Grit Blogs > A Long Time Coming

Groundhogs in the Garden

A photo of Shannon SaiaI wrote in my last post that I was currently harvesting broccoli, radishes, kale and salad greens. Within twenty-four hours I had received Nature’s red-line of my work, so I now feel compelled to post my revision:

Now serving a smorgasbord of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale, and the odd beet green to at least one – and possibly multiple – hungry groundhogs.

Witness the evidence:

cabbage groundhog damage 

cauliflower damaged by groundhog 

kohlrabi eaten by groundhogs 

The knowledgeable gentleman at the nursery assured me that they will eat just about everything in the garden. However, based on what they ate from me, I believe at this point they have a preference for brassicas. The thief crossed the garden past potatoes, salad greens, beans, sweet potatoes and peppers specifically to eat the single small cabbage plant in my daughter’s section of the garden which was six rows away from mine.

Actually, I wasn’t as upset about this as I might have supposed that I would be. I mean, for one thing, it’s my own stupid fault for having left my garden gate open. And for another thing, this happened not even two weeks into May. I was able to go to my favorite private nursery and buy big, beautiful replacement transplants – cabbage and cauliflower – for next to nothing. And for another thing, I don’t know, I just feel a lot more relaxed and go-with-the-flow-of-it-all this year than in previous gardening seasons. And of course, there’s the inspiration of recently-read literature:

Early in the new time he had learned the most important thing, the truly vital knowledge that drives all creatures in the forest – food is all. Food was simply everything. All things in the woods, from insects to fish to bears, were always, always looking for food – it was the great, single driving influence in nature. To eat. All must eat.

And this:

Patience, he thought. So much of this was patience – waiting and thinking and doing things right. So much of all this, so much of all living was patience and thinking.

So – thank you Gary Paulsen and Hatchet for giving me a place from which to maintain my cool this week.

We bought two live traps and placed one at the opening of the slightly cracked garden gate, and one at the hole under our fence at the back edge of the yard from which we suspect he/she/they are coming and going. Thankfully, they don’t seem to be living under our shed like they did last year. We haven’t caught anything yet, but then there’s been no more obvious evidence that they’ve been back in the garden after those three days in a row either. I’m waiting until I have a few ground-hog free days before I set the new cabbages and cauliflowers in.

kris johnson
7/21/2011 4:08:41 PM

I too have ground hogs - I know because I saw one one evening go by one evening just before dark. Then there is the evidence of the stones dug out from under my little storage barn where he has set up housekeeping. And now I have found three piles of black raspberry seed-filled turds, so he (they?) has been helping himself to my volunteer black raspberries. Perhaps he's the one nibbling at some of my cabbage family plants. One organic gardener I know said he was constantly battling ground hogs, but they always won! Fortunately I have lots of wild flowers and wild area that may be more inviting that my vegetable garden.

cindy murphy
5/18/2011 8:29:26 AM

Hi, Shannon. I feel your pain. At the nursery, I’m in charge of ordering all the perennials – 1,000s of them, in various stages of development. The younger ones are kept in hoop-houses until they grow enough to be retail-ready. The one year and up plants are moved outside to a wind-break area, and brought up to our retail perennial department in batches as we need them. I feel responsible for them; they’re all my babies. Monday, I was checking on the plants in the windbreak. With our cool spring, many of them have been a bit slow to leaf-out, and I was waiting for them to get big and lush and irresistible to customers. The time was now….then I noticed a big batch of pots knocked over. No, no, no! Closer inspection revealed a number of them to be gnawed to the nub. Surely the work of a hungry groundhog! My boss set a live trap. I cordoned off the area with reflective tape, wondering if it works on groundhogs, (it keeps the deer away from the shrubs and hostas – another problem at the nursery). Then I sprayed the entire area with groundhog repellent. The active ingredient is putrid eggs whites. Inert ingredients are rosemary and mint oils, supposedly to make the spraying experience more pleasant. It was windy…and the nursery was busy. I was called back to retail for my main job, waiting on customers....while smelling like rosemary, mint, with a hint of putrid eggs. I hope the scent didn’t repel customers like it’s supposed to repel groundhogs.

nebraska dave
5/17/2011 9:05:14 PM

Shannon, funny you should mention Mulberries. I mowed the grass today and while mowing the back fence line where the berries grow, I stopped to have a look at how they were progressing this year. Usually they are ripe by Memorial day which is less that two weeks away. Much to my surprise there was not a single berry on the trees. I'm not sure what happened. My first thought would be the crazy spring weather must have nipped the berries in the bud so to speak. Here I am all set to compromise with them and they hold out on me. What's up with that? Oh, well, not for me to reason why. I guess. The rabbits have never bothered my tomato plants per se but just tried to build a nest there. I haven't had a bit of nesting in the straw this year. Have a great day in the garden.

s.m.r. saia
5/17/2011 6:56:46 AM

Hey N. Dave! You know, I learned my lessons with straw. Straw is what attracted rabbits to nest in my garden last year. This year I'm going to forego it and see how things go. Of course I am spending a lot of time outside watering and weeding, but so far it's been time well spent. I think harvesting the mulberries is an EXCELLENT idea. :0)

nebraska dave
5/16/2011 8:34:18 PM

Shannon, you are so right about animals and food. There's no reasoning behind their actions. It's strictly instinct of survival. It's still irritating that they would decide to harvest our gardens the day before we have decided to do so isn't it? I foiled the rabbits this year before they found that I was raising lettuce. Not so with the pansies. They nibbled those pansies right down to the nub in the dirt. Begonias on the other hand are definitely not a rabbit delicacy because they just knocked them off the patio wall so they could get to the pansies. I now have a whole flat of Begonias waiting to be planted in the living trellis on the poor man's patio. Take that ya dumb rabbits. (muttering under my breath). They don't seem to like anything else. I once had a rabbit trying to build a nest in the middle of my tomatoes that were deep mulched to a depth of 4 inches with straw. After the second time of straightening up the mulch, I covered the whole area with a generous dose of cayenne pepper and never did she return to nest there again. Maybe we should be foraging more ourselves. I have a group of wild Mulberry trees that have irritated me for years. The trees are not in my yard but the branches over hang my fence line. I've decided this year I'm harvesting the berries and making jelly and preserves. That will teach to invade my territory. Don't you think? Have a great garden day.