The worst surprise…

Have you ever gone out to your garden and found your beautiful veggies completely eaten after all your hard work?

I did this year. I just sat there and cried and felt so defeated.


Having a groundhog target your garden as its personal, daily buffet is a tough challenge, but there are ways to keep groundhogs at bay. Try some of these humane techniques to outsmart groundhogs.

How to Get Rid of Groundhogs (humanely)

  • Keep things tidy. Groundhogs crave cover to hide their tunnel entrances. Remove any brush piles in your yard, trim around wood and compost piles, and weed beneath shrubs. Prune the lowest limbs on shrubs so there’s not a sheltered, hidden area. Maintain foundation plantings, trimming shrubs regularly and monitoring behind them.
  • Pick regularly. Harvest your garden often, picking produce as soon as it’s ripe. Don’t let overripe produce remain on the ground to rot. Gather and dispose of it so the smell doesn’t attract critters.
  • Try repellents. Groundhog repellents usually contain ingredients that smell bad or irritate a groundhog’s eyes or nose. Some are made from castor oil, red pepper or herb blends. Sprinkle granular repellents near a groundhog’s burrow and also around your garden to form a barrier, or spray them on plants to make them distasteful. Human hair, pet fur and used kitty litter may also work, along with electronic spikes that use sound or vibration and motion-activated sprinklers.
  • Mimic predators. Coyotes and foxes are groundhog predators. Purchase predator urine and spray it around your yard and especially at the groundhog burrow entrance. Follow package instructions for re-application frequency.
  • Frighten them. Groundhogs are skittish and skedaddle to the safety of their burrows at the slightest disturbance. Scare groundhogs by attaching mylar balloons around your yard and at the tunnel entrance. Brightly colored pinwheels, dangling CDs or shiny scare tape will also help keep groundhogs uneasy. Tie a beach ball to the end of a long string attached to a stake you place in your yard. As the wind blows, the ball will move, acting like a living scarecrow.
  • Add a fence. The best method to keep groundhogs away is exclusion. For a fence to be effective, it needs to be heavy poultry wire or 2-inch woven-mesh wire and at least 3 feet high. Bury the bottom 12 inches in the ground, with the lowest 6 inches bent in an L-shape extending outward from the garden. This keeps the groundhog from digging under the fence. Bend the top 15 inches of the fence outward at a 45-degree angle. For extra insurance, add an electric wire 4 to 5 inches outside the fence and 4 to 5 inches off the ground.
  • Use a trap. Groundhogs are pretty easy to trap, but if you don’t have a trap or are unsure what to do with the critter once you catch it, you might want to have an exterminator handle this part. Laws vary regarding what you’re allowed to do with a groundhog once you catch it. Research online or contact your local extension office or wildlife or conservation division to see what’s legal. If you decide to trap a groundhog, use fresh bait, replacing it frequently. Place the trap near the burrow entrance. Once you catch a groundhog, cover the trap with a thick towel or tarp and wear thick gloves to protect yourself when handling the trap.


Some of my Facebook friends have offered up a few other suggestions to deter them:

  • Plant sacrificial plants just for the groundhogs.
  • Sprinkle cayenne pepper on and around your plants
  • Put used cat litter around your garden area
  • Predator urine or human urine
  • Use white tulle fabric to wrap around your plants
  • Use chicken wire to fortify your garden area
  • Use solar powered repellent stakes around your garden. I found them on Amazon –


Don’t get defeated, fortify your garden. Possibly even feed them. Regardless, safe guard what you don’t want them to get into.

Written by Betty Jo Franke, a Grow Your Own participant from Tazewell, VA.


Betty Jo has been in Appalachian Sustainable Development’s Grow Your Own program for a few years now. She is a wonderful advocate, a caring gardener, and a great person. Groundhogs are one of the most irritating things about gardening in this region!

Appalachian Sustainable Development also works with schools and after school programs in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. Our largest garden had a groundhog issue this year – they were eating EVERY seedling that came up! We reached out to a professional and he removed three groundhogs from the garden (they were living under the storage building).

It’s a constant battle, but Betty Jo has the right idea! Do research, try some things out, and ask friends and experts for advice! It’s okay to feel sad about the damage they cause! Use it as a learning opportunity to fortify your garden for the future.