Last updated on July 18th, 2020
I’ll get right to the point. About a month ago, Woody the Woodchuck discovered my (fenced in) Kitchen Garden. What a destructive brute! Broccoli? Gone. Brussels sprouts? Mostly gone. Woody also devoured several pole bean plants and a heartbreaking number of butternut squash leaves. How I put a stop to Woody’s wicked ways:
When a cage of chicken wire placed around the pole beans and butternut squash failed to stop Woody (he simply pulled the wire down), I ran to my local, high-end garden store. There, I purchased three expensive commercial repellents. Two of these were total duds.
Dud #1. This product did nothing at all. Two hours after spraying it on the butternut squash leaves, Woody ate the leaves.
Dud #2. Although the label mentions only voles, rabbits, and deer, the salesperson assured me that it would, in fact, be effective against groundhogs. It wasn’t. I poured $31.99 down the drain.
Now for some good news! Woody immediately stopped eating my plants when I applied the following:
Organic Blood Meal. A large bag of this smelly plant food set me back nearly $50.00. I applied it just one time, all around the perimeter of the garden. Woodchucks hate blood meal! (I hate it, too.)
Crushed, chopped garlic. I sprinkled the fragrant bits directly beneath and around the affected plants. Woodchucks can’t bear the scent of garlic!
Crushed red pepper flakes. These I sprinkled on both soil and leaves. Woodchucks loathe hot pepper!
Ground cayenne pepper. I applied this in the same manner as for the red pepper flakes. Easy-peasy.
I applied the garlic/pepper flakes/cayenne on a daily basis for one week. Afterwards, I made daily applications of only cayenne pepper. Cayenne seems an effective repellent all by itself. The powder doesn’t seem to harm the leaves. It just makes them look a little…orange.
Although one bed of broccoli is toast, the butternut squash and the pole beans are each making a miraculous recovery. They are growing with gusto now!
Check out the baby butternut squash. It is growing vertically on a cattle panel trellis.
Also making a dramatic recovery are the zinnias. These had been munched to within 6 inches of their lives. As you can see, the leaves are sprinkled with cayenne pepper. Woody will receive a fiery-hot surprise if he takes another bite.
Woodchucks bothering your veggie or flower garden? Maybe what worked for me will work for you. At the very least, I’d give ground cayenne pepper a try. The cheapest brand will do!
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Thank you, Kevin. This year I’m battling moles! I am trying juicy fruit gum and beer. There’s been an improvement but I’m still seeing fresh holes. Any suggestions from you or your readers?
Damn you, Woody, damn you!
A few years ago I grew tired of our resident woodchuck and decided to build three huge raised beds. I called our extension service to find out how high to make them to prevent Woody from getting in. Two feet, they said. I built three 4’x8′ 2-foot high raised beds and planted away. Everything grew beautifully, unbothered by Woody or deer. My back was happier, too.
Then, one day while we were eating lunch, I watched a very corpulent Woody grazing on our lawn as if he owned the place. Suddenly he looked up, toward one of the raised beds, as though seeing it for the first time. He stared at it for about 30 seconds. Then he started to back up. And back up. And back up. I couldn’t believe my eyes: He sprinted (well, sprint-waddled) at the raised bed, sailed into the air, and right into the middle of the broccoli.
Two feet my a**. I drove straight to the local garden center and bought metal border pieces I could string together around the edges of the bed. That gave me an additional 10″. Woody left the area soon after, courtesy of our Hav-a-Heart trap, and none has ever tried his olympic feat again.
I will try both garlic and also cayenne. My g’hog is Gordy. He’s a real pain!
In NM, the squirrels are my nemesis. No matter what I have tried, they are eating my tomatoes. Our yard is solid dirt and rock. I can’t dig it to plant and have not been willing to commit to a raised bed, until I get the tomato raiders figured out. I have two two container tomatoes growing. I have rigged square tomato cages with bird net attached to the cages. I had bricks surrounding the planter to hold the netting to the ground. I have tried Tabasco mixed with water and sprayed everything. Nothing stops nor bothers these squirrels. It was always a battle with the groundhogs in MD. I spent years perfecting that fight. Squirrels eating my tomatoes is a new one for me. Maybe I will try sprinkling the Cayenne right onto the plants. I’ve got nothing to lose. Thanks for doing the experimenting for us.
Alyce Grover says
There are effective mole killer pellets at farm stores. It’s worked on all mine, but I have to be diligent and hit new tunnels. Over time, it has really reduced the number. Snails are eating my zennias. Will try the pepper on them.
I’m wondering if this will deter rabbits. Do you think your zinnias will branch out more thanks to the woodchuck?
Ann Brunton says
I have a woodland rock garden shaded by black walnuts, and pine. It is part of a dike protecting my neighbours and I from river floods.
Woodruff, goatsbeard, columbine, mayapple and hosta grow there with very little attention from me. And goutweed, lots of goutweed which I cannot control despite literally sifting the soil for roots. I decided to ignore it this year, and guess what? My Woody likes it! It was eaten, leaving the other plants behind! My neighbour tells me Woody has given birth, I have seen no sign for awhile.
I definitely try cayenne on my gooseberries and other valued plants, because I’m sure she will return with the family.
Can’t wait to try this. I thought it was rabbits, however today while having my coffee on the patio, low and behold, bold Mr. Woodchuck made himself right at home in my flower beds!
Suzanne Robinson says
Good to know. I don’t have a garden but my guy, Chucky did eat almost 2 inches off the corner of my deck last year.
Rosie S says
Had to leave a comment based on Suzanne’s. We have rabbits EATING our porch steps. Have caught them red tooth-ed. Generation after generation, they eat away….probably an inch off all sides of the steps. We are afraid to replace the steps for fear of them moving onto the more expensive porch floor!!! We have tried several things to stop them, but so far, no luck.
Motion-activated water sprayer. Ne’er a ‘chuck, deer, rabbit again. And, the entertainment value of watching our kitty jump 6’ in the air when sprayed is priceless. 😉
This makes me smile because this year we don’t have just 1 woodchuck – but 3! They are so bold that the mother ran right past my husband and I when we were having an afternoon cocktail on the patio. Although we have a city address, we have a large DEC designated wetland and woods behind the house. We have fox, deer, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, turkeys, birds, and the chucks on parade almost every day. We think it’s the rabbit that has been nibbling on my lupine big time. My husband does an organic spray repellant every week. It does help to a certain degree, but I think that if they want something bad enough they will go for it.
Patricia A. Holmes says
We started out with Chucky and Woodie before the little ones arrived and thrived over the years. We thought we tried everything until we found “Repels All.” It comes in spray and granule forms. Yes, it works! It has discouraged the chipmunks and deer, too. We buy our at our local Home Depot but I’m sure it is available in most garden centers. Those darn critters are so cute. If only they would eat elsewhere.
Christine Swift says
Kevin cayenne works on squirrels to an extent. It kept them out of my herbs and window boxes. I’m still trying to find a way of keeping them off my bird feeder…I have the “squirrel proof” one!!
We have every critter imaginable! This is the first year our garden hasn’t been eat up. We installed a solar electric fence around the garden. 4 strands of wire 4 inches apart, 4 inches from the ground. Got the one that covers 10 miles of fence. Strong enough that if a little grass touches the wire it will still work. For deer put a strand of wire about 5 foot high. Chucky & the rabbits really hate it. Looking forward to canning time!
Sounds like you have the ingredients for an ingrown recipe: Garlicky, spicy squash and beans! Not sure about the blood meal…but think about the possibilities. People can grow food that produces its own seasonings.
I used a .22
Jean Diemer says
So I wonder if the cayenne pepper would work on my big collection of Japanese Beetles that are eating everything in sight, especially my roses. I hand pick them and throw them into a cute bucket of soapy water but everyday I have tons more. They are also on my quince bush and daylilies. Once they finish with one plant they happily go on to the next. I tried putting the cayenne pepper in a spray bottle and spraying the plants but I managed to stop up 3 spray bottles so I will just sprinkle some on. We have a Rural King and they had a huge container of the cayenne pepper for $1.99 so a cheap alternative to pesticides plus I try to stay organic. Will sprinkle and see what happens. Thanks for the tip. Also we have an Ollie’s that just came to town and I’m told they have the spices for $1.00 a bottle.
Maria Clark says
Yep. I never had woodchuck garden damage before but tried my hand at zucchini (with zinnias in the area as well) this year and the munching commenced within a day of putting the plants in. I used ground cayenne pepper as well and “Chuck Chuck” stopped immediately. Poor Regina; Chuck Chuck chased her in the yard the other day (or so she claims…).
Rosemarie Carvalho says
The groundhogs cost us over $5,000 this year. We tried all of your remedies, but to no avail. We called Eliminate-em and they came with traps. We caught a total of 6 woodchucks in a week’s time. They made their home under our tool shed, digging under it and even through the decorative wood lattice. We finally called our handyman and he suggested replacing the wood lattice with galvanized steel which he dug down into the ground 12″ and more. So far, so good! I should mention that we live in the inner city and have lived here for all of our lives and have only had this groundhog problem the last few years, and my sister cried when she would find her garden, cabbage,kale, collards, and even squash leaves ravaged by these critters.
susan gortva says
thank you. my squash, cuke, winter squash, melons and the georgia candy roaster squash plants that I really wanted to try have all been eaten. i did plant a few squash near my house in the shade and so far no flowers! I’ll go to the farmers market cause I really want zucchini. I wrote this down for next year and will keep it with my seeds. thanks
Tom Kwasiborski says
I’ve used Ghost Pepper Sauce by Yellowbird diluted 50/50 works well on squirrels. Coles Flaming Squirrel is great too but betting expensive. Messina’s Squirrel Stopper? Totally useless but smells good(to me and the squirrels!)
I live in northwest Iowa and it’s rabbits. Never had a problem before but after a mild winter they are thick. I tried cayenne pepper (my daughter uses it in Wisconsin for the deer eating her hostas and turtle heads) but they kept right on eating. Bought a spray – Liquid Fence and it seems to be doing the job. Smells like rotten eggs and have to reapply every couple of weeks.
Sue Iseman says
What about DEER, people???? They eating everything even flowers they supposedly never eat….I caught one munch my tomato plant. HELP!
Diane C says
I tried the crunched up egg shell trick (wash and toast a bit in oven so they are sharper when crunched up), sprinkle around plants, and also cayenne sprinkled on plants. So far so good!
Thank you Kevin for the reminder about Cayenne pepper! Our groundhogs have eaten most of the leaves off our sunflowers & when reaching up, have broken the stems on so many. Most of my plants are for pollinators.
By the way, someone mentioned squirrels at bird feeders. We have this problem too. I heard that Cayenne pepper mixed in w/ the bird seed will keep squirrels away too. Supposedly birds dont have taste buds or the hotness doesnt bother them! I haven’t tested this personally yet but next time at a Dollar Store, I’ll be picking up Cayenne Pepper!
Lastly, is anyone having a horrible time w/ Japanese Beetles this year? I’ve been hand picking them off my canna lilies which have never been eaten in previous years. They’re turning the leaves into “lace!”
Marlyn Anderson says
I have had a woodchuck problem once. I had wire fences around my raised beds vegie garden. The fences were about 2′ high and had 1″ spaces , except at the top where the spaces were 3″ X 3″. Two baby woodchucks climbed up the fence and thru the larger holes at the top and had a feast. Mama woodchuck stood guard outside the fence, she was too big to climb it, I think. Each baby was in a separate bed and they ate everything down to the ground. Radishes, green pole beans, spinach and lettuce – all gone. I saw them eating thru my bedroom window. I ran thru the house grabbed a big metal spoon and a sauce pan and ran out to the back banging them together as soon as I reached the side yard. One baby escaped by climbing the fence and thru that larger space at the top of the fence. The other baby wasn’t fast enough and just hunkered down in between two rows of eaten lettuce. I was surprised at how flat the baby made itself. I was fearful of getting too close, not wanting to be chased by the Mama. Everything was gone by then anyway. I left and had to replant everything. I added onto the fence and replaced it with a 4′ fence the next year. I have tried using the Cayenne Pepper to keep squirrels off my deck. For some reason they liked to poop in the corner by the door to my house. It didn’t work.
Charlotte DeBoer says
Thank you Kevin for the information. I will certainly give pepper and garlic a go. We live in a very rural area and have all kinds of animals roaming our gardens and woods. Now if someone has a solution for stopping bears and beavers, I would be truly grateful.
We use a variety of methods as the critters seem a bit different each year..mostly deer, chipmonks and squirrels this year. Much success with a fishing line deer fence. Very inexpensive to construct, ours is designed to be easy removed. Must place at least a few feet from plants..all the way around. I also used a little vegetable oil to make the hot pepper dust stick on my Hosta plants. That worked great but I grew tired of replacing..rain washes it off.
We share our land with Cheery Cherry and the Chuckettes. Through the years we have replaced our front steps, decking, door posts, etc. numerable times. My husband has repaired the wood with bondo and repainted and the woodchucks have chewed through the paint to expose the bondo! I have watched my mums being feasted on the day that the buds burst into bloom. Thank you for all of your suggestions. We will try them and see how we fare.
Lori Schmidt says
Yep little blighters got my beans this year. I have 20″ high raised beds with a 4 foot high fence surround of chicken wire which is stapled to logs all around the base. He clawed the chicken wire til he made a hole and proceeded to feast!!!! I put a hotwire around the top and have put plastic lattice around the base until I can get the materials to build a new stronger fence out of 2×4’s and lattice with three hotwires 8″, 28″ and 48″ from ground!!!! Overkill but I don’t want to find my plants chewed ever again it is heartbreaking.
I have a mystery perpetrator. I also have very cute but evil rabbits. I am going to try your methods. Your cattle panels worked beautifully! Your installation video is one of my favorites!
Liz Davey says
After suffering rabbit damage last year, I revamped my fencing this year. Wish I could add a photo. I surrounded the garden with rabbit wire -3 feet tall with a hardware cloth gate . I put a second fence 12′ outside that one with three electrified wires:f 6″ 12″ and 4′ . I’ve only had the electric wires in the past and it has kept out woodchucks and deer. Last year the bunnies started jumping between the wires. This year I may get to eat my vegetables.
THERESA RETTIG says
Re squirrels and bird feeders: Get the biggest and cheapest jar of vaseline and slather it on the hanging pole. The little buggers don’t like sticky. It’s pretty funny watching them the first time they try to climb the pole. After trying a few tries they give up. Check the pole once in awhile and “regrease” as needed. BTW don’t forget to use the throw away gloves when you do this. You won’t forget that step a second time.:<)
Squirrels don't like hot stuff but if you sprinkle the hot pepper over the feed it isn't well distributed and the first rain will pretty much rinse it off.
You go Kevin!! I would not want to get on your bad side now that I see how determined you can be in defending your prize veggies!! You are a tough adversary!! Hope he had to go get some Tums !
Jeanne Flatmo says
Got my lawn looking great after getting rid of, I thought, some moles that tunneled underground leaving rocky hills atop of it and in the garden. We had contests to see who could stamp down the hills and get rid of the rocks but still ruined a lawn mower with sudden commotion when a hidden rock hit the blades. Went fishing for a few days and came back to 53 hills all over the back and side lawn. We tried juicy fruit, human hair from the barber shop, broken glass in the tunnels, Mole Max and nothing worked. Purchased 3 little hi pitch solar operated wands that are supposed to drive them away. I expect to see my house lowered into the tunnels next time we leave. Help!
I had a Labrador that took care of my woodchuck problems in Maryland,
but now I live in San Francisco and the problem is raccoons. Looking for ways
to repel them. I think they are pretty tough, esp. the urban ones. I am glad you
found a way. I am also trying the pepper flakes and cayenne pepper on raccoons
Ardelle Tuxen says
Wow, all the hungry critters out there. The rabbits, voles and gophers have been destroying my garden since I no longer have my corgi, Sophie. She was the best security guard – so far this year they have eaten my green bush beans, beans and bush to the ground. Now they are after the beets and Swiss chard – Yikes!! I am so discouraged. Some years ago I bought garlic juice online and can’t seem to find it in the quart size anymore. I thought it was effective.
Most interesting that you have an article on ground hogs today. Last year they ate almost my total crop of potatoes. I thought it was mice initially but the size of the teeth marks made me think it was ground hogs as had seen a number before I noted that the potatoes were eaten. Interesting that my potatoes were eaten but not the potatoes of the Soup Kitchen which were on both side of my raised bed. I figured the Soup Kitchen must attend the right church.
I talked to an old farming friend and she suggested putting glass bottles on stakes at different heights in the plot. I have done that and then decided maybe noise would keep them away so used metal pie plates tied together and hung up. Shall try the garlic, pepper and bone meal. Shall let you know in September if any of this works.
Susan Jung says
Cayenne pepper definitely works on squirrels. Those little devils got in my greenhouse and ate most of my succulents. 20 different varieties of Christmas Cactus eaten down to the soil line. Hanging baskets of spider plants – gone! I bought a huge container at one of the wholesale clubs and liberally sprinkled everything in my greenhouse including empty hanging baskets of soil. I tried chili powder but it does not work as well as cayenne powder. Tomato and pepper plants are also sprinkled.
Our garden is great this year & the earwigs think so too!! Don’t want to use any pesticides. Any suggestions to get rid of them?
Do you know if this works for chipmunks?
Diane Ecker says
I also use Liquid fence deer and rabbit repellent. They might take a couple bites before they discover the bad taste and than leave it alone. Don’t know about woodchucks as I haven’t seen any.
I took your advise to deter a groundhog that has been living under my deck. It worked! I sprinkled all those pepper spices and garlic powder around his entrance hole while he was away. Watched when Chucky came back. He took a few sniffs and waddled away!
Thank You So Much,
Thanks for the tip Kevin. My woodchuck ate my new aster down to the ground.
Have you tried Milorganite? It’s a slow release fertilizer that has the added benefit of being a deer and rodent deterrent. You can spread it on your lawn with a Scott’s Spreader (the settings are on the bag) or just toss a few handfuls into your perennial garden and around the perimeter of your garden. It never burns plants and can be put down anytime. It slowly dissolves over 3 months and makes you lawn and plants nice and healthy. I use it all summer long and my lawn is green, perennials are blooming, and the nibblers are staying away. Maybe try some around the perimeter of your vegetable garden to see if it keeps the ground hog away.
Linda Carlson says
Enjoyed all the comments. I live in a rural area of Minnesota. This year the deer are eating plants they never ate before, still destroying all the Hosta and asiatic lilies. Liquid fence does not work for me anymore. A friend suggested “Deer Out” so I will try that next. Mama raccoon and her four babies roam our yard; the raccoons dug tunnels to access under our deck, destroying the flower gardens next to the deck. “Something” (rabbits perhaps) got into my 3ft high raised beds with 4 ft fences around and ate the Kale down to nothing. I replanted two of the Kale plants elsewhere and they are making a comeback. Mostly I am digging up perennials, dividing them and putting a small division back in the ground. The other divisions are potted up and given away “Free” at our local farmers market, for a donation to the local Food Shelf. I have raised over $500 in 5 weeks. Gives me something to do in addition to sewing around 200 face masks for family, friends and local hospitals. Re: bears and bird feeders; we have a trellis to hang the bird feeders from. Each of the poles is wrapped with sheet metal to deter squirrels climbing and bears clawing. At 6 ft we have it surrounded with an electric wire. The birds can rest on the wire with no problems. Many times the bear has come at night and torn down the electric wire; but the bird feeders remain OK as the bear goes away.
Linda Carlson says
Kevin, I just finished reading how you plant garlic; I have planted this for years and I love it! Since garlic is not liked by woodchucks or any other critters, would it be a good idea to plant garlic leaving a space for the other vegetables the critters attack? Sometimes I plant onions between these plants, but I did not have time for much planting this year, so I did not do onions. I seem to recall it is a deterrent.
Leilani Herbert says
Thank you for trying non poisonous methods. We have owls and foxes nearby. I try to be cognizant of the fact that using poison potentially poisons a food chain – not to mention domestic cats and dogs. Yes I had a dachshund who hunted mice, rats, moles and voles. He was quite proud to bring me his eviscerated yet still squirming prey to my back doorstep.
My zinnas have brown paper leaves!
How can I winter ivy geraniums? I have super good luck with the other geraniums but a difficult time with the ivys.
Blood meal works really well to keep little mischiefs out of my potted plants!
Thanks for all the entertainment you provide!
Paula k says
Late to the pepper party. We put cayenne on our corn to deter raccoons. They picked the corn and washed it in the pool. Then husked and ate it poolside!
I live in the Hudson valley as well and some years wrestle with voles but have stopped the ground hogs. 4 foot fencing was not enough…caught them climbing it. 6 foot is working well.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Donna – Thanks for commenting. Good to know that a 6-foot fence worked for you!
Groundhogs can climb trees, so fences, raised flower beds, and barricades can be ineffective. I never believed this until one climbed a tree right in front of me when I startled it! It startled me! I’m in Pennsylvania and my labs just slayed the 6th one of the summer, which is traumatic for the groundhog (and me) regardless of how I feel about them. Going to try cayenne and garlic. Thanks.
Tom Lund says
Wow, thanks Kevin. I have a big bag of cayenne, a few years old but still potent. But I’ll get some blood meal too, might as well add something to the garden while repelling Chuck and his buddies. They tried a few butternuts, I wish they were smarter and learn that after tasting one and not liking it, they don’t have to try them all. One year I thought I would use a .22 on them, I spent HOURS waiting and never saw one, but they found my veggies when I wasn’t around. So they’re smarter enough to avoid Elmer Fudd but not smart enough to learn that that they don’t like butternut squash.
For the deer, Irish Spring soap seems to work most of the time but 2 years ago it was rained away after we went to bed and the deer ate most of my garden (20 by 20) in one night. Do not like fences but put one up with son that also goes out a foot so that rodents can’t dig in. Wood chucks and deer are destroying flower beds currently so going to try some of methods given here. Usually use soap and several inexpensive diy ones at the same time.