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A Call to Arms

May 25th, 2010

On Friday I spotted a baby groundhog in the garden. It startled me and I startled it. It ran down into the woods and got me thinking about protecting my crops from the groundhogs. I have everything protected with floating row covers, but groundhogs are crafty creatures and they’ll gnaw through anything to get at their favorite crops, in this case my peas that are just about to bloom!

I went out later in the day and spotted FOUR baby groundhogs in the garden. They are cuties, but not cute enough to let them mow down everything in the back garden. I knew then that we’d have to do something besides hope that they wouldn’t eat all of our crops. Every hour or so for the last 2 days I went out and scared them out of the garden area. Yesterday since we were at the cabin all day I couldn’t scare them away and they gnawed through my row cover in several places and ate all of the peas. This was a call to arms.

I uploaded some photos of the groundhogs to Flickr and someone asked if I knew of any “non-chemical deterrents” for goundhogs. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know I come from a long line of hunters, I even had my hunting license in the 7th grade. So you can guess what our “non chemical deterrent” is. Yesterday I went out in the morning and spotted one of them in the peas again, I went inside to get the “deterrent” but by the time I went back out it was gone. So Mr Chiots and I headed down into the woods to look for it’s den. We’re going to put used cat liter down in the hole, which will often drive them away. Hopefully by the end of the week the groundhogs will be gone. Too late to save the peas, but at least they’ll be a good cover crop and I’ll replace them with cucumbers and zucchini.

Do you have problems with groundhogs in your garden? How have you dealt with them?

38 Comments to “A Call to Arms”
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by mark mile, Susy Morris. Susy Morris said: A Call to Arms #pests #wildlife #groundhogs […]

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  2. marcyincny on May 25, 2010 at 7:43 am

    We can’t shoot ’em here so we trap them and move them as soon as we see one. A few years ago a female settled in and before we realized it there were five young ones squeezing through the fence and making a mess. Since we’ve been quicker to move them out I haven’t had any in the fenced garden. The first one of the season showed up this weekend and I expect, if the pattern holds, to end up trapping a couple more within the next few weeks. We’ve also been been more vigilant about reducing the sites where they can burrow. Go get ’em Annie Oakley!
    .-= marcyincny´s last blog ..The 2010 Banding =-.

    Reply to marcyincny's comment

    • Susy on May 25, 2010 at 8:58 am

      We have a trap set out but Mr Chiots got one yesterday. He’s going to head out and watch for them again today. I saw mama & a few little ones yesterday but never had a clear enough shot. They’re a little spooked now than one of them is gone.

      We want to make sure we get rid of the little ones so they don’t move into the fields around us where there are cows. We’d hate to see a cow have to be put down from a broken leg because of a groundhog we couldn’t get rid of.

      Reply to Susy's comment

    • Chris on May 25, 2010 at 11:43 am

      Just a quick note about “moving” the groundhogs. If you haven’t already, you may want to check to make sure there are no laws in your area concerning the relocation of wildlife. In my area it’s okay for squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits, but everything else(raccoons, opossums, etc.) is a no-no. There are hefty fines involved if you’re caught. I’m so glad we live outside of town, so we can use the same “deterrent” mentioned earlier on this site. :)

      Reply to Chris's comment

      • Susy on May 25, 2010 at 1:03 pm

        So true, and you don’t want to relocate them to where they’re a problem for someone else, especially a farmer who might incur monetary damage to his tractors or have cows/horses with broken legs from their holes.

        to Susy's comment

  3. Kirsten on May 25, 2010 at 7:52 am

    I feel your pain. We have a groundhog issue also. I have had my crops eaten three times this season, fortunately everything grew back, plus we have a greenhouse so I kept all of my seedlings in there until the problem was solved. I tried critter ridder and a hav-a-hart trap myself to no avail. I called in a professional wildlife removal company and so far we have removed and relocated; two adult groundhogs, two raccoons and three opposums. My raised garden beds look great and I was breathing a sigh of relief until yesterday when I looked out and saw another groundhog outside of the garden. Needless to say, the wildlife guy was back out in the afternoon. I love animals, but I really dislike me some groundhogs.

    Reply to Kirsten's comment

  4. kristin @ going country on May 25, 2010 at 8:22 am

    No peas? BOO. Those groundhogs have signed their death warrant.

    We don’t have a groundhog problem, because the dogs kill them for us. Yay.
    .-= kristin @ going country´s last blog ..File This Under "Stupid Things I Have Done" =-.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

    • Susy on May 25, 2010 at 8:47 am

      Yes, next dog I get must be a “real” dog. Our dog wouldn’t kill a flea I don’t think, although she enjoys eating bees.

      t’s a good thing I also planted peas at my mom’s house, I should get a good crop from there (unless there’s a groundhog invasion over there).

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Janine at Rustic Kitchen on May 25, 2010 at 8:44 am

    I had a pair start a family under my porch last year. I just saw one baby. I’ve been torn because they seem to go out into the meadow to dine and have left all my flowers and shrubs alone — I have a fence around the veg. But I’ve heard that the burrowing can compromise the foundation of a house. (!) I used ammonia and that seemed to keep them at bay. I poured about eight ounces into a one-gallon sprinkling watering can, topped it off with water, and sprinkled it around the porch. Haven’t seen them since. Good luck!

    Reply to Janine at Rustic Kitchen's comment

    • Susy on May 25, 2010 at 11:27 pm

      They can cause terrible foundation problems. Chipmunks can cause foundation problems and their burrows are tiny. You definitely want to get rid of them, it would be terrible to have to do thousands of dollars worth of repairs on the house because of some groundhogs. They cause a lot of monetary damage to farmers and regular folks a like. Because their predators aren’t plentiful around here they seem to get out of control.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Dave on May 25, 2010 at 9:25 am

    We’ve had a groundhog mascot the last couple years here. He never really did any damage but we have a fence up around the garden. The rabbits and deer were much more difficult to control.
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Here’s What Rooted Today =-.

    Reply to Dave's comment

    • Susy on May 25, 2010 at 9:30 am

      The deer are really hard to control. We don’t have much trouble with rabbits, I think our owls take care of them.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. MAYBELLINE on May 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Gophers. Pests. A good dog and a couple of good cats will take care of the problem.

    I understand that if you bury a glass bottle in the ground where you don’t want the beasts and insert a whirlygig that the vibration for the wind turning the whirlygig drives the pests away.
    .-= MAYBELLINE´s last blog ..Saturday in the Garden =-.

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  8. heather jane on May 25, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I’m so afraid of what will surface this year in my market garden. Right now my back yard garden has had no problems (other than the dang cats) but out in the “country” this will be s different situation. I’m hoping the dogs will take good care of the moles and rabbits.
    .-= heather jane´s last blog ..Thanks. =-.

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  9. Sarah on May 25, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I hope you can rid them from your crops. You must be so worried about losing everything! I worry about gophers here but have yet to see one in my yard (knock on wood now) We never put chicken wire on the bottom of our raised beds figuring nahhh can’t happen to us. Good luck on a healthy rid free method.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..The Butterfly Bush ~ Buddleia =-.

    Reply to Sarah's comment

  10. Wider Sky on May 25, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Bad luck with the peas.. if it’s not the weather there’s always something out there waiting to get at our crops before us.
    We struggle each year with rabbits and have some snares in at the moment. If that doesn’t work out our friendly trapper will be bring his ferrets in. Hope the used cat litter works out

    Reply to Wider Sky's comment

  11. Pamela on May 25, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Hi Suzy,

    You know, I have followed your blog dutifully for a very long time. I have to say I usually feel outclassed. My yard and garden are small where I live now, but I love it so. Intensely.
    Your one of my very FAVORITE reads every morning!!!!!

    Now, finally something I can share! hahah

    Last year I had one of those little buggers go through a lot of my garden. Every morning there was another hole or another plant gone. I was so sad.

    So I went to my favorite place, Millers here in McKinleyville and they said “we have the answer”!!!

    Evidently rabbits are supper territorial and are great gopher and ground hog killers. And ground hogs know this somehow? So my nursery has a woman who raises angora rabbits (and others) and she “MILKS” them every day and you can buy the urine she bottles up. You take it and spread a little of it by their hole or where you have seen them and the moment they smell it they are GONNERS! I have not had a problem since. YAHOO.

    I guess its so successful that the yard maint people who are regulars at Millers, buy it by the gallon!!!

    Hope you get rid of them…they love to munch.

    .-= Pamela´s last blog ..Update on Pearl =-.

    Reply to Pamela's comment

    • Susy on May 25, 2010 at 11:18 am

      Very interesting, thanks so much for the advice.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  12. Sandra on May 25, 2010 at 11:56 am

    We don’t have problems with Ground Hogs – just raccoons/stray cats. The cats are the biggest problem and we use coco mulch around our garden – they don’t like the smell. Works wonders.
    .-= Sandra´s last blog ..Just In Case ….. =-.

    Reply to Sandra's comment

  13. Miranda on May 25, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Ah! Good luck with the groundhogs – they might even make good eating if you can catch them??
    I have been blessed with no large pests – just nasty cats and lots of bugs. The bugs usually even each other out with the assassin bugs in force, the cats are subject to my own, non lethal but shocking and maybe a little painful ‘deterrant’.
    My mom in southern oregon has had TERRIBLE problems with voles the last few years. So bad that they had to replace their 5 year old apple tree: the voles (moles?) had eaten up all the roots. She has been unable to get rid of them, despite many attempts.
    .-= Miranda´s last blog ..Chrysalis I Have Known =-.

    Reply to Miranda's comment

    • Susy on May 25, 2010 at 1:05 pm

      If we can get one without it going down into it’s hole we’re considering trying to eat it. My dad’s pretty excited about eating young groundhog. He said tons of people used to eat them when he was growing up, but only the young ones like these. We’ll see if we can get one.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Miranda on May 25, 2010 at 1:29 pm

        I hope you’ll post the recipe if you do! (i’ve got my eyes on some squirrels, but then remind myself what they’re eating here in the suburbs and change my mind)
        .-= Miranda´s last blog ..Chrysalis I Have Known =-.

        to Miranda's comment

  14. Jason T on May 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    What about the Scarecrow? It’s a motion-activated sprinkler and may be just enough to keep those guys away from your veggies.

    Reply to Jason T's comment

    • Susy on May 25, 2010 at 2:55 pm

      It might, groundhogs can be pretty crafty creatures. I also don’t want them to move away into the neighboring fields. I’m sure the surrounding farmer’s would prefer if I would eradicate them if I have the opportunity. They can cause expensive damage to farm equipment, can break cow/horse legs in their holes and then often the cows/horses have to be put down.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  15. Blake @ Salt, Teak & Fog on May 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I’m intrigued by your cat-litter comment Susy. We’ve started noticing some vermin holes in our yard, near some precious new additions. The cats have killed a few, but maybe I’ll dump some used kitty litter down there, too. We certainly have plenty. Do you know if this works for moles and gophers? I think that’s what we’ve got out back.
    .-= Blake @ Salt, Teak & Fog´s last blog update: mid-May =-.

    Reply to Blake @ Salt, Teak & Fog's comment

    • Susy on May 25, 2010 at 2:52 pm

      Not sure, it sure might. No harm in trying!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  16. Seren Dippity on May 25, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    My biggest troubles is the Cabbage Loopers! They are eating everything this summer and I’m not growing broccoli or cabbage. They at my peas (luckily mostly just the leaves so I did get a harvest), mowed down all my nasturtiums, they are working on pepper plants and yesterday I found them in my basil. Thank goodness they are avoiding (so far) the squash and tomatoes!

    We have a huge rabbit population in the woods behind our property and I was worried that I’d be competing with the bunnies for my garden. But amazingly, even though they meander around the yard, they do no damage in the garden. (KNOCK ON WOOD) I’ve seen them munching on grass two feet from my lettuce and carrot beds. So I haven’t had to do any barrier building. In the summer I keep bird baths full and I have some ceramic pot bottoms that I fill with water at the edge of the forest. That keeps them from eating things for water needs. We also have lots of hawks and owls so the bunnies mostly stay in the trees.

    Reply to Seren Dippity's comment

    • Susy on May 25, 2010 at 3:28 pm

      I’d highly recommend adding some catmint near your cabbages (I’ve read the moths don’t like it). I had some cabbages planted in my front flowerbed next to a few catmint plants last year and they’re the only ones that didn’t have any worms on them. You could also put up a wren house near your garden area. They time their nesting to the cabbage worms around here. Whenever the cabbage loopers get really bad the baby wrens hatch out that the mom goes to work collecting them.

      I also make sure I don’t spray out wasp nests because the paper wasps seem to love the cabbage worms as well. I have a few small decorative birdhouses in the front garden that the wasps use as nesting spots. I see them often flying around the cabbages looking for worms.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Seren Dippity on May 28, 2010 at 8:24 am

        Catmint? I will definitely try that! I planted peppermint next to my squash this year on the theory of repelling the vine borers. I’ve never been able to grow catmint before… inside my kitties mow it down and at my old place the feral kitties did it in outside. Now we have no feral kitties … too many hawks.
        I’m working on the bird population too. I have bird feeders and new bird baths this year. It may be too late for this spring but dh has templates for building several types of birdhouses. Wren and Purple Martin (for mosquitos!) I’ve got toad houses with welcome mats! Whatever it takes! I don’t spray the wasps either, I’ve heard they were beneficial. I didn’t know they went after loopers. The only fuss I have with them is they keep trying to build IN the bird feeders.
        Last year I had massive aphid infestations. This year I have more lady bugs than I’ve ever seen in my whole life.
        Garden and they will come.
        But I suppose that means the good and the bad?
        (and thanks for the email answer… didn’t mean to not acknowledge.)
        .-= Seren Dippity´s last blog ..Can you ID this caterpillar? – A new and different creepy crawly =-.

        to Seren Dippity's comment

      • Susy on May 28, 2010 at 9:02 am

        No worries, I often e-mail an answer to a specific question just in case you don’t check back.

        to Susy's comment

  17. June on May 26, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Oh, the groundhogs! We have families of them here. Which is why my garden is ugly, ugly, ugly. It is swathed in chicken wire. My back aches from bending over all the wire all the time. But it keeps the peas and beans from getting gnawed to the ground.

    My neighbor up the hill finds the groundhog dens and flushes them out with a garden hose. You can guess what happens when they come out. Our neighbor probably had a hunting license in 7th grade too. I wish he would bring his garden hose and his “deterrent” down the hill!
    .-= June´s last blog ..Savoring the harvest: Radishes two ways =-.

    Reply to June's comment

    • Susy on May 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm

      He might if you ask. My dad is always game to go hunt groundhogs for someone.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  18. Robert on May 26, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Best way to keep them out is by a fence! Never tried trapping and releasing them though…. Found some other good info here about keeping those pests away

    Reply to Robert's comment

    • Susy on May 26, 2010 at 7:21 pm

      Depends on the fence. You have to bury chicken wire or other fencing down far enough or they’ll burrow under which supposedly is 12-18 inches. My mom’s neighbor build an expensive beautiful fence and they burrowed right under. We can’t put a fence, so we have to use other measures. And our method is much cheaper than a fence and it’s good practice for Mr Chiots for hunting season.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  19. icebear on May 28, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    i’m trying a mini, battery powered electric fence. along with row covers, it seems to be making a difference. no kittys using the garden as a litter box either.

    We used to have horrible groundhog problems.I could not grow anything other than corn, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes before. They’d also eat my flowers (which i have given up on for the most part anyway) .

    I have only a single strand run right now, i may go to three strands later, but i understand that groundhogs won’t dig under an electric fence, they get zapped and don’t stick around to reconsider and if they do try sniffing around the wire to calculate their dig, they get snapped again.

    its a Havahart electric fence i ordered from Tractor Supply online. It was very easy to put up and my hubby accidentally ‘tested’ it the other day. It shouldn’t cost more than $75 and they will ship it to your local store for free and you pick it up yourself. It has 10 stakes, 30 cotter pins, 250 feet of 17 gauge wire, the energizer. You only need 2 D batteries. It was the easiest thing i did all year.
    I’d link the item right here, but i already sound like a commercial! I’m just trying to make sure nobody gets the McGregor fence system which costs around 3x more and has about 50 domain names. Its a mesh system, but 3 strands of wire will do the same thing.
    A quarter mile of 17 gauge wire is only about $15 at most hardware stores and i think the Havahart fence will protect about 1 mile.

    Just look up “garden electric fence” (or sku: 3602801) at Tractor Supply online. Ignore the one negative review, it was some guy who claims to be a pilot who couldn’t figure this fence out. I’m a SAHM and i figured it out all by myself. I need to leave a review too, but i want to wait a bit longer , but so far- very, very good!

    Sorry this is so long, but i was at my wits end with groundhogs. I’d have shot them myself but the homes are too close together for that to be safe or legal…and if i can help save anyone the frustration i have endured the last 6 years of trying everything i could think of, its worth all the typing.

    Reply to icebear's comment

    • Susy on May 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm

      Thanks for the tip and the info on the electric fence. We’ve considered getting one to protect our garden and our fruit trees. They can be a HUGE pain, especially if you can’t shoot them. My dad has pretty good luck with smoke bombs down the hole.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  20. warren on May 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    When I lived in the country, we had groundhog problems and we dealt with them with “extreme prejudice”
    .-= warren´s last blog ..(not) Strawberry wine‚Ķ(not) 17 =-.

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  21. Theresa on May 29, 2010 at 8:05 am

    A friend of mine grows veggies for fairs, and he said to get plain old dawn dish soap, hot sauce mix them together and spray around your garden. He said it keeps out rabbits, and groundhogs.

    Reply to Theresa's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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