doodle by andre: woodchuck season

doodle by Andre Jordan: woodchucks in the garden

I WATCHED ONE WADDLE across the road here yesterday, so it’s only a matter of time until my annual battle begins with Marmota monax, the woodchuck or groundhog. Typically these big rodents get going earlier in my supermarket garden, but I’m not complaining about the delay in our inevitable war games, and am enjoying having all the peas to myself for once. Any fur-bearing species of any description been giving you fits yet in your backyard? (Thanks to Andre Jordan for the garden doodle.)

  1. Nancy Sullenberger says:

    I’ve had groundhogs visit my garden for years, this year didn’t do the proper planning to keep them out & they ate up a lot o my spinach & lettuce then I remembered to put some o my hair around & I found some moth balls & set them in a corner, I think I can relax now!

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Nancy. Watch out with those mothballs — they are not safe for people, either, or in your soil or food, and contain naphthalene or para-dichlorobenzene. They are not meant to be used in the garden. They are rated as harmful and we are warned not to use them “in the open.”

  2. My local woodchuck seems to be happy staying behind by neighbor’s garden, and rarely ventures much into mine. It’s been that way for the last couple of years, but I probably just jinxed that.

    Rabbits though: it’s a banner year again for rabbits. Plus I saw an armadillo dead on the road just 1/2 mile from my house — the first I’ve seen in this area. I’ve heard they’re not nice to have in a garden.

  3. Deborah B says:

    A rabbit decimated several new perennials I had just purchased and planted in the bed farthest from the house. And then it started eating all the leaves off the lilies coming up there. I was in the process of borrowing a have-a-heart trap from a friend when we found the half-eaten body of the rabbit lying near the fence the next morning. Local feral cat probably, but maybe that voodoo thing is finally starting to work for me! If you need any help, let me know. :-)

  4. Honeybee says:

    Groundhogs! A mother and baby and one old-timer, who I swear is at least 10 years old. My new motion-detection sprinkler is on patrol now. Let’s see how that goes.

  5. Meredith says:

    So far, so good on the woodchuck front. I saw one out by the woodpile but not so far digging under our porch or in the garden. If they show up, I suppose we’ll have to string up the electric fence again. It’s the only way I’ve found around them so far.

  6. terri says:

    A few years back I had a plague of groundhogs living beneath my deck. Like Nancy I thought to spread some mothballs under the deck hoping to roust the critters……WRONG! The scent was overwhelming ( I’d foolishly had tossed the contents of 2 boxes underneath…) and unfortunately, the only deterrence was my own. After puzzling through the night, trying to decide how I could retrieve the bloody mothballs, I awoke to find mothballs strewn throughout my yard! Apparently, those subteranean rascals cleaned house- solving the problem of my own creation! Of course, as a reward they devoured every Rudbeckia in the garden….the price we pay……..

  7. Ken Newman says:

    Last year I spent over $400 to fortify the bottom 3 feet of my fence with 1″ chicken wire.
    Two small woodchucks were going through the 2″ x 4″ welded wire as if it didn’t even exist. They decimated my first plantings. I had lay bluestone under the gate to stop them from tunneling in. So far this year I’m winning. Only the chipmunks have penetrated my defenses and they get a cuteness pass.

  8. Catherine - Santa Fe, New Mexico says:

    OMG the rabbits have had a fertile year! There must be 15 of them – various ages from newborn to elders- DEVOURING everything that doesn’t have a hardware cloth cage around it. We must have spent $300 on hardware cloth to keep the little monsters off the hollyhocks, and I can’t bear to add up how many salvias they have gnawed to the ground. The sick thing is that there is no way to fence our site so that they can’t get in and my garden looks like a scrap metal yard because of the harware cloth cages. I can’t bear to harm them but they drive me crazy!

  9. Lynn says:

    Some damn varmint has bitten off all but three of my heirloom tomato plants, and judging from the various heights of the remaining stubs, I don’t think it’s cutworms. Do birds nip tomatoes off? The vegetable garden is full of robins. And I just went to inspect the long sweep of about-to-bloom lilies around the willow and discovered an ocean of headless flower stalks. That’ll be the beautiful doe I’ve seen sneaking in the back way …

  10. unsightly says:

    I saw my first woodchuck in the garden, usually it’s rabbits and ground squirrels for me. With the varmint trifecta this year I actually got around to fencing around my garden beds!

  11. Susan says:

    We’ve had a single male woodchuck living under our shed for several seasons. Other than completely decimating the rudbeckia I’d foolishly planted nearby (file under “duh!”), he’s been a pretty good neighbor. And then the other morning I noticed 5 juveniles (or “woodchips” as we call them) frolicking on the lawn. There goes the neighborhood. Anyone have any luck with predator urine?

  12. Terry says:

    Single woodchucks? I thought they only existed in MOBS. I know of 4 litters on my property this spring. Each litter is 4 to 6 chuckettes. My garden is heavily fenced and has buried fencing- but somehow they get in. Tried sprinkling cayenne pepper, but I think they like it. I am open to all suggestions posted.

  13. Lorraine says:

    I went away for 10 days to visit UK gardens, where their garden critters are likely rabbits and hares. When I got home, a new litter of 4 woodchucks had appeared. They are ‘cute’ but soon get big and devour their favorites. I count on a CSA share for edibles, and hope for the best. But I can’t grow echinacea, phlox, rudbeckia, asters, petunias or zinnias. This year they are also eating hosta and marigolds! They climb right up on the deck and eat out of raised containers, too! I am trying to co-exist, but it’s not easy!

  14. Anna says:

    I have had great luck w/ garlic and hot pepper flakes. Fill a bucket w/ boiling water. Put in a couple cups of garlic powder and even more red chili pepper flakes (Costco-sized containers work best) and let it steep. Once it has cooled, throw it down the hole. Every time someone inhabits the empty den near our compost pile (twice in the past four years) we do this and they are gone for the season. They hate the smell and the solution sinks into the soil, so they can’t push it out. And it harms nothing, except maybe the woodchuck’s olfactory glands for a bit.

  15. Maria says:

    When I returned from work this evening, our houseguests reported a “herd” of 4 deer ran through the garden today. Then, we saw 3 of the four just now, munching on Aronia leaves. I flew into the garden to spray against deer, in the dark. It’s raining, so my efforts may be futile, but I couldn’t do NOTHING. I came in to calm down by perusing blogs, and found this doodle about groundhogs. Sigh.

  16. Catherine - Santa Fe, New Mexico says:

    Thank you for the suggestion, Margaret! I followed the link you sent and I actually think that there are certain planting areas where this fencing might work. The parts of the garden that are set into the hillside or have retaining walls around them would still be salad bar – the bunnies just jump right in – but at least I could salvage parts of the beds and it is certainly worth a try. (Where are those coyotes when I need them?)

  17. Karen says:

    I am at war with a gopher or two. I cannot keep up with these crazy critters and they’re wrecking my plants. They’ve eaten herbs, a huge sunflower, a couple of tree roots. Uuuuugh I love Gods creatures but I have to admit I’m on the fence when it comes to gophers. Any suggestions?

  18. Carol says:

    Hi Margaret:
    Each early AM, two fat waddling groundhogs (Had no idea were also called woodchucks; thought that was different animal!) route their way across my yard for breakfast. Not happy with this, but yard not fenced in (Too big) and have no idea where den is, (Maybe neighbor’s yard), so the ravaging continues! Yuck!!!

  19. valerie gillman says:

    when can we vent on insects? I just planted a bed of assorted nicotiana and the first night something started chomping. all but the veins . 2nd night the veins were eaten. They don’t seem bothered by diatomaceous earth or Sluggo. Any ideas?

  20. Jane says:

    Last year we enclosed the garden with 7′ fencing to foil the deer. At the bottom is 30″ of chicken wire with the bottom 12″ buried. Had my best garden in decades. Today I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and discovered a baby woodchuck INSIDE the fence. No sign that the fence has been breached so it must have squeezed under the gate. Apparently screaming “get out, get out!” Is not effective, nor is opening the gate and chasing the creature directly at the opening. Not sure what to do next, since for the moment it is hiding somewhere in the perennial border.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Jane. They are amazing at how they can squeeze into spots — like with fawns, who can go under fences where I swear there is barely any room to spare. Crazy. I find that animals don’t respond well to verbal insults, irate questions or general screaming. A live cage trap with canteloupe in it might work…and some lure/bait paste (trapper’s paste) to enhance the temptation (like this). Of course then you have to pay someone to relocate the animal legally…because state laws forbid moving wild animals unless you are licensed. If you are nearby me and want the info on that (a licensed person), email me using the contact form link at the bottom of the page!

  21. Deborah says:

    Our home is built on land ground-leased from gophers so clearly I don’t have much to add to the discussion. I just have to mention, though, that those who comment on this blog could either write for SNL or The New Yorker. Tell the truth Margaret, do you vet your readers for writing ability and humor?

  22. Karen Greer says:

    Does anyone remember the movie Phenomenon? Where John Travolta’s character is trying to catch that pesky critter decimating his veggie garden???? I loved the part when he realizes he fenced the rabbit in ………. I often wonder if some critter hasn’t made it’s way inside while I’m in the zone, in my fenced container garden. And when I close it off when finished for the day have I indeed created a similar “phenomenon”

  23. Deb says:

    I live in the “big city” ( LA) and my garden buddies are field mice, rats, possum, squirrels, raccoons,rabbits,gophers, moles and hose chewing coyotes. Very few neighbors have veggie gardens, so that is one reason I have so many buddies. So far this year we are getting along, but I am just waiting and hoping I have bagged or fenced everything well.
    Thanks for the info on electric fencing. I have been looking for a good source.

  24. Amanda says:

    None of our brassicas or lettuce made it past a few inches. All I can say is that the many rabbits in our small yard are the sleekest, glossiest, and largest I have ever seen. It looks as though we’re raising show rabbits. Maybe we’ll just forget about the vegetables and reread Watership Down.

  25. Elaine L. says:

    Hi, yes a large black bear! He got into the compose pile, bird feeders and my CAR!
    My car is repaired now but I won’t compost any more and can’t feed the birds after winter is over and the bears have come out of hibernation (Late March). We also have rabbits, deer, raccoons & skunks. Our 2 dogs keep most of them away most of the time. EL

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