Every summer, I have a vegetable garden. I plant the same standards every year – tomatoes, peas, yellow squash, and zucchini, with a small separate area for basil, dill and parsley. I also plant an extra or two every year, such as lettuce or carrots. The past two years I’ve added peppers, with very little success – I’ve grown one pepper.
I’ve been lucky enough over the years to never have a problem with animals invading my garden. Other people I know, including the couple who live across the street, have their garden completely fenced in to keep out the critters. I’ve never used fencing and until last summer hadn’t had a problem.
But then Alfred moved in.
One day I looked out my kitchen window and there was a groundhog sitting in the middle of my backyard. I went outside and he hustled under my shed. Over the next few days, I observed that he was living under my shed and would come out and hang around my yard late in the afternoon. I also noticed that every day he became a little braver and moved a little further into my yard, bringing him closer to my garden. I decided to keep my eye on him.
Alfred has a big appetite
By this time my son and I had named him Alfred. Why Alfred? We are big fans of the old Batman TV series and our favorite character is Alfred. So there you are – Alfred the groundhog. Well, it made sense to us, at least.
Nearly every day, one family member or another would announce that Alfred was back out in the yard. Then, one day, my wife said, “Alfred’s coming out of the garden!” I jumped up and went outside to see him duck quickly under the shed.
A couple of days later I noticed our brazen little friend trotting out of the garden and across our yard with something hanging out of his mouth. Now, I couldn’t have this. The groundhog was eating all my food. That just wasn’t right. Eating all our food is my son’s job.
I thought I’d been a pretty patient landlord to Alfred, letting him live rent-free under my shed and sun himself in my yard during the afternoon. But chewing up and trampling my well-tended garden was pushing it too far.
Because Alfred did not seem willing to leave on his own, I did some research and found that groundhogs can burrow, nest and have several babies. Honestly, I wasn’t sure about the babies because I didn’t know if Alfred was male or female. But if he was male, he might bring a female home, which would double my problem. And once the babies came, I’d be overrun.
I also read that a groundhog consumes over a pound of vegetation per day. I could only imagine what that would do to my garden. So I got myself a Havahart animal trap and set it up along Alfred’s normal pathway.
Problem was, I baited it with stuff from my refrigerator. Within a couple of days I realized that the groundhog had no interest in food from the fridge. Instead, he moved right around that trap on his daily sojourn to and from my garden.
Then I thought, he seems to enjoy the food in the garden an awful lot. So I put lettuce, leaves and pea pods from the garden into the trap. And it worked! Sort of. Watching Alfred walk into the trap, I high-fived my wife. Then I watched him back out after eating everything in the trap. It never went off. And apparently he was still hungry, because his next stop was the garden.
The next day I baited the trap again. Same thing. Alfred walked in, had his appetizer, and then backed out on his way to the main course, my garden. When I went to check the trap, I found the problem. Among the items I’d used from my refrigerator were strawberries and blueberries, which had jammed the tripping mechanism. Alfred could have walked in and out all day long without the trap going off. Actually, that’s exactly what he did.
Stuck in groundhog jail
I cleaned the trap and baited it yet again. This time, it really did work. Alfred didn’t seem very happy inside the trap, and I didn’t blame him.
I covered the trap with a towel, which seemed to calm him. Then I drove him to a wooded area a few miles from my house and released him to move in under somebody else’s shed.
My son and I planted this year’s vegetable garden a couple of weeks ago. Once again, there is no fencing around my garden. That’s right, I like to live dangerously. If Alfred or one of his groundhog friends happens to turn up this summer, I still have my trap. And this time, I’ll know how to use it.