Hope for the Future of Your Garden
Battling a burrowing woodchuck can be a relentless task. Here are some of our answers to warding off this little destroyer and muncher of your prized plantings.
AKA Punxutawney Phil
A dubious celebration--every February, it's celebration time, again. The questionable observance of Groundhog Day and the honoring of one of our most destructive critters--the beloved Punxutawney Phil. Gardeners cast a wary eye to mounds and holes as this hungry marauder tunnels, then nibbles and chomps through treasured crops. Perhaps it's a single bite out of that prized tomato or the sad beheaded carrot that moves one to outrage. Read on to learn a bit more about the predilections of this voracious 8-pounder.
A Very Broad Diet
While wild grasses are a mainstay, woodchucks eat a variety of vegetation and agricultural crops including peas, beans, lettuce, zucchini, squash, pumpkin vines, green beans, broccoli, soybeans, parsnip leaves, onion stems, cilantro, dill, parsley, sage, alfalfa, eggplant, as well as clover, tree bark and insects. Flowers at threat can include phlox, salvias, lupines, hollyhocks, rudbeckia, echinachea, poppies, astilbe, sedum, hostas, columbine, and the young, soft shoots of roses and delphiniums (though they are poisonous). Also dahlias, petunias, daisies, asters, cosmos, marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, portulaca, tulips, sunflowers and zinnias. Well, that does it for my garden.
Before we become violent, let's explore some preventative measures that we can apply here. Ideally, a fence should be in place before a woodchuck is able to enter and start sampling produce.
To Keep a Woodchuck from Burrowing and Climbing
The clever woodchuck moves below ground of course, and above.
- A 6 foot fence is required as a minimum, with 5 foot posts.
- Chicken wire should be dug in 10 inches or more below ground level.
- Leave a foot of chicken wire unattached from the post at the top and bend it outwards. This prevents the woodchuck from getting a good grip for climbing over the fence.
Another possibility is:
- Place 3 feet of chicken wire flat on the ground around the perimeter of the garden.
- After which, secure a 4 to 6 foot fence vertically 6 inches in from the chicken wire edge which leave 2 1/2 feet of chicken wire on the outside on the ground.
- At the top, leave 12 inches of the chicken wire bent outwards away from the garden, unsecured.
- The woodchuck will not be able to dig under the vertical fence because of the 3 feet of chicken wire surrounding the garden.
As the updated Old Farmer's Almanac advises: The best woodchuck deterrent is a fence.
Image from Mass Audubon Society.org
Woodchucks are generously distributed in North America and Canada, extending to Alaska and in the south to Georgia. The clearing of forests has enabled the woodchuck to thrive. In open land and often near woods, a woodchuck's burrow is a small maze built of necessity. Entrances lead to tunnels which lead to chambers that are used for sleeping, rearing young, and even a separate chamber for burying waste! A variety of entrances aid hasty retreats when predators such as dogs and foxes appear and some holes may only be two feet deep for taking cover at such times. Burrow openings measure 8 to 12 inches, with additional holes at least 10 feet away. Not only do they eat crops, but trample them as well. Their holes can damage livestock. It is essential that we create an arsenal to eradicate these agricultural interlopers.
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