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Garden Tips for the Garden State – Groundhogs

Flickr - Photo by Gilles Gonthler

Whether you call them groundhogs,  woodchucks, whistle-pigs, or land-beavers, if you are a New Jersey gardener you know what they are capable of. Nothing can catapult you into a state of Elmer Fudd obsessiveness more quickly, then the destruction caused from a groundhog.

I fell victim to one this year, even though I have my garden fenced in, one got in and over the course of just one night, he was able to sample 5 cabbages, 4 collards, and all of my cucumbers. I am sad to report none of these veggies survived.

Here’s what to do if you have a groundhog wreaking havoc on your garden. If you are wondering, it is true that their is no poison that will kill a groundhog.  They simply just throw it up and go back to eating your plants and vegetables.

Annoy Them Until They Leave

Believe it or not, this seems to be somewhat effective.  If you know where their borrow is, you can sometimes get them to leave by simply annoying them.

They are very sensitive regarding the cleanliness of their homes. The most effective solution may be to find someone with a cat and ask them to save what they clean out of the litter box.  Dump that into their burrow daily until they get fed up and leave.

You can also try other annoyances such as gravel, fertilizer, or a radio playing consistently (obviously not tuned to NJ101.5 as they would just enjoy it and stay put).

Trap Them

You can get a Have-a-heart trap and use some birdseed placed under the back part of the cage.  Set this up in your garden if you know they are getting in and use a birdseed with peanuts mixed in as it is extremely attractive to them.

Don’t set a trap as insurance if you don’t see them around. It will most likely just draw them in. Only set a trap if you see signs of one. Once they know of a food source they will return until it is gone.

Remember that it is illegal to relocate an animal in NJ, and often they won’t survive anyway. Your options are to shoot it, if you have enough space and a gun.  You may also be able to find a company that will come euthanize it for a fee or possibly your local vet. That’s it. Anything short of letting it go on your property or exterminating it humanly is probably considered animal cruelty.

Fencing

For me this is the best solution to protect your hard work.  If it’s done right it will work 100% of the time. Mine failed this year because it wasn’t tied up in one little spot and had fallen over. In previous years I have never had a problem.

You’ll need chicken wire, which is a cheap roll of woven metal that can be found in garden centers or farm supply stores. It may also go by poultry netting and it has a hexagonal pattern to it.  Buy a roll at least 5ft in height and some metal stakes about half the height of the wire.

The biggest trick here is making an “L” shape with the fencing that is at least 3 feet high and about a foot or two running along the ground.  You can tie this up to the metal stakes using plastic zip ties and cut on a diagonal at each corner leading back to the stake to help with making the turn.

Once this is set up you can add stone or dirt around the base to hold the bottom flare of the fence down to the ground. Make sure there is enough support from the stakes to keep the centers from flopping over.

The groundhog wont be able to chew through the metal fencing and when they go to dig underneath, they will quickly stop once they hit the chicken wire as it will feel terrible on their claws. They are not smart enough to burrow from 2 feet back, and they are too fat to climb over the 3 foot fence.

All in all, there really isn’t a perfect solution.  You can’t always make a fence because, let’s face it, the type of fence that works is pretty ugly and only work for designated areas such as veggie gardens. If you don’t have the means to exterminate it, then trapping it will only work a handful of times before the little guy catches on.

If you have a solution that worked for you or if you just want to vent about your groundhog problems, let us know in the comment section below.

Send your lawn and garden questions to me at chris.eannucci@townsquaremedia.com

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