The groundhog is a member of the rodent family and is closely related to the squirrel. These animals are usually brown or gray in color and have a bushy tail. Groundhogs can grow to be about two feet long and weigh up to 15 pounds.
Groundhogs are often found munching on potatoes in farmers’ fields. But what many people don’t know is that these animals will also eat the potato plants, leaves, and all. In fact, potatoes, including sweet potatoes, are among the groundhog’s favorite foods.
Groundhogs are found throughout North America and prefer to live in areas with plenty of food and shelter. These animals are most active during the early morning and evening hours.
While potatoes are a groundhog’s favorite food, these animals will also eat other vegetables such as corn, beans, lettuce, cabbage and carrots. Fruits such as apples, pears and grapes are also part of the groundhog’s diet.
Do groundhogs only eat potato plants?
Yes, groundhogs will eat potato plants, but they prefer the potatoes. They are actually quite versatile in their diets and will eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and even flowers if they can get to them.
However, potatoes do seem to be one of their favorites. This may be because they are a good source of energy and nutrients, or because they are easy to find and eat since they grow close to the ground.
Either way, if you have a groundhog in your garden, you can expect it to try to munch on your potato plants at some point.
Do groundhogs like raw potatoes?
Groundhogs are not able to cook, so they will of course eat the potatoes raw! As with any other roots they eat, their strong teeth are able to chew through even the hardest roots and even wood!
Do groundhogs eat sweet potatoes?
Yes, sweet potatoes are also a favorite of groundhogs. They are more nutritious than ordinary potatoes so groundhogs prefer them over white potatoes.
They grow in slightly different climates than ordinary potatoes, so fewer groundhogs have acces to them, but they definetly will eat them if they can!
Do groundhogs eat sweet potato vines?
As for normal potato plants, while sweet potato vines have been observed to be consumed by groundhogs, it is unlikely that they would be a preferred food source.
They prefer the much more energy rich sweet potatoes underneath!
What other animals could have eaten my potatoes?
Groundhogs aren’t the only animals that like to eat potatoes in your backyard. Other common ones in North America include raccoons, deer, gophers, rats, opossums, skunks, squirrels, and bears.
But groundhogs in particular are especially fond of eating potato plants because they offer a balance of easily accessible water and nutrients in one place.
Some backyard birds may also love eating potatoes, but they tend to inflict less damage due to their smaller sizes.
Also, they are typically not bold enough to come close to your plants since there is a high chance that you will scare them away with your presence during the day, whereas groundhogs will mostly forage during the early mornings and evenings when you are not around.
Finally, other rodents like rats or gophers are also attracted to a yard with vegetables and will not hesitate to eat the nice and juicy potatoes you have spent so much time growing.
How to prevent groundhogs from eating your potatoes!
Instead of trying to kill groundhogs, I would strongly recommend one of the solutions listed below. They are both effective, cheap and humane as they just scare away the groundhogs rather than harming them.
1. Motion-activated sprinklers
Like most animals, groundhogs hate surprises, and they will run away if suddenly sprayed with water. I like this solution because it is humane, simple, effective, and does not require much time to set up and there are many models to choose from.
My favorite sprinkler option here is the Havahart 5277.
The Havahart 5277 is a motion-activated sprinkler that is activated by the movement of animals up to 25 feet away and sprays them with a harmless water jet, frightening them off and keeping them at bay.
The included metal stake makes it easy to install in your backyard, and the sprinkler can be rotated 180 degrees for maximum coverage.
2. Ultrasonic Sound Emitters
Groundhogs and groundhogs, as well as other animals that may invade your garden, tend to have very good hearing. This means that loud or consistent noises will scare them away or at least shorten their visits significantly!
One of my favorite technologies to keep pests away from my backyard is these cool solar-powered ultrasonic sound emitters that you can buy right off Amazon! In my experience, they really work, and the solar panels on top save you the time and money of changing batteries all the time.
3. Using Lights and Reflections
Placing CDs or tin foil and mirrors around your yard is another cheap and effective way to create light reflections that blind and scare groundhogs.
This may sound a little old-fashioned but it still works! The reflective surface of CDs or tin foil drives groundhogs crazy and will make them seek away from your plants.
You can use old CDs you no longer need or aluminum trays from takeaway containers, just make sure they reflect light well.
If you have a lot of plants to protect this way, it may be a good idea to invest in some commercial mirrors or electronic light emitters like the ones shown above.
4. Build a Fence
The most obvious and practical solution to protecting your plants from groundhogs is to install a fence around the patch. A fence should be at least 2 feet tall and sunk in the ground about 8 inches.
The best fencing material for this purpose is a cattle panel or hog panel as they are very sturdy and can withstand even quadruped animals such as goats, cows, and deer. However, most chicken fencing types will do. This will be strong enough to stop them from getting through while still allowing for airflow and sunlight.
If you don’t like the idea of building a fence around your entire onion patch then you can try fencing off only the area that your onions, tomatoes, or zucchinis are in; this will at least keep some of the groundhogs or groundhogs away from them.
5. Using Hot Pepper Or Garlic Spray
This is a good way to protect your vegetable plants or decorative flowers against pests such as groundhogs, rabbits, deer, and groundhogs. It will also protect your backyard against the neighbor’s cat that thinks it is fine to use your vegetable garden as a toilet.
You only need about 1 tablespoon of crushed chili pepper and garlic along with 1 cup of vinegar per half a gallon of water.
Spray this mixture on any exposed parts of the plant until completely covered. Make sure you reapply whenever rain washes away the spray.
6. Use Rodent Deterring Companion Plants
Instead of making a tincture out of strongly smelling plants, you can also just plant the plants themselves!
Companion planting is a good way of deterring animals like groundhogs from your garden. You can plant strong-smelling plants such as garlic, basil, lavender, and chives around your favorite vegetables.
These plants will keep rodents like groundhogs, groundhogs, and mice away because they don’t like the smell of these and they mask the smell of the delicious plants.
7. Using Artificial Repellent
You can use some of the commercially available repellents to protect your vegetable plants against groundhogs, groundhogs, and other rodents. You will need to be careful when using these though because some of them can end up harming you and your pets if not applied properly. Some of the commercial groundhog repellents available include Shake-Away, Bonide Repels All, Critter Ridder, and Tom Cate Repellent.
8. Using a Scarecrow
Scarecrows may look a little funny in your garden, but they work surprisingly well. Just make sure your scarecrow is big and scary enough to deter groundhogs from getting anywhere near your tomatoes, zucchini, or backyard flowers! Also, you may need to replace the scarecrow every now and then as groundhogs will get used to it.
9. Using live traps
Using live traps to catch the groundhog and drive it away to somewhere safe, but far away, is perhaps the best option if you want to get completely rid of groundhogs in your yard!
You can make a trap yourself with some wire and ingenuity…
But, you can also just buy a live trap, as the sturdy metal ones shown here:
In conclusion, groundhogs will eat potato plants, but they prefer potatoes. They are actually quite versatile in their diets and will eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and even flowers if they can get to them.
There are several options to keep them away from your potato plants, but my favorite is the solar-powered ultrasound emittes as they are very easy and low maintenance.
Groundhogs are generally not a threat to humans, but they can be a nuisance if they invade your yard or garden. In some areas, groundhogs are considered pests because they can damage crops and yards by digging their burrows.