Who’s been nibbling the parsley in my herb garden? Meet Woody the Woodchuck! How this critter entered the fenced-in plot, and the steps I’m taking to thwart his wicked ways:
To discover Woody’s entrance-point, I simply watched him exit. And that was through the gate.
How much wood can a woodchuck chuck? Well, apparently just enough to squeeze his fat body through the slats of an oak gate. An oak gate that was custom-made for me.
Now, I don’t mind that my parsley is under attack. It’s the end of the growing season, and a woodchuck needs plentiful nourishment before it heads into hibernation. But this breech of security is not something I wish to encourage.
Fortunately, woodchucks are easily outwitted!
To thwart the varmint, I wedged a window screen into the gate. Then I braced the screen with a chair.
I slept soundly that night. For I knew the woodchuck would discover my clever reinforcement, and give up his marauding ways.
Here’s what I found the next morning:
Folks, I’m not a violent soul. But drastic times call for drastic measures, right?
Thus my next woodchuck-thwarting campaign will be drastic indeed.
Shall I tell you my plan?
I hope you’re sitting down, because…
I’m going to rip out all of my parsley. It’s the only woodchuck-magnet in the garden.
Are woodchucks a nuisance in your garden, too? You can let me know by leaving a comment.
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Other posts you might enjoy:
How I Propagate Boxwood
Afternoon Tea for You and Me
Easy Homemade Baguettes
Don’t feel bad about Chuckie’s gate attack: if you were to have a cast iron gate, Chuckie would go under it (or the fence) if he wants to get in the garden badly enough. We’ve not had Chuckie for a few years, but this year my (very late planted) green beans that I was so anticipating looked as though they had been run over by a haybine: Bambi left me only a whole plot of 5″ high green bean sticks just as they began to flower. These “challenges” are character building for gardeners!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
TinaK – Character building, indeed!
Brooklyn Bob says
What a good heart you have. When you pull up the parsley, maybe you can leave it for Woody.
Fred Gonsowski says
I’ve had woodchuck problems over the years. To keep them out of my fenced back yard, I’ve dug a trench about one foot, or more, around the whole yard and put green vinyl coated chicken wire from the bottom of the fence, down into the ground, and then covered it with dirt. After that I stapled the chicken wire to the fence. Once in a while the woodchucks do try getting through where the different pieces of chicken wire overlap each other.
You could put chicken wire across the bottom of your garden gate, then make a threshold of a couple layers of patio blocks, so he/she can’t burrow down under the gate. You could also bury vinyl coated chicken wire under the garden gate, and put one layer of a patio stone over it. Good luck with your project, as once you have a woodchuck, others seem to happen along.
Diane Hinkle says
I am happy you did not kill the woodchuck. We had one in our rural neighborhood. I would see it zipping across the lawn sometimes or down by the lake. It was not terribly scared of us. A new neighbor built a 3 million dollar house on what had forever been a vacant lot and the woodchuck found good things to eat there. New neighbor planted tomatoes and caught the woodchuck helping himself to one. And sadly, he got his gun and shot him. I can spare anything to save an animal’s life. In fact, I plant dill and parsley for the butterflies to lay eggs on. I know their larvae will eat it all down but that is what it is there for. Them. I see a shortage of butterflies where I live in TN. Only saw one Monarch the entire season. Please be kind to the wildlife or find a humane way to deal with them.
Another Judy says
Thanks to Kevin’s kind-heartedness and to all the wildlife lovers.
I just finished videotaping a chipmunk “provisioning” the peanuts I put out in my granddaughter’s homemade chipmunk feeding station by our breakfast table window. The feeder will not allow squirrels in – they are going crazy trying to figure out what smells like nuts, but cannot be found.
If Mrs. or Mr. Alvin eat our plants next year, we won’t try to grow vegetables, we will buy them at the farmer’s market. We are lucky that we can.
For the love. What is a woodchuck? I’ve seen lots of critters in my life, but never a woodchuck. Sorry about the gate, and glad you didn’t kill him.
Susan D. Maguire says
But how much would a wood chuck chuck, if a wood chuck couldn’t chuck . . . herbs???
ingmarie peck says
God Bless, you are a kind soul.
Maybe you should plant the parsley outside the gate? LOL
Oh what fun it is to realize that an uneducated rodent can so easily outwit we humans. Must admit there are times I could easily send a few of the squirrels in my yard to oblivion, but them I also have to respect their ingenuity and cleverness in consistently turning a “smart anti-squirrel” baffle into a new toy.
I admire your hard-nose solution to the invading ground hog . That’ll teach ’em a lesson!
Jane Rutkowski says
Woodchucks (we call them groundhogs here) are clever little beasties. Almost anything in open garden areas has always been fair game. I just gave up. With flowepots on my back deck, I resorted to covering plants with wire deer fencing supported by plant stakes and hoops. Very attractive … not. Sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn’t. I completely gave up on zinnias, poppies, petunias, even California poppies. I was surprised to see all the heads chopped off the Californias! The woodchucks don’t seem to bother snapdragons and marigolds. That’s actually a home run. The deer leaves them alone, too. Now, if only marigolds came in every color of the rainbow …. sigh.
Karen Heck says
Locate and hire a wildlife animal relocator to live trap him and take him somewhere else. We have them in OK, surely NY does too. 🙂
No woodchucks here, but between the deer and the gophers, I’ve had an opportunity for a lot of character building!!! I feel for you!
Awwww. He’s so cute. Couldn’t you plant some parsley where it’s OK for him to browse?
Hummmmm. The idea is to live in harmony with nature. I think you should design a “Natural Habitat Garden (s)”. This earth has given us so much I think it’s only fair to give back. What a wonderful adventure for you!
Woodchucks can and will dig extensive tunnels under the foundations of buildings. Now, I genuinely enjoy the wildlife that inhabits my 28 acres. I routinely scatter excess garden seeds at the edge of my woods for a critter garden, I drag hay through the snow for the deer and I supply peanuts to a family of crows that can apparently identify me on sight, however once a woodchuck has chosen a building site, nothing short of a shotgun will deter him. And believe me, I’ve tried everything to convince a particular woodchuck that he should NOT live under a 75 yr old granary on my property….including pouring used cat litter down the burrow entrance. It’s supposed to repel them. It doesn’t. You only end up with a pile of used cat litter piled neatly at the entrance to the burrow the next morning and a disgruntled woodchuck. Gas, poison or drowning was simply not an option…and traps….hahahahaha. So after battling all summer it finally came to the inevitable conclusion.
Cost of foundation repairs – $10,000
Cost of a shotgun shell – $1.50
Free dinner for the coyotes – priceless.
Yes, he was adorably cute…and yes I felt really really bad about it.
I’m sorry the woodchuck invaded your herb garden. However, the morning glories are beautiful
He/she’s adorable and beautiful! Why don’t you plant a big, juicy, unfenced patch of parsley for the woodchuck and then you can rest easy with your kind heart.
Mary Jouver says
Enjoyed the story and pictures! Thanks….
Denise T says
I’ve been told by a fellow gardener that she used a cage type trap, using canned peaches on a paper plate inside as bait, to catch them. She’s caught 2 that way and transported them a distance to a wild area with no local homeowners to pester.
I have a couple groundhogs right now and will be trying the same as soon as I shop for canned peaches. They love to eat violet leaves and cone flower leaves right to the ground.
I have a mixed breed dog that lives to eliminate ground hogs. It’s not pretty but she’s very effective.
Rate for removal of one (1) ground hog: Any baked dessert that would make my primary physician gasp and a bag of Chewnola busy bones.
joyce fleming says
We’ve had a woodchuck visiting us for about two years. At first it was just an occasional walk through but this year it appears that we were number one on the buffet list. He has pretty much decimated flowers, veggies and some herbs. He took out about 15 cucumber plants in 10 min and all the green beans. Most of my flowers have disappeared. All that are left are bare stalks. It is illegal in my state to relocate a wild animal and I refuse to have it killed. Since the only thing he didn’t touch this year were the tomatoes, I have decided that I will only plant those next year. Sometimes ya just have to live and let live….
I also have problems with the creatures I share my world with. Deer eat my day lily flowers before they open. Moles eat everything including the lavender. The deer even eat the Autumn Joy Sedum heads before they open. We will not even talk about the veggie garden. Did you know chipmunks love strawberries? I have learned over the years to just plant enough for all of us to share. Be careful with woodchucks. They can really dig.
Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says
I have personally observed groundhogs climbing trees. They do so effortlessly.
My fast and fearless dog is my best ally in the campaign to control groundhog damage.
If you pull the parsley, the groundhog may immediately move on to other, more valuable, crops.
My gate openings are reinforced with chicken wire, harder to tear through than screening. These reinforcements work well against rabbits, skunks and groundhogs.
What does Lily say? Is she highly interested? Can she pee nearby to make the groundhog uncomfortable about coming into your garden? Is the circus in town? Can you procure any lion dung?
So sorry to see your woodchuck woes. They can be so trying, can’t they? Especially when we don’t want violence to be the solution.
I had to go to great lengths to thwart our local fellow. I ended up taking all my raised beds and raising them to 2 feet high, the height my local extension service told me a woodchuck couldn’t reach.
Then my husband and I watched one day while our very fat Woody eyed one of the raised beds, BACKED UP, and ran full tilt at it. And soared through the air right into it.
So then I drove straight to the local garden supply, bought metal border pieces, and added an additional foot to each raised bed with those.
And that was that. Last summer he grazed in the grass. This summer we didn’t see him at all. Who would have thought thwarting a groundhog could feel so triumphal?!
I can tell you have a kind heart. Woody? You’re kidding. Whenever I get one anywhere my garden I refer to it as the Fat Bastard. (I recently discovered there is a French wine by the same name. Amazing!) And you think it just likes your parsley? Think again. For years I had no phlox in bloom, and I couldn’t figure out why that was. One day with no wind I saw one of the phlox plants shaking violently. I crept closer to see better. There was the Fat Bastard on its hind legs munching away on my yet-to-be-opened flowers. I honestly don’t think a lush garden and a groundhog can coexist. We use a Have-a-Heart trap and relocate any who bother my garden across a BIG river just across the road from us. They take up residence in a wooded area more than 5 miles beyond. For bait, I patronize an online company called Revenge. None of the vegetables suggested as bait seem to work (although I am going to try the canned peaches), and the Revenge company has something that looks like one of your pesto recipes just for groundhogs. I’ve never tasted it myself, but I doubt it’s flavored with arugula or basil. It’s the only thing I’ve found that works, but even it isn’t a sure bet.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Beverly – Lily the Beagle goes berserk when she spies Woody. Alas, my friend Marion’s dog (a golden retriever) was badly torn up by a woodchuck, so Lily is never allowed off-leash in the yard. Lily’s scent is certainly in the herb garden, but Woody doesn’t seem to care.
Tammy – good to know that a woodchuck can leap 2 but not 3 feet into the air!
Pam – I’ve lived peaceably with Woody a/k/a fat bastard for many years. Normally his grazing is limited to clover and weeds in the lawn. I’d love to know what spurred his interest in the (now-pulled) parsley — he has never before attempted to enter the herb garden.
We live along a river and have deer, foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, squirrels and woodchucks. Only the woodchucks are a problem. I could live with watching Chuck chew the newly opened blossoms off the mum plants, but we have had to replace the wood around the front door twice. The sill on the front window is chewed. Chuck, Mrs. Chuck and the Chuckettes dug so much sand out from under the driveway that the foundation had to be rebuilt and the cement had to be replaced. We have done it all: live-trapped them, shot them, put various types of urine in their holes, tried to drown them out, tried poison that I think they thought was an extra snack. Nothing has been effective. Keep them out, if you can. They can be super destructive!
Kevin, not sure if it would work for Woodie, but I thwarted the rabbits from eating my broccoli by sprinkling blood meal around the area. Non toxic and added bonus of adding nitrogen to the soil! I know we need to exist with nature, but they could ask nicely and not just steal our stuff!! 🙂
But are you going to use the parsley. Kevin? If not, can’t you give it to the chubby dude? Your story and pics cracked me up!)
Clare Oliva says
Kevin, thanks for sharing your adventures with the woodchuck (a/k/a groundhog). I can SO relate. My husband and I have been battling groundhogs for years here in our northern NJ garden. When determined enough, they can climb tall fences or dig under them. One of the groundhog’s favorite snacks is our pole beans. Since I LOVE fresh pole beans, I wasn’t going to stop growing them, so the hubby built a big chicken wire cage (with a latched door that swings open) and that’s where we grow the pole beans. I have pictures of the groundhog climbing up this 10 foot structure trying to get at the pole beans (it gave the hubby and I great joy and a sense of victory to see those pictures!).
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Clare Oliva – Thanks for the link. And what a great idea to set up a wildlife camera — your “Khadaffi” is hilarious!
Margaret de Cubas says
This story is exactly the reason I love your newsletter. I love the way you tell stories and they always make me laugh and smile!
Sherry Pace says
These are great stories! I must confess that I don’t have an actual garden, just a few pots of herbs and a couple of tomatoes, so I don’t have these issues. However, I do feed the birds so the groundhog and the skunk starting coming around feast (our dog ended up getting skunked 5 times last year so I stopped putting out the skunk’s favorite, cracked corn). I keep the feed safe in metal garbage cans in the back of the yard so they can only eat what’s on the ground. A couple times I noticed that I had forgotten to put the lid back on – that is until one day I looked out and saw the fattest Chuckie ever pop out of the can like a Jack in the Box! I put a large, heavy (almost too heavy for me to pick up), rock on top of the lid to keep him out. The next morning there he was with his paws on the can rocking it to dislodge the rock. He did, and then he had birdseed for breakfast. I figured after all that effort he deserved it! Now I have a deck box with the cans inside and a padlock through the hasp. So far, it’s worked except for some gnawed off corners.
Ramona Dougherty says
Just wanted to thank you for the info on how you cleaned your windows., I’ve got a sunroom that I was hiring someone to wash the windows on top and outside but with your way I tried it myself. Couldn’t believe how easy it was and I got it all done outside in one day. Takes me a little longer because I’m 75 years young and climbing the ladder takes time.
For inside I used your solution but used an old towel to dry window. Wasn’t really careful doing it but it turned out great and no streaks. Thanks again. Ramona
Well, Kevin, it’s not only parsley I’m afraid. The larger the chuck, the smarter it is. In my backyard I had two tunnel openings (one under the garden shed) and the adjoining neighbor had two. I understand there are five tunnel openings per homestead. The beast ate anything young, green and growing in my garden. After trying various methods I finally borrowed a Havahart trap. I baited it with corn on the cob and, for variety, added some watermelon. It took us two entire summers to trap the beast. It would walk all around it, sit and stare at it and finally after a 20 minute séance with it, it took the bait. My kind neighbor transported him elsewhere.
awww shucks 🙁
In Arizona ground squirrels will chew through drip systems and level a garden in no time, quails love squash leaves (only the tiny leaves of course) and birds just ate all my fall/winter pea seedlings.
Sorry Woody chewed your oak fence.
Have you ever tried planting Fritillarias? The bulbs have a pungent odor. The odor is a natural deterrent to rodents. The plants are also resistant to deer. I don’t know if it work but perhaps worth trying.
Gardening is an adventure!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Bonjour, Oriane – I just received a shipment of Fritillaria bulbs — thanks for the advice. Woody, finding the parsley gone, moved on to the next crop: Cabbage! He ate all but 5 heads, which I have since pulled. What a voracious appetite!
you can try reinforcing the bottom of your gate with some hardware cloth stapled to it, perhaps
my dad used to just shoot the critters.
Beatriz (in ct) says
This past spring i had a fine family of five on my lot. I was able to catch the mom and one of the babies using a haveheart trap. Found it at home depot. It traps the animal and then u release it somewhere very very far away ( the next town over ) they come back. Make sure you set the trap during the day, you dont want to set it at night you might catch a racoon or worse a skunk. Bait itwith parsley lol! If you dont trap it now it will come back in spring. Lots of luck
Someone suggested red pepper flakes when I had a ground hog eating my flowers. I sprinkled them all around his plant of choice and he left it alone the rest of the season.
Kelly F says
It’s Woodchuck Gate! Oh. my. word! FB is certainly a brat!! I can’t believe he just ate through the screen. I’ve heard that sprinklers with motion censors can work, but these little suckers are tenacious. Trapping Capt’n Destructo might be the best option to get rid of him for good – before he finds a girlfriend….
Kevin I have woodchucks on my 5 acres for many years and I left them alone because I too do not want to hurt them BUT this year one little devil entered my bird feeding area. I found him squeezing through the 4″ slats under my deck so I had someone crawl under the deck and nail chicken wire behind the slats. He now has dug a huge hole under my cedar fence and exits by jumping on a large rock onto my deck and down the stairs.
I am at wits end on how to stop him. I have filled the hole in several times with rocks, crumpled chicken wire, large gravel, and anything else I can think of. He keeps the hole cleaned out and now he now has borrowed under my gate!
I watched him last night and he came out of the hole looked around and left down the deck steps. I have nothing left in the garden that attracts him or her but he keeps coming in anyway. Any suggestions?
Woodchuck, not cute. They burrow under outbuildings and damage foundations, they eat my garden. We dispatch them too. There is plenty of food for them in the timber. I plant my veg garden for us, not the animals. **jumping off my soapbox**
I trapped a groundhog this past spring using cucumbers. It took one day and I relocated it. However, as someone above said, others seem to be attracted once there’s been one living in your area. Constant Vigilance!!
GRRRrrrrr groundhogs! Ate the floor of my shed, tunneled extensively under it, whole family. Mowed down first round of crops in spring, EVERYTHING and then some!
Purchased a Hav-a-Heart trap and pulled FIVE out of my small yard, relocated to a wooded area where I work (had permission)
I live in Kansas and have almost every kind of critter in my garden and even critters outside of my garden that I need to keep away. For little things like woodchucks, beaver, deer, raccoons, etc; shave up some Irish Spring soap. For some reason they really do not like it and it will not kill them. For the COUGARS and COYOTE that often walk up on my deck, you can put BBQ charcoal briquettes around the perimeters of your property, pour a little chlorine on it and the males will think that another male has marked his territory and go somewhere else.
Does anyone have any tips on how to keep the bald eagles that are growing in number from eyeing my two tiny Yorkies? This is where I draw the line!
why not plant some parsley outside the fence?
Why not get yourself a .22 caliper pistol….its the best Woodchuck defense on the market…
My problem is that the groundhogs want to hibernate under my house. They had babies and the mother would not let the plumber in to turn the water on. I won’t be here after October and I need to keep them out of the hole they dug under my house or I will have another family next year. Fox urine? The kitty litter is perfumed soon?? Mothballs? What? Help?
Diana Nadanyi says
Now repeating what I just wrote. Need to keep groundhogs from hibernating in the hole they have under my house. Fox urine cat litter- it us perfumed? Mothballs? Help they scare the plumber.
Clever, aren’t they!
My husband decided to break all of his beer bottles and push them into the woodchuck hole thinking they would find another place to live. We woke up and there was smashed glass all over the garden. Not his best idea!!!