Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Gardening >
May 1, 2009 06:01 PM

Does using cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes as pest deterrent affect the flavor of the vegetables?

Yes, this is a serious question, not a joke. When I first began using red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper to deter our local pests (rabbits, javelina, deer, pack rats et al) I didn't think a thing about whether the flavor of the zucchini, green beans or tomatoes would be affected.

After two weeks of constant applications, I'm not quite so certain. The peppers are doing their job, so far, and I would hate to give in to the beasties. We've walled & fenced, covered open places with boards but there is no way, short of a bubble environment, to keep out rats who climb vertical walls. The peppers are doing the trick but if we can't eat the final product, it is senseless. So, does anyone who has used these products know if I'm growing spicy vegetables?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I used them extensively in my garden last year - to protect my lettuce, peas, and tomatoes. We have huge problems with squirrels & raccoons (and birds - when they are seeds). I sprinkle them liberally and they act as a deterent- and had no issues with flavours or the heat passing onto my vegetables

    1 Reply
    1. re: Apple

      THANK YOU, Apple! That's the exact answer I was hoping to hear. This is such an eco-friendly, people-friendly, inexpensive solution I though surely it must be flawed. I'm thrilled to hear otherwise. Am off to pop a bottle of bubbly for celebration.
      The Red Pepper Queen of AZ

    2. I have had limited success with pepper flakes, but after a week or two there was no remaining effect, as the flakes were dispersed by soil and rain.
      I was also advised that using pepper flakes or cayenne is a form of cruelty to rodents, as they brush their paws over their eyes.
      I have no real opinion on this, until it is confirmed.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jayt90

        jayt90. I reapply the pepper after each watering so it doesn't disappear.

        I prefer to think of my method as a training aid; assuming the rats won't continue to nosh in my garden after an initial unpleasant experience.

        1. re: Sherri

          I re-pepper too... probably once a week at first then every other week. I think you're right that the animals get "trained" which is why I find that I don't need to pepper as often.

      2. I would like to start using the cayenne pepper trick. Are you putting it in water or vinegar and spraying it on the leaves or are you just sprinkling the cayenne pepper right on the leaves and ground?

        1 Reply
        1. re: lekatvt

          For the past year I've had success simply sprinkling red pepper flakes around the plants and sometimes on the leaves as well. For citrus trees in pots, I scatter it around the base of the plants, for tender annuals (lettuce) I do both the surrounding soil and the new baby plants. Who knew that rats might want to eat citrus leaves?

          I found the flakes to be much less expensive than cayenne pepper and have used them almost exclusively. I have not made a spray but if I did, I'd choose vinegar for the simple reason that it is just one more deterrent.

          Knock wood, but after a year, I've noticed MUCH less interest in my plantings than before. I was using a large Costco jar of red pepper flakes every month or so. Now, I'm down to one jar every four to five months. Maybe the training really does work????? Whatever the reason, I'm not changing a single thing.

        2. I just tried the red pepper and cayenne and was surprised to find that the cayenne powder on the top of the soil had grown a thick layer of mold within a couple days. I tried to do my best to remove as much as I could from the flower bed, but am not certain if I got everything. Is there a risk that the mold could do more damage to the plants than the squirrels did to begin with?

          5 Replies
          1. re: JungMann

            Jungmann - don't you live in NYC? I would love to see a photo of your flower bed! Where is it?

            1. re: southernitalian

              I have windowboxes hanging off the rails of my fire escape with crop plants tucked into sunny spots without obstructing the escape path. It's a great place for me to relax and transport myself far away from Manhattan... until sirens and explosions from 2nd Avenue subway construction bring me back home.

            2. re: JungMann

              mold? Really? Could it be mildew? Is it possible that the mold came from something else? I have never used powder but have had tremendous success with the flakes. In fact, this evening I noticed the creature eating my tomatillo leaves has abruptly stopped now that I have started sprinkling red pepper flakes right onto some of the leaves. (Oh the travails of an urban garden)

              1. re: Apple

                I'm not sure what the difference is, but there was definitely the telltale grey fur growing on the red powder. I'm still finding it in spots where there is still cayenne I wasn't able to reach.

                1. re: JungMann

                  Molds grow on dead organic material--part of the breakdown process, not harmful to plant. Some soil microorganisms feed specifically on molds. Composters' friends. The cayenne was most likely dumped in too big a clump, got damp, and the mold organisms went to work breaking it down.

                  Mildew grows on living plant tissue, usually leaves, where it can get access to sun and water, both of which it needs to thrive. Mildews are fungal spore colonies which contrict the vascular system and thus harm the plant. Think powdery mildew on roses or zucchini leaves.

            3. I am trying to deter skunks from living under my deck. Would red pepper powder work? If so, should I put it in water/vinegar to spray it on the ground or just the powder? I hesitate to just sprinkle the powder on the ground. I'm worried if wind picks up and blows it around, it will get into human eyes and mine! What has others experience been?

              If spray, how many parts powder to liquid should I use?

              BTW, I bought one pound of red pepper powder for $3.29 from a Korean market.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tigerlily888

                I know it is not environmentally as friendly as red pepper, but a handful of mothballs will run the skunks off.