I have finally found an effective groundhog repellent. It is readily available, costs nothing and doubles as an effective organic fertilizer. It even pushes forward our mandate to reduce and reuse. Just do not tell the neighbours.
My daughter, Marian, has unusual insight into the way animals think. When she visited earlier this month, she suggested rolling on the ground: “leave your scent.” Groundhogs are particularly shy and avoid humans whenever possible.
One morning after Marian was here I went into the garden and found devastation. A groundhog had attacked the acorn squash, borage and even a tomato plant. These were not polite rabbits nibbling. Whole branches of borage were broken to the ground. The squash and tomato had been all but killed. My previous strategies had come to naught. The other seven tomato plants looked like a row of decoys.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Squatting there in the cool grass I seethed hot with determination. Insight came in a flash. I knew what had to be done. I went in the house and told my partner. He found a large plastic jar for us to keep on the bathroom sink. Over the course of the day we collected groundhog repellent. Under cover of dusk I snuck out to the garden and dribbled it around the perimeter. No groundhogs visited the garden that night. In fact, they have not returned. Neither have the rabbits.
Human urine works.
It also has a fertilizer value of 18:2:5. It has been demonstrated as an effective replacement for traditional chemical fertilizers. I usually pour it in the trenches around the outside of the the garden, away from plant leaves. It needs to be replaced frequently, especially after rain. The smell will hardly be detectable to people, but repugnant to the sensitive nose of a groundhog. A healthy urinary tract contains no harmful bacteria. However, samples from people with infections should not be used.
We flush our toilet less often, reducing the amount of nitrogen going into the water supply. This fits nicely with the sixth principle of permaculture: “By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.” My discovery is not original. It turns out others have thought of it before and use it effectively. That just proves it is a good idea.
[Update, later the same day: my cousin tells me only urine from males works. We have plenty of that around here. Alternatively, coyote urine available at garden centres will also do the trick. It also deters deer and rabbits. I'm happier reusing a free product. I also learned groundhogs and skunks can be persuaded to vacate the premises by sprinkling urine around their dens, but this is only useful for small populations in an urban setting. You learn something new every day.]
Groundhog photo courtesy of Gilles Gonthier.