If you’re anything like me, you work long and hard hours to make sure that the plants you grow in your raised beds come in big and healthy. Whether you want beautiful decorative plants or a bumper crop of fruits and veggies, you deserve to enjoy your plants.
But you know who else thinks they should be able to enjoy your plants? Groundhogs.
These ornery, chubby rodents are nothing less than supersized rats with supersized appetites, and a single groundhog can absolutely demolish the entire contents of your beds in an afternoon.
Accordingly, you’ve got to keep these critters out of your beds at all costs. But they are so big, and such powerful tunnelers, it’s easier said than done.
Don’t worry, I’ve been down this road before and below I’ll share with you my favorite methods for getting rid of groundhogs.
One of the least obtrusive and most pleasant methods for getting rid of groundhogs is just to use windchimes.
Although it’s not a guarantee, there are many animals that are just unsettled by the clanging, ringing tones of wind chimes.
Sharp noises tend to startle all sorts of prey animals, and groundhogs are definitely prey for many kinds of predators.
This is a 50/50 solution: some groundhogs will be freaked out enough, if the wind chimes are close enough, that they decide to pack up shop and go somewhere else to look for food.
Others might retreat for a time, but before too long, they will get used to the wind chimes and then get right back to munching on your precious produce.
Worth a try, but be ready to do more…
2. Reflective Mirrors
Similar to the wind chime method, some animals seem to get unsettled by reflective, glinting surfaces. Especially ones that move in the wind.
Maybe this activates something in their brains that reminds them of a sudden flurry of movement, and they associate that with the charge of a predator.
You can try some of that reflective garden art or other wind-spinners, or make your own from polished metal tins, old CDs and other things like that.
Hang it up near your raised beds, and if you are lucky, it might scare off the groundhogs.
3. Electronic Noisemakers
Definitely time to escalate, so we’re hauling out the modern technology.
Electronic, remotely activated noise makers will create a loud, sharp sound and preferably the call of a predator like a dog or bird of prey might be just the thing to truly put the fear of death in an offending groundhog!
This, more than the wind chimes, might prove to be enough to scare off these infamously skittish rodents.
Groundhogs are big, chubby and not particularly fast or agile and so are easy prey for predators. Accordingly they are disproportionately wary of them.
The downside to this method is that you might have to observe for the offending activity to activate the remote, and of course it will require power.
Some advanced models might have motion activation or other sensors you can set up, but this will add to your costs.
4. Soak ‘Em
Certainly one of the most hilarious methods for groundhog displacement is to soak them with water.
Keep in mind that the groundhogs are notoriously skittish creatures that are constantly on edge.
Any major surprises and especially a sudden shock as likely to send them running for the hills, or rather for the tunnels.
You have a few fun ways to accomplish this: you could lie and wait with a garden hose that has a jet nozzle to blast the rodent when he comes to close, or even set up shop with a powerful water gun.
This could be a great activity to try with your kids or your nieces and nephews, by the way.
A remotely activated sprinkler system will also work wonders if it’s forceful, but lighter ones might just give the groundhog a refreshing shower.
If you don’t mind dropping a little bit of coin and don’t want to waste time waiting on the groundhog, you can even set up motion-activated “sentry” sprinklers that are designed to kick on when animals draw too close.
Normally, they are used against deer or dogs but if the sensor is properly calibrated it should work on groundhogs too.
5. Groundhog Deterrent Sprays
I promise you this, you aren’t the first person to struggle with keeping groundhogs at bay and out of your beds, and you definitely won’t be the last.
Naturally, chemistry has already produced an over-the-counter, labor-saving solution.
Several, actually, that are supposed to drive groundhogs away without hurting them and without putting you through backbreaking labor.
These groundhog deterrent sprays can be used near their burrows and near areas that you want to protect from intrusion.
Because groundhogs, like pretty much all rodents, have superior olfactory senses, these sprays are especially intolerable to them.
A quick trip around your yard to apply them might be all it takes to send a groundhog packing, and if more show up or if they decide they want to come back, you can just spray everything down again, easy as pie.
6. Dry Spices
Since groundhogs have especially sensitive noses, what else might those noses be sensitive to? I’ll tell you: dried spices.
Groundhogs find many odors and spices completely disagreeable, and when they smell them or run into them at close range it will seriously upset them.
If they find that everywhere they go they’re encountering these irritating spices eventually, hopefully, they will leave.
For my money, I have found the most effective ones to be black pepper, cayenne pepper (the hotter the better) strong garlic powder and, if you can believe it, lavender.
I know it’s not really a spice, but you get my drift. Groundhogs despise all of this stuff, so sprinkle it liberally all around the perimeter of your beds and at their tunnel entrances!
7. Epsom Salt
An interesting, inoffensive, cheap and highly effective groundhog repellent can also be had in the form of Epsom salt.
I know it sounds strange, because Epsom salt doesn’t really have any sort of fragrance to us assuming it hasn’t been treated with some kind of added fragrance or perfume.
But, for whatever reason, groundhogs can smell a compound in Epsom salt and, boy, do they absolutely hate it!
In fact, this is one of those old-timer, Farmers’ Almanac kind of methods for keeping groundhogs and other similar critters away from your garden and even off your property entirely.
All you need to do is set down a solid perimeter of Epsom salt and groundhogs shouldn’t go anywhere near it.
Note that you will have to reapply the Epsom salt periodically, especially after it rains.
8. Predator Urine
Remember when I said that groundhogs are prey animals? They are, and that means they have the instincts and a hardwired sensitivity to any indicator that a predator could be nearby.
Naturally, because groundhogs have such poor eyesight they disproportionately rely on their noses to furnish them with that early warning.
A groundhog won’t be able to smell a bird of prey coming, but they will definitely be able to smell ground-bound predators.
Knowing this, we can turn their own instincts and those sensitive noses against them by sowing the area around our beds with predator urine.
The trick is to get predator urine from a species that’s actually in your area and could actually threaten local groundhog populations.
No, you don’t have to go out and engage in this disgusting and risky practice of harvesting it yourself.
You can head down to your local hunting supply store or hop online and find exactly what you need. This might be coyote urine, wolf urine, or even something like bobcat urine.
Scatter it around the perimeter of your beds and, preferably, near the entrance to the groundhog’s tunnel. This stuff will really stink, so keep that in mind.
9. Fill in Their Tunnels
Time to condemn the little bandit’s home. I mentioned above that groundhogs are truly fantastic tunnelers, and that’s a fact.
They can easily excavate huge underground burrows with multiple entrances, but doing so takes time and they don’t like to dig through hard, rough, stony ground.
Knowing that, the first thing you should do is watch or follow them as they head to their burrow, and then fill in that tunnel with a 50/50 mix of dirt and gravel.
The larger and rougher the gravel, is the better.
Groundhogs will struggle to displace the gravel with their claws, and larger ones will tear their paws up. That alone might see them give up and leave.
Also, while you might be particularly keen on filling in the tunnel when the groundhog is inside- especially if they have caused you enough grief- avoid this temptation: if you fill in the tunnel while the groundhog is within, he will leave by another exit or just dig himself out.
Filling in the tunnel while the groundhog is elsewhere means he’ll probably give up and leave rather than re-excavating the old tunnel.
10. Bed Covers
Sometimes, repelling or deterring groundhogs is just not going to work. Maybe they are too persistent, too hard-headed, too determined or just too stupid.
I don’t know, and I don’t care, but I’ve been through this before and had to resort to physical protection of my beds with covers.
Yes, it is a pain in the ass and expensive, but “needs must,” as they say.
There are all sorts of bed covers out there on the market, and many of them will work as long as groundhogs can’t reach through them, squeeze through them, lift them or bite through them.
They should be sturdy and able to be secured with stakes or other attachment points to hold them down.
Note that thin, flimsy plastic ones are a no-go because groundhogs can easily bite through them.
I’m not kidding: these critters have surprisingly large, sharp and chisel-shaped teeth and well-developed jaw muscles. They can be through a flimsy bed cover in no time.
Also make sure that the bed covers go all the way to the edges of the frame so that groundhogs can’t tunnel under dirt at the edges.
11. Bed Fencing
Another option, and a more viable one for some folks, is to fence off the beds entirely.
You don’t need particularly strong fencing as long as it is metal, and I found chicken wire and other similar fencing types to work just fine as long as the groundhog can’t squeeze through the gaps.
The other trick is that you’ll have to bury the fencing somewhat to make an underground impediment.
I like to bury the bottom of the fencing at least a foot in the ground if at all possible.
But I warn you, if you don’t do this you might as well not have a fence at all because a groundhog can tunnel beneath it in a matter of seconds.
If burying the fence is not viable or not practical, you can resort to using gravel or stones at the base to hopefully prevent the groundhog from digging in the first place, or else use the fencing in conjunction with some other deterrent. With a little bit of luck that will do the job.
Enough is enough; it’s time to relocate the groundhog. You don’t have to run the thing down with your gloves on: you can use a humane, harmless and non-lethal cage trap to catch the critter.
A little bit of bait (carrots) and a little bit of patience, and pretty soon you’ll have the groundhog safely secured inside a cage that is ready for vehicular transport.
Before you do this: look up the local laws and codes in your city, county and state because sometimes trapping requires a license or is outright illegal depending on the species of animal.
Groundhogs are nuisance animals, but that doesn’t mean you can legally trap them, even non-lethally!
Assuming it is legal and assuming you caught the critter, take them far, far away from your home and release them in a similar habitat where they can start life anew.
If you have exhausted every other option, or just don’t have time to screw around, you can kill the groundhog easily enough by using specially formulated fumigation gasses that will flood their burrow with toxic smoke.
These are usually available readily at pest control outlets, some hardware stores, or online.
Again, make sure it’s legal to do so in your area and also be cautious of existing accidental fire risks and dry conditions, generally.
Once you know the groundhog is inside his burrow, you can block or close off the far end, start smoking into the burrow, and then block the near end and he’ll surely be dead in a while. Goodbye, Mr. Groundhog!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a groundhog’s worst enemy?
Aside from a ticked-off human, depending on where you live, the leading predator of groundhogs could be coyotes, domestic dogs, foxes or bobcats. Choose predator urine accordingly.
What is the best groundhog repellent?
There are many good groundhog repellents. Some people swear by Epsom salt, and many of the commercial groundhog deterrents seem to work quite well. Very hot cayenne pepper is also effective.
Are groundhogs aggressive?
No, not toward people. Groundhogs on notoriously skittish and run at the first sign of disturbance or trouble.
However, they are wild animals and can act unpredictably, particularly in defense of young or if they are cornered. They can inflict a serious bite, so be careful of close encounters!
Tim is a farm boy with vast experience on homesteads, and with survival and prepping. He lives a self-reliant lifestyle along with his aging mother in a quiet and very conservative little town in Ohio. He teaches folks about security, prepping and self-sufficiency not just through his witty writing, but also in person.
Find out more about Tim and the rest of the crew here.