How to Keep Groundhogs and Gophers Out of Your Backyard!

I have previously written a range of articles on what groundhogs eat, and how they, depending on the season, may ruin your backyard by eating your plants, including flowers, tomatoes, onions, and numerous fruits. The same is the case for gophers.

There are several ways to make sure that rodents like groundhogs, gophers, mice, and rats, do not infiltrate your precious backyard vegetation!

My favorites are those using light flashes, ultrasounds, and water sprays that are highly effective especially when combined. But I have also listed cheaper more really available options that can be implemented in minutes!

Know your enemy they say – so here comes a bit of background on the types of animals we dealing with here!

Don’t worry, we will get practical in just a few lines – scroll if you must!

Whereas the groundhogs and gophers are in the same order (Rodentia – also known as rodents) making them evolutionary cousins, rather than siblings, gophers are more closely related to prairie dogs that belong to the same family (Sciuridae).

Interestingly, squirrels do also belong to this family – so these scare techniques may also apply to them!

Gopher compared to a prairie dog and a groundhog. Gophers are smaller than the prairie dog that is smaller than the groundhog.

Whereas groundhogs are likely to make more damage to your backyard vegetation, they are usually present in lesser numbers than the (smaller) gopher that is, however, more likely to eat the roots of your flowers and trees!

10 Ways To Prevent Groundhogs and Gophers From Eating Your Plants!

There are several ways to prevent pests like groundhogs and gophers from invading your backyard.

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 gophers, 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.  

My favorite ultrasonic emitters. Click to read more at Amazon.

3. Using Lights and Reflections

Groundhogs are nocturnal animals so they may avoid areas that have bright lights. Motion-activated lights, sounds, and sprinklers may help prevent groundhogs from entering your yard.

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 and gophers.

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 and gophers 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.

Hand Keeping gopher away
A physical barrier will keep a gopher or groundhog out of your yard! But make sure it reached deep enough to prevent them from digging under.

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.

A simple fence like this should work.

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 gophers 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 gophers, 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.

You can also buy natural repellants like the one shown here from Amazon. (Click for price).

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 and gophers 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, gophers, 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, gophers, 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.

A scary owl will help prevent rodents from invading your backyard!

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:

A live groundhog trap is a humane way to get permanently rid of groundhogs in your yard.

A version with thick gloves for safe handling.

10. Using Mothballs

Mothballs are another type of commercial repellent that works well to protect your vegetables and other plants against gophers but are less effective against groundhogs.

This is, however, not our favorite technique as it is less effective and risk spreading toxins in your garden.

You just need to scatter a few mothballs around into the tunnels of the gopher or groundhog to prevent them from coming out and they will eventually leave your garden!

Just be careful where you scatter the mothballs because the compounds (naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene) are quite toxic so don’t put them too close to vegetables or water sources.

Conclusions

These precautions should help you protect your crops, and yard in general, from hungry critters that might be interested in eating your hard work!

While traps may be dangerous to pets or children if not properly monitored, repellants can be expensive, toxic, and take time to work. Fences are a good option if you have the space, but they may not be practical in all situations.

However, some pest animals are not deterred by fences, repellents, or companion plants. So for these animals, the best options are sprinklers or ultrasounds devices as these take up little space and are quite humane.

Therefore, scare tactics such as making loud ultrasounds or using reflectors and scarecrows are probably the most effective long-term solutions in my view.