How to Deter Groundhogs (and Keep Them Out of Your Garden)

Groundhogs can be destructive backyard pests that devour your plants. Follow a garden expert's advice to learn how to deter groundhogs.

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What You Need to Know About Groundhogs

Detroit Cityscapes and City ViewsRaymond Boyd/Getty Images
A groundhog at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak, Michigan

Perhaps most famous for having a February holiday named after them, groundhogs are furry mammals that can be found across much of the eastern and central U.S. and up into Canada. Groundhogs create deep underground burrows, some of which stretch for more than 20 feet. These rodents aren’t particularly picky eaters, happily snacking on a wide range of vegetation including grasses, bark, flowers and berries. The problem comes when they move into backyards and start devouring your garden plants. They like to pack on pounds during warmer months to gear up for hibernation, which typically starts in mid-fall. Read on for expert advice on how to deter groundhogs.

Did you know: Whether you prefer to call them groundhogs or woodchucks, it’s perfectly fine to call these animals either name.

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How to Deter Groundhogs

Groundhog eating a flowermikael males/
Groundhog eating a flower

Birds & Blooms reader Linda Hall of Aurora, Indiana asks: A groundhog loves eating my mums. Can I plant something nearby to discourage it?”

“Unfortunately, no plants can actually deter groundhogs from eating flowers or shrubs,” says gardening expert Melinda Myers. “You may have heard rumors that gopher spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) repels gophers and moles. This hasn’t been proven to be true, but this spurge is very aggressive, reseeds readily and is considered invasive in a few states.”

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animals that hibernateCourtesy Barbara Carter / Country magazine
Groundhogs can be frustrating garden pests

Melinda points out that using fencing to deter groundhogs is challenging, as they are extremely versatile and can both climb and burrow. Bury the bottom of a fence at least a foot deep or bend the bottom foot of fencing at a 90-degree angle and pin it to the ground. The fence needs to be 3 feet high, with the top 12 to 15 inches bent outward at a 45-degree angle to help keep groundhogs from climbing it.

An electric fence mounted on posts with strands 4 inches and 9 inches above the ground is another option that is probably more effective. Look for electric fences at garden centers or online.

Next, find out how to deter rabbits from eating your plants.

Molly Jasinski
Molly Jasinski is a writer, editor and social media manager for Birds & Blooms. She enjoys watching the robins, cardinals and occasional goldfinch seen around her apartment.