To make sure your garden is protected from groundhogs, get a fence.

The Animal

We live in the city, but we still have plenty of wildlife. For many years, our big problem was woodchucks—also known as groundhogs. They’d come into the garden and chew prized perennials right to the ground. These herbivores preferred phlox, echinacea and asters. I tried repellents and motion-detecting sprinklers, which didn’t keep them out. It seemed that the best choice was a fence.

Our backyard is already fenced, but it presented no obstacle for the woodchucks. They just crawled under the gap at the base of the fence and moved through our garden—as if it were a salad bar. At first, my partner thought the woodchuck was cute. He even gave it a name: Webster. But once the devastation became widespread, it was referred to as The Animal.

Because of The Animal and his family, our flower garden no longer had asters or phlox. Even the bossy perennial sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus), was mowed down. In fact, I had no idea that perennial was such an aggressive thug until after the woodchucks were gone.

Chicken wire, anchored to the bottom of the fence is buried to ensure that our back garden is secure.

It was a hot, humid Sunday in July that I decided it was time to seal the perimeter. I went to the hardware store for 24″ wide rolls of chicken wire and came back to start trenching. Using a spade, I dug a 1-foot-deep trench right below the wood fence, all the way around the garden. Then, I stapled one edge of the chicken wire to the bottom of the fence, placing the rest of it into the hole. I back-filled the holes and everything looked secure—or so I thought.

It wasn’t long before The Animal penetrated my defenses and started in on the echinacea. How did it get in? After some careful investigation, I found a small gap where two pieces of chicken wire were joined. Just enough for it to squeeze through.

I tried chasing the woodchuck out of the yard, but had no luck. Because of the way the wire was bent, it couldn’t get out the way it had come in. I tried herding it through the garden gate, but that didn’t work either. Despite their fat, roly-poly appearance, woodchucks are very fast. My enhanced fence had made The Animal a permanent resident in my garden. The only solution was a trap. I got one of those humane live traps, baited it with broccoli and had captured The Animal by the end of the day. I put trap and all into the back of my truck and drove to the mountains to release the woodchuck, where he remains.

For the past few years, my phlox have been lovely, the echinacea flower abundantly, and there are plenty of asters for fall color. The garden is secure. Better check the perimeter again.

For more information, read Controlling Woodchucks and Animal Fencing Techniques. For products to control woodchucks, see the Garden Pest Controls department and the Fences department.

-David Grist, Online Content Coordinator