While a great part of gardening is watching nature make its home in your garden, there are some visitors you don’t want to attract, and one of those is the groundhog.
While they are cute from a distance, they can wreak a lot of havoc on your garden and destroy everything you’ve worked so hard for.
Once they set up home in your garden, it can be difficult to get rid of them, but there are many humane ways that you can deter them from eating your plants without harming them.
Here are some fool-proof ways to deter groundhogs, limit the damage to your plants, and how to get rid of them when they decide your garden is their new home.
Why Groundhogs Aren’t A Complete Disaster In Your Garden
Groundhogs are the largest species in the squirrel family, and while they can be a nuisance, they also have a job to do in nature.
They aerate the soil when digging, letting more oxygen into the soil, breaking up any compacted areas and providing oxygen to the roots of plants.
This is especially true of their tunnels, and if you do let the tunnels remain once you have relocated or deterred the groundhogs, this will still end up being beneficial for your plants.
It also helps organic matter sitting on top of the soil get deeper, which helps support the microorganisms that live under the surface.
Having said all that, there is a point where you will absolutely not care about what they do any why – especially if they’ve just eaten one of your prized and beautiful plants.
Here’s how to stop them.
How Do I Stop Groundhogs From Eating My Plants?
During the early months of spring, groundhogs emerge from hibernation and feast on any plants they can get their hungry paws on.
They are famished after a long hibernation, and will attack anything with abandon. To stop groundhogs from eating your plants, it’s worth using a mix of several methods, as one method on its own is unlikely to do the trick, and the groundhogs won’t get the message.
How To Deter Groundhogs
Making your garden an unwelcome place for groundhogs is the best thing you can do, meaning that they will pick on other gardens that have food and shelter ripe for the taking.
So let’s take a look at what groundhogs absolutely cannot stand.
Like many mammals that will feast on parts of your garden, groundhogs hate strong smells. This also goes for squirrels, cats, deer, and even chipmunks (see also How To Keep Chipmunks Away From Your Garden).
They have a powerful sense of smell, so something that smells strong and lovely to us, such as lavender, or a herb garden, can really overwhelm a groundhog’s sense of smell, so they avoid it.
Plant Fragrant Herbs
Keeping a herb garden not only helps to keep hungry animals away, but it’s also good for your well being, not just in terms of your diet but how it makes you feel.
Plants such as lavender and lemon balm will relax you, while keeping your garden safe from groundhogs.
You could use any kind of herbs, too. Chives and plants from the garlic family are particularly effective.
Plant them around the borders of your garden, and anywhere you see any signs of burrows. It’s handy to plant them in small pots, so you can move them around as needed.
Using Blood Meal
You might not imagine blood meal being strong-smelling, and it’s not to us. However, for groundhogs, it’s particularly horrible.
It also helps that blood meal provides a lot of nitrogen, helping feed your garden plants.
Sprinkle Black Pepper In Your Garden
This is something that nearly every one of us has in the cupboard at all times, so no need to make a dedicated shopping trip. It’s one of the best things to reach for when you see signs of groundhogs in your garden.
Just as it makes us sneeze, it makes groundhogs uncomfortable, too.
Use Garlic And Hot Peppers
Garlic and hot peppers serve two purposes in deterring groundhogs: their strong smell, and stronger tastes. To prevent mice or other pests, use dried versions, or use a diluted spray of each.
Block Their Burrows
A sure sign of groundhog burrows is piles of recently dug up soil, though it can be other pests, too.
One way of getting the message across that they are unwelcome is to backfill the holes, and put something heavy on top. Just make sure there isn’t still a groundhog in the tunnel before you block it.
Barricade Burrow Entrances
If you’ve had groundhogs or other tunneling creatures in your garden before, it’s worth making sure you barricade any burrow entrances, otherwise this is essentially inviting them back.
Use chicken wire or welded wire and bury it in the entrance of the burrow so that nothing can get in.
A good way to deter groundhogs is to put a fence around your garden. This is a little more tricky than it sounds, as it needs to be at least 2 feet below the surface of the soil, and about 4 feet high above it.
Make sure that the bottom half of the fence sits at a 90-degree angle pointed away from your garden, as this will stop those hungry troublemakers from getting into your garden in the first place.
Use Predator Hair Or Urine To Scare Them Off
Sounds horrible, but it works. Letting your dog or cat pee near the boundaries of your property will help deter groundhogs, as well as scattering stray pet hair, as both smells are pretty strong.
Soiled Cat Litter
This is particularly horrible, but it is one of the most effective ways to drive groundhogs out of your garden.
If you have cats, scatter dirty litter into the opening of a groundhog burrow, and lightly cover the entrance so that the smell cannot escape.
It’s an unavoidable fact that you can’t be in your garden all the time to scare pests away. One thing that can help with this is to set up some deterrents that will act for you, all the time.
This doesn’t even have to be anything fancy. Even something as simple as a string of bells around burrow entrances and the boundaries of your garden will help scare them off.
If you do want something more nuanced, you could use a motion-activated sprinkler, or one that sprays a jet of water to really scare them off. These come solar-powered, too.
Getting Rid Of Groundhog Burrows
In order to make sure groundhogs don’t come back, you will need to get rid of their burrows. Obviously, ensure there are no groundhogs in there before you do anything!
Scatter something strong-smelling into the entrance of the burrow, using some of the methods mentioned above and below. Then, fill in the entrance with soil to seal in the scent.
Natural Defenses To Discourage Groundhogs
You don’t need to break the bank or resort to chemicals to make sure groundhogs don’t come into your garden. Here are a few solutions to keep them out naturally.
Remove Sources Of Food And Shelter
The most obvious reason why a groundhog will try to make its home in your garden is that there is plenty of food for them. So, it makes sense that if you want to get rid of groundhogs, make sure you’re removing sources of food and shelter.
Possible shelter includes long weeds, thickets, and woodpiles, but it’s worth noting that these are havens for other creatures too, so perhaps only get rid of them while the groundhogs are in your garden.
Ensure that you don’t leave any fruits or vegetables sitting ripe on plants for the taking. Always harvest as soon as possible.
If you have a compost heap, make sure that groundhogs and other animals can’t get into it, especially if you use food on your compost heap. This will also reduce the amount of food easily available to them.
Groundhogs have sensitive noses, so planting a herb garden will help keep them away. In particular, the more fragrant the herbs, the better, such as lavender and mint.
You could also take a couple of leaves from an existing plant and place them in the burrow, making sure to lightly seal the entrance to stop the fragrance from escaping.
Another thing to try is to use hot peppers, dried or otherwise. Sprinkle them directly into the burrow to make sure they know they’re not welcome.
Another natural deterrent is to drizzle castor oil in burrows, and the strong smell will make them steer clear.
One of the easiest ways to deter groundhogs is to make sure your garden smells like you. Most prey animals will run a mile if you scatter human hair around.
Sounds pretty gross, but the hair from your hairbrush will do. No need to dedicate your hair to the cause!
Keeping Groundhogs Away From Raised Beds
Chicken Wire Is Your Best Friend
For any kind of animal attracted to raised beds, chicken wire is your first line of defense. You can create a rigid cage that you can simply lift off when you need to, using planks and chicken wire.
Use Wind Chimes
Hang wind chimes near your raised beds as a way of startling the groundhogs. If you don’t have anywhere to hang them, you can simply hang them off a tall stake.
Turn To The Professionals
If nothing has worked, and the groundhog problem is getting worse, it’s worth turning to the professionals for help.
Most will lay down humane traps and relocate them for you, which is much safer than setting traps yourself, and wondering where on earth you should release them.
Other Things To Consider When Trying To Get Rid Of Groundhogs
Can You Use Vinegar To Deter Groundhogs?
As vinegar is an incredibly strong smell, yes. Use a solution of water and vinegar and spray around your yard.
Can You Use Mothballs To Deter Groundhogs?
You can use mothballs, but keep in mind that this will cause damage to other wildlife, and even pets and children, so use other methods where possible.
Groundhogs can be a menace if you don’t deal with them as soon as you spot them, and one of the best and most inexpensive ways to make sure they are unwelcome in your garden is to plant herbs.
These are good for creating a deterrent, while also looking and smelling beautiful. You can also turn to your kitchen cupboards, and use garlic, hot peppers, or black pepper to keep them out.
Always use a mixture of methods, as the combination will be more effective than a single solution, and these animals will soon get the message.