Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What do groundhogs eat?

Who's asking: Me

In West Gardiner, they eat my garden.

Dizzy and I went over to water the patch yesterday afternoon (I don't have a yard; a friend lent me an unused piece of his yard. This friend is British and refers to his entire yard as the garden, which makes conversations about it confusing).

The first thing I noticed, approaching the vegetable patch, was that things didn't look as tall as they had when I left on Saturday. It rained a little on Sunday, and we'd had some wind; could everything have been knocked down?

A closer look found that weather had nothing to do with it. The six lettuce plants were entirely gone. Most of the tomato plants had lost their leaves, and several of the stems were bitten down to the ground. The only plants left mostly intact were the peppers and the marigolds I'd planted to keep the aphids away.

My first instinct was to blame rabbits (too much Beatrix Potter!), but my friend said he'd seen a large woodchuck waddling across the yard, away from the garden. He'd even pointed it out to his visiting nephew as a cute representative of the wonders of nature.

Wonders of nature, my foot. It turns out that woodchucks (or groundhogs, they're the same thing) are the gluttons of the vegetable world. They're herbivores, and how much do you figure they have to eat to keep those doughy body shapes? A lot.

Beginner's mistake on my part, obviously, and I'm considering my options. Deer fencing or chicken wire, to start, but my Organic Gardening book and some websites I've found suggest more exotic remedies. Did you know, for example, that you can buy fox urine in a bottle?

The next time I whine about my workload, please remind me that somewhere, someone has the job of collecting and bottling fox urine for the organic gardening market. If this happens to be your job, please write and tell me about it. I really, really want to know how this works.


Claire said...

This might be an excuse to buy that moose caller we found. Do you think groundhogs would be frightened of moose?

AnswerGirl said...

Moose are vegetarian too, so I bet not.

Motorists should be frightened of moose, though. Just today, there was a "double moose accident" down in Scarborough... and once again, I was nowhere near!

Anonymous said...

This is amusing. Apparently, it is easier to collect the urine if the fox has a "Ding-a-ling"
This one is apprently edible



Anonymous said...


I accidently copied only part of the line

Anonymous said...

A third time

after worldpress.com it should read


AnswerGirl said...

That is HILARIOUS, Richard -- thanks!

steve said...

Sorry about your garden, Clair.
I hope it makes you feel better to know that I ate groundhog once.


AnswerGirl said...

EWWW... how was it?

Groundhogs are basically giant squirrels without tails, so I'm guessing squirrelly? Not that I know what squirrel tastes like...

mierla said...

Chicken wire won't work - they burrow under it.
My parents have used Red Fox urine for years to discourage the woodchucks in their garden in Vermont.. and it has been more effective than anything else save gassing or shooting the little buggers (which I'm inclined to think you're trying to avoid).
For deer though? Nothing, and I mean, nothing, works better than a fence made of three strands of heavy fishing line - one at knee height, one waist, and one head height. They can't see it, so they get spooked and run off.

...but that doesn't work for woodchucks.

Anonymous said...

As I recall, the groundhog was really awful -- stringy and greasy with a nastiness that lingered on the palate.
Squirrel, on the other hand, is quite nice. No kidding.


Elaine of Kalilily said...

Fox urine! I'm on it. Our resident groundhog has eaten the leaves off flowering plants and bushes as well as my lettuce and tomato leaves. I just chased him away from my flower planters; he had his little paws in the planter and was digging out the flowers. And so I did a search for what groundhogs eat and found you!! I tried coyote urine to keep deer away, but that didn't work. Everyone says fencing is the only solution. The fox urine is sure worth a try to keep that overgrown hamster from destroying my garden. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

thay have burrowed under my horse stall.horse urian is not a deterent.

AnswerGirl said...

I think the idea is that fox prey on groundhogs, so the fox urine is supposed to make groundhogs think that predators are nearby.

Horses are vegetarian, so no threat to groundhogs (except the risk of trampling).

MickMcQ said...

well, the damn things ate my peppers once they were done with my lettuce and brocilli.

Anonymous said...

Fox urine is sold mainly as a "cover" scent for deer hunters it is put on boots and it stinks. You can find it in any sporting goods store.

Anonymous said...

Do you have to replace the fox urine after it rains?

AnswerGirl said...

Good question. I would guess it's a good idea to sprinkle the fox urine around once every week or two regardless, to revive the scent.

heather said...

I found that they like marshmellows, I baited my have a heart trap with marshmellows and I caught him in a day. I left a trail to lure him in.

Anonymous said...

I am going to try marshmallows that have been coated with hot pepper flakes!
I hope my 'Punxsutawney' leaves my under the deck home!