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Woodchucks are very destructive to a garden and very frustrating to a gardener. A woodchuck moved into my garden in last year and I have been trying to reclaim my garden as my own ever since. I was starting to think that I should just abandon the garden and start over in a new location. Finally with the help of some experienced neighbors and persistence, I have reclaimed my garden.
I knew that I had critters in my garden, but I didn’t know exactly what it was for a while. Woodchucks (or ground hogs) don’t like to be seen, so I only saw what they were eating. They are vegetarians and eat just about everything in the garden. It will be easier to tell you what they didn’t eat in my garden; hot peppers, sweet peppers, onions, potatoes and basil. The rest was a free for all.
Woodchucks don’t eat the whole plant, normally just the leaves. Although they will eat a bite or two out of tomatoes, and love peas and green beans. They always leave a few smaller leaves to keep the plant alive, but not enough to produce anything. They also love melons, I had some beautiful watermelons growing, but when they were about half grown, the woodchuck knocked them off of the vine and attempted to open them. They weren’t ripe, so they didn’t have any luck. But the damage was done, no watermelons this year.
I knew that if I wanted to garden, it was time to do something.
How to get rid of woodchucks in the garden:
The best trap that I found was a large live trap. Woodchucks love soft fruit, so we baited the trap with half of a very ripe banana. There is also woodchuck lure that you can purchase to place into the trap. I tried the banana because I had that on hand and I wanted to trap that woodchuck now! Place the baited trap near their hole or along one of their paths that they frequent. It was a dry summer here, so it was easy to find their path into the garden. The banana worked for catching 1 woodchuck, 2 armadillos, 2 opossums and a cat. The opossums were just looking for something sweet to eat. I’m not sure what the cat was looking for.
I could still see evidence that there were still more woodchucks around. They were starting to get brave and we started seeing at least one on a regular basis.
Look for holes
Since the woodchucks were avoiding the trap and bait in the garden, it was time to block any holes that the woodchucks had dug under the garden fence. I walked around the whole garden fencing and found a few holes and blocked them. Woodchucks will just dig another way in, so I moved to the next step straight away.
A fellow gardener that has dealt with woodchucks a lot suggested getting rid of any tall plants, brush, vines, etc that was growing on or by the garden fence. Woodchucks like to have cover, they don’t like to be out in the open.
I had planted several blackberry plants right along the garden fence, thinking it was a great idea to multi-task the fence as a trellis. Guess where the woodchucks were entering the garden? You guessed it! Right by the blackberries. I also hadn’t kept up with the wild grape vines and they were covering a good portion of the fence. I spent some time cleaning all of that up with a string trimmer.
Find their home
Woodchucks can have up to 3 burrows and will move their babies into a new burrow nearby as they get older. Which means that there may be several holes to find. Walk around the perimeter of the garden, outside of the garden fence and look for any large burrow holes. Once you find the burrow, fill it or cover it up so the woodchuck can’t return.
We found a huge burrow under an overgrown bush, right by the foundation of the old farmhouse. The bush got a much needed hair cut. Then we took several bags of concrete and filled the hole. The woodchuck tried to dig around the concrete, so I place an extra large ceramic pot on top of the concrete filled hole. That eliminated any place for the woodchuck to dig.
Did it work?
Since completing all of the steps above, I have not seen a single woodchuck around the garden. I have seen the woodchucks in a nearby pasture, which is where they should be. Not in my garden!
More importantly, the sweet potato vines have been growing as they should. No woodchucks have been pruning the leaves. Yay!! It is probably too late to get any sweet potatoes this year, maybe some small potatoes if we get a late frost. But it feels great to know what to do to keep those critters out!
I will continue to keep the fence line clear to discourage those critters from coming into the garden. I am also going to add one more layer of defense to the garden in the spring.
Critter Ridder spray
The woodchucks steered clear of the hot peppers in my garden this year. Not a single bite out of the leaves or plants. In the spring, I plan to spray my garden starts with a hot pepper spray. My friend, Amber from My Homestead Life has a great Critter Ridder spray that is perfect for the job. I will need to reapply the spray after rain and heavy dew, but I’m hoping that this will prevent a new family of woodchucks to move in.
Gardening is always filled with different challenges every year. This year may have been the year of the wood chuck, but next year will be the year of bounty! A gardener is also forever an optimist.