The most widespread North American marmot species, groundhogs inhabit numerous ecosystems ranging from low-elevation forests to farmlands and even urban and suburban parks. They are primarily herbivores, preferred forages, including dandelion, alfalfa, and clover. Yet, groundhogs could take advantage of vegetable gardens. If wildlife is eating your tomatoes, you might wonder whether groundhogs could be the culprits.
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Do Groundhogs Eat Tomatoes?
Yes, groundhogs eat tomatoes. Like other wild animals, groundhogs don’t favor tomatoes or other plants in the nightshade family. Essentially, they are grazers and eat a variety of grasses and clover. However, like most rodents, groundhogs are opportunistic and could eat the tomatoes – and other tender vegetables – in your garden.
Why Do They Eat Tomatoes?
Groundhogs generally eat tomatoes in late summer and fall in preparation for the winter season. Woodchucks hibernate in winter – generally from October or November through March – so they have to store as much fat and energy as possible to survive the dormancy period.
Like other wild animals living in urban and suburban environments, groundhogs have adapted to living near humans and thrive in human-dominated landscapes.
Often perceived as a nuisance species, groundhogs take advantage of agricultural fields and home gardens, consuming plants and digging burrows under structures. Throughout spring and summer, they mostly eat grass and white clover, which is a legume.
In late summer and fall, they start building up fat and consume whatever is available. This includes peas, beans, cabbage, apples, berries, and tomatoes.
These fruits and vegetables not only provide groundhogs with valuable nutrients and vitamins, but they are also rich in water.
Why Do Groundhogs Like Tomatoes?
Groundhogs don’t necessarily like tomatoes. However, like other wild animals, they have adapted to living near humans and take advantage of whatever vegetables they can find in backyard gardens or agricultural fields, tomatoes included.
Beyond palatability, tomatoes are rich in nutrients. A small ripe tomato contains 3.5 grams of carbohydrates and about one gram of fiber. Tomatoes are also rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, sodium, calcium, and potassium. Some tomato species also contain phosphorus and other macronutrients.
Tomatoes are also a major source of water. These vegetables have a water content of about 95%. Considering that groundhogs get most of their water from vegetation, tomatoes are a valuable source.
In addition to ripe tomatoes, groundhogs will also eat green tomatoes. However, they will often leave green tomatoes half-eaten.
This behavior is similar to the behavior of other animals that eat tomatoes, such as deer, chipmunks, squirrels, and raccoons.
These animals will nibble on all tomatoes, but the acidic nature and presence of solanine in green tomatoes generally limit consumption.
Solanine is a toxic substance present in all plants in the nightshade family, including potatoes, eggplants, and peppers. This substance acts as a self-defense mechanism against plant-eating insects and microorganisms, but it only triggers adverse reactions in mammals if ingested in large quantities.
By limiting the consumption of nightshade family fruits and plants, groundhogs (and other wild animals) minimize the risk of poisoning.
How do I keep groundhogs from eating my tomatoes? 7 Methods
There is hardly anything more frustrating than investing time and resources in growing organic vegetables, only to see your tomatoes gone right before the harvest. Groundhogs are common culprits but not the only ones.
Before seeking methods to keep them out of your garden, you should look for signs to tell if they’re visiting your garden. The eating pattern can give you a first indication of what animals trespass on your property.
Woodchucks are messy eaters and will usually trample the tomato plant while eating the fruits. However, they will generally leave the plant alone. Wide teeth marks on half-eaten tomatoes are another sign of groundhogs in the garden.
Deep burrows in your lawn or garden also indicate that groundhogs are living near your property.
Keep in mind that groundhogs can access your garden through underground dens, and they are also excellent climbers. Thus, building a regular fence won’t help you banish them from the garden. Here are a few methods to keep groundhogs from eating your tomatoes.
1. Fence Them Out (The Right Way)
There are two things to remember when trying to fence out groundhogs: they can climb on fences and access the garden from underneath the fence. This is why the fence should be tall enough so that woodchucks can’t climb it and installed deep enough to prevent them from digging burrows under it.
Ideally, the fence should be at least three feet high and made of heavy-duty poultry wire or mesh woven wire.
You should also angle the lower edge of the fence away from the garden and bury it at least 12 inches deep. To discourage climbing, you should also place an electric wire on the fence, about four to five inches off the ground.
This type of fence will keep groundhogs out of the garden while also preventing the access of other pests, such as rabbits. If you’re also concerned about deer in your garden, build a taller fence.
2. Use Castor Oil
Castor oil is one of the few substances that could determine groundhogs to abandon their burrows and move to another area.
Simply pour some castor oil into the burrow when the groundhogs are out – you’ll have to keep an eye on the groundhog activity for this. Luckily, groundhogs are diurnal animals, and they’re easy to spot when they get out of the burrows if you monitor them.
3. Motion-Activated Sprinklers
Motion-activated sprinklers provide an easy method of scaring off groundhogs and other pests. Because it can be difficult to spot all groundhog access ways, you should install the sprinklers near the plants you want to protect.
4. Repel Them With Soiled Cat Litter
Soiled cat litter smells of cats and ammonia, and groundhogs will prefer to stay away from the predator. Place the litter near a burrow entrance, leaving the other one free for them to escape.
5. Use Offensive Odors
Cat litter aside, groundhogs find many other odors offensive. Some plants you can use to keep them away from tomatoes include garlic, onions, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and other scented herbs. Tea tree and citronella essential oils can also help keep pests away if you sprinkle them around your garden.
6. Keep The Garden Neat
One of the easiest ways to use offensive scents to deter groundhogs is by keeping an eye on their burrows. Keeping the garden neat can help you spot new exists and apply castor oil or cat litter near them.
So, keep the grass trimmed, clean fallen leaves and dead plant matter off the ground, pick up sticks, and pull out weeds.
7. Live Trap and Relocate Them
Live trapping groundhogs and relocating them without causing unnecessary stress to the animals is difficult, so you’d better leave this task to qualified professionals. A pest control team can also assess your property and give you advice on how to keep groundhogs and other nuisance animals away from your vegetables.
Groundhogs are herbivorous rodents that can easily get into your garden through underground burrows or by climbing a fence. They eat tomatoes and can also snack on other vegetables, including cabbage, soybeans, carrots, lettuce, but also berries and apples. We hope this guide can help you keep groundhogs away from your property.