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codette's avatar

How to evict the woodchuck and other unidentified garden plunderers.

Asked by codette (394 points ) July 30th, 2012

This is my first time with a veggie garden in the ground (as opposed to a container garden on the porch). A woodchuck has deemed it his personal cafeteria, and he’s destroying everything. Re-doing the fencing would be a discouragingly big effort, ripping down growth on the outside to create space to work in, buying more chicken wire and burying it deeper than the current wire. Mr. Woodchuck keeps digging in under the fence in new places or getting through a gap I couldn’t close.
My boyfriend has been sitting out there with a bow and arrow in the evenings.

Would sprinkling mothballs around the perimeter harm the cat and dog? Would mothballs seep into the soil and harm the plants? I understand they are toxic.
How effective is sprinkling cayenne pepper on/around the plants? What about broken eggshells and noisy plastic? Chimes?

Also, something is beheading my 8 foot sunflowers just as they start to create a flower bud. Heartbreaking! My guess is it might be the large, mean black ants that hang out on the leaves, but there aren’t very many ants. It looks like something actually chewed through the stalk just under the flower, and I’m finding the unbloomed heads on the ground like some sort of threat.

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14 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Oh, boy. Oh, double boy.

Having tried everything that is non-toxic, my sister (down the road) has a huge fenced-in vegetable garden that has been overrun with woodchucks and their enormous families.

First, no mothballs for anything.

Here is the only solution. You buy three Havaharts at the local hardware store…check online for the proper size.

You bait them with fresh cantaloupe. You do this only when you are going to be home for a while. You NEVER want to trap a woodchuck when you are out; the animal goes slightly berserk.

Then you carefully put the trap in the back of the car and drive (rapidly) at least 7 miles to some nice woodland. Release the animal carefully (you may want to wear gloves). Leave immediately.

My sis has caught five, not counting the raccoon (who also seems to love cantaloupe).

Sunflower decapitation could be deer for the tall ones.

Pepper, eggshiells, chimes, male and female urine are useless.

You haven’t yet spotted the slugs and Japanese beetles? Put on your reading glasses and have another look.

You are not alone, if that is any consolation. Probably not. If you open your window, you can probably hear my sister screaming.

I have also problems with opossums, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, mice and voles.

Where do you live? How much acreage do you have?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I plant garlic very densely around the perimeter of the garden. It keeps the pests from finding the good stuff behind it. I have a ton of deer, rabbits and woodchucks around me but they haven’t ever bothered my plants.

gailcalled's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe: In addition to fencing? How big is the garden?

codette's avatar

@gailcalled I live in coastal New England, on a large piece of property that’s both fields and wooded. The garden is perhaps 50 yards from a pond, and surrounded by tall grasses and field weeds as well as a shed. Excellent woodchuck territory. No slugs or japanese beetles yet but I have “squash beetles” destroying the squash and cucumbers. They or something else have chewed up the bases of every summer squash plant and the stalks are turning to mush…I’m hoping to get a few more dinners before the plants die.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Right now it’s small, maybe 8 X 5. When It’s bigger I plant the garlic around the individual beds of plants that they like. I’ve also used flowers in the past and that worked, usually marigolds.

gailcalled's avatar

I had a poblano pepper plant in a large pot on a 36” round table in the middle of a deck that is reached by climbing up five steps. The table is 10 feet from the steps.

Something snipped off the pepper plant at the soil line and left the plant, with its teeny, perfect peppers, to die on the table top.

That was in May. They also vaulted in and out of a fenced garden and decapitated the lilacs, phlox, day lilies, loosestrife and hosta. It was a one-shot event because now, two months later, everything set new buds and is blooming (except the lilacs).

I also notice that the deer eat the tender green tops and new buds of all my roses. I was witness to one massacre while I was on the treadmill and didn’t feel like stopping.

My cat is hopeless.

codette's avatar

So basically, I spent all that time and money and research and excitement just to harvest the high-hanging tomatoes, the onions, and a lot of disappointment. The marigolds look great but the rest of the flowers are headless.

Maybe I need a mean dog out there. One that also barks at beetles and disease.

gailcalled's avatar

No. Get the Havaharts…they work and are relatively successful. After the initial outlay, they last for decades.

Do you have an intrepid family member who can heft the trap with the animal inside and put it into a wagon or truck?

@codette: Now that you mention it, my sister started having the woodchuck aggro after her last of three dogs died in May. The dogs did help a lot. But three dogs is also a lot of work and cost a lot.

Coloma's avatar

@gailcalled Offers sound advice, from she who just discovered the deer striped my Himalayan Honeysuckle bush and some morning glory vines on my fence during the night.
Bah!!!
It is a wonder our ancestors ever managed to grow anything.

gailcalled's avatar

@Coloma: They were probably also hooked on Woodchuck en brochetter and Woodchuck Fricasee.

codette's avatar

@gailcalled I do have intrepid critter-hefters if our well fed thief is heavier than I can handle. But I think my hefter would rather murder than trap. Woodchuck Fricasee, indeed, stewed with whatever wasn’t stolen.
We are renting, and the owner is encouraging violence as the critters are destroying his attempts at starting orchards. Two woodchucks have already gone down and the deer are getting chased around a lot.

@Coloma I too have been wondering how ancestors managed pests. I like my organic pesticide (plant oils; not sure yet how effective it is), and it makes me curious about all the plant knowledge we’ve lost in society’s advancement.

Coloma's avatar

@gailcalled Haha, yes, roast that varmint on a spit.

@codette I battle deer over here and have tried everything, including trying to lure them away with cracked corn and a bale of alfalfa at the edge of my property. Nothing has worked, infact, they PREFER eating my geese feed/chicken crumbles and bird seed to delicious green alfalfa hay. Go figure!

gailcalled's avatar

My obsessive-compulsive buddys up the road, David and Greg (newly married) have a serious fence around their vegetable garden that is electrified. It is expensive and complicated and requires a degree in EE in order not to electrocute yourself when you want to harvest tomatoes and peppers, but it does work.

Of course, from a distance, it looks unsettlingly like a POW camp.

Official info on trapping and fencing. There are no secrets about this apparently.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Don’t bury new fencing, just attach fencing to the fencing you already have in a 90 degree bend and stake it to the ground. I find a cheapo bag of steel wool pulled apart and placed outside the fence line (I semi-bury the steel wool) keeps out anyone thinking about digging. Also, Ivory soap bars tied to the fence help.

There are other great tips at this gardener supply site

Animals don’t touch my garden, as I feed them well. @gailcalled is correct, their favorite food is cantalope. We just toss them one here & there.

When all else fails, electric fencing will keep anything from climbing over or digging under your fence.

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