A garden shaded by trees and populated with hostas provides a cool retreat during summer. Maintaining this garden requires safeguarding the plants from pests, including one particularly troublesome creature: the groundhog.
Groundhogs, known for their appetite for hostas, can inflict significant harm. Effective methods to deter them include utilizing live traps and applying liquid barriers. The following sections will delve deeper into these strategies, offering detailed guidance on managing groundhog problems in your garden.
Groundhogs are known for their messy feeding habits, ripping off the petioles (leaf stems) with their paws, often leaving no leaves behind. They are thorough in their consumption, eating everything and sometimes even digging up and chewing on the rhizome.
In contrast, deer tend to only eat the leaves of hostas, leaving the stems intact. This behavior is a key distinction between deer and groundhogs. With groundhogs, there’s a risk of losing almost the entire plant due to their extensive feeding.
Also, be sure to check out the article: How to Grow a Hosta Properly.
How do you keep groundhogs from eating hostas?
To prevent groundhogs from devouring your hostas, various effective strategies can be employed. Here’s an overview of each method:
- Utilize Live Traps: Live traps are a humane way to capture groundhogs. These traps are essentially long cages with a door at one end and a trigger mechanism at the other. When the groundhog enters and triggers the mechanism, the door shuts, capturing the rodent without harming it. Cantaloupe works excellently as bait; lay thin slices leading to the trap’s trigger where a larger piece is placed.
- Adopt a Dog: Dogs are natural deterrents to groundhogs. In areas where large predators are scarce, dogs have become the primary threat to these pests. Large dog breeds, like German Shepherds, are particularly effective due to their size.
- Install Fencing: Erecting a fence around your hosta garden can keep out groundhogs and other animals like deer and rabbits. Opt for mesh fencing panels at least 5-6 feet tall, or 7 feet if deterring deer is also a goal.
- Apply Repellents: Liquid repellents with a strong odor can be very effective. They work well against deer, rabbits, and groundhogs. You can purchase commercial repellents or find homemade recipes online. Ensure the repellent is applied in dry weather so it can dry properly on the plants, continuing to emit a deterrent odor even after drying.
These methods offer a comprehensive approach to protecting your hostas from groundhog damage.
What to do if the damage is done?
If your hostas have suffered damage from pests, it’s important to foster an environment conducive to their recovery. Here are the steps to follow:
- Provide Additional Shade: Even if your hostas are already in a shaded area, extra shade can help alleviate stress and potentially enable them to grow new leaves within the same season. You can use a garden umbrella or shading netting available at garden centers. If opting for netting, construct a simple framework around the plant using four sticks.
- Maintain Moist Soil: Regular watering is crucial. Ensure the soil doesn’t dry out more than an inch deep. This moist environment is essential for the hosta’s recovery.
- Preserve Existing Stems: If there are any stems or partial stems remaining, do not remove them. They can still perform photosynthesis, providing necessary energy for the plant’s recovery.
- Apply Fertilizer Sparingly: Lightly fertilize the hosta. Since the plant has reduced leaf mass, it won’t require a lot of fertilizer. Over-fertilizing could be detrimental in this weakened state.
By following these measures, you’ll give your hosta the best chance to regain its strength for the coming year. There’s even a possibility that you might see signs of regeneration in the current year.