden. While generally safe for pets and children, squirrels will find the pungent odor of coffee repulsive. However, coffee grounds quickly break down and dissolve into the soil adding essential nutrients to your soil, like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

On the other hand, coffee is very acidic and therefore doesn’t treat all plants equally, especially when applied in larger quantities. Some flowers and plants prefer soils and fertilizers that are more alkaline in nature and, therefore, will not tolerate the coffee grounds you spread around them. Ensure you understand the needs of your garden and the plants within it that call it home beforehand.

If you’re looking for other natural ways to ward off squirrels and other annoying pests, several popular options are available such as peppermint oil and cayenne spray. Each can be used in conjunction with the other or on its own. Depending on the size of your outdoor space and how determined the squirrels are, it may be best to stock up on both.

If you want to try something new and natural without harsh chemicals around your home, give coffee grounds a chance. They are an eco-friendly opportunity any gardener can use to their advantage, and they might be the last trick you’ll need to employ when keeping those furry critters at bay. Have you used coffee grounds to help keep squirrels out of your garden? Meet me in the comments below, join the conversation and let me know!


  1. NYBG The LuEsther T. Mertz Library Of The New York Botanical Garden – Squirrels In The Garden: Home
  2. The University Of Arizona, Cooperative Extension – Using Coffee Grounds In The Garden
  3. Wikipedia – Allelopathy
  4. University Of Connecticut – Using Coffee Grounds In Your Garden
  5. Sustainable Gardening Australia – Using Coffee Grounds In The Garden
  6. Washington State University, Extension – Using Coffee Grounds In Gardens And Landscapes (Home Garden Series)
  7. University Of New Hampshire – Should I Put Earthworms In My Garden?
  8. National Library Of Medicine, National Center For Biotechnology Information – Research Progress On The Use Of Plant Allelopathy In Agriculture And The Physiological And Ecological Mechanisms Of Allelopathy

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