|A Movie Star We'd Rather Not Meet, from Caddyshack|
Inspired by Gophers Limited
Got gophers? If you’re a gardener in the US west of the Mississippi, you probably just said “Yes,” possibly followed by some expletive. It’s disheartening to lose the veggies that you’ve worked hard to cultivate at the hands (or the teeth) of these rascally rodents. For me, the last straw was the demise of a third lovely old English rose bush planted by a former resident. But using traditional poisons will also poison into your organic soil. Rain brings the poisons down into the water table. Poisoning gophers also poisons their natural predators such as gopher snakes, owls, bobcats, foxes and coyotes: your friends in gopher control. And of course, poison is unsafe around children and pets.
|Barn Owl: Natural Rodent Control|
1. Gophers eat certain plants less frequently, mostly those that contain aromatic oils, which they seem to find distasteful. Try growing these to discourage an invasion. Many of these plants are drought-adapted California and US Southwest natives, so will also minimize your watering needs. Most varieties of sages and lavenders, as well as marigolds, geraniums, dianthus, amaryllis, daffodils, cannas, snapdragons, dahlias and most iris are on the gopher dislike list. Note that they do like cilantro and tulips very much.
|Gophers Don't Think They're So Pretty|
3. Gophers are attracted to most clovers, especially crimson clover, which is a popular cover crop. Try substituting sour clover (Melilotus indica). Sour clover is high in coumarin, the original source of the blood thinner Coumadin. Gophers avoid ingesting sour clover, possibly because the coumarin adversely affects their blood chemistry. Sour clover fixes nitrogen, reseeds easily, and has flowers that attract bees. A lot of plants are called sour clover, including oxalis, so be sure to get Melilotus indica. Gophers love oxalis!
|Surprising Gopher Repellant|
For raised beds, be sure to use gopher wire or galvanized hardware cloth with ¾” (or ½” x 1”) mesh. Larger mesh will allow gophers to enter. Don’t use aviary wire, which will disintegrate because it’s not designed to be buried. To ensure gophers won’t climb over the top of raised beds, build them 2 feet deep.
The weak point of a raised bed, in terms of gopher control, is where the wire is attached to the edges, particularly at the corners. Run the wire mesh up onto the outside or inside of the walls, and screw on lattice on top of the mesh for reinforcement. Yes, this takes a bit of finesse, but it will prevent a gopher from clawing through and eating up the fruits of your hard labor.
|Max Contemplates a Gopher Hunt|
8. Some readers have thought of this already, I'm sure. Shooting gophers can be effective and satisfying. It works well for marksmen/women with farms or vineyards, but not so well in most neighborhoods where most of us live quite happily without guns.
|Repels Many Types of Garden-Disturbers|
|Genuine US-made Cinch Trap|
Cinch traps must be placed in a whole active burrow, basically a plugged hole in the ground where you can see recent soil disturbance. Thomas has a number of trap-setting videos to guide you through this process. Use gloves while setting the trap per the instructions. Gophers are nocturnal, and most apt to be trapped in early morning or late afternoon. Check your traps accordingly.
11. Gopher Goo! If you’d rather not deal with traps and carcasses, and don’t mind spending some extra money, there is a product that will fill the gopher holes without compromising the environment. Gopher Goo is a starch-based polymer that actually benefits clay soils by making them more porous and better at retaining water. Mix the granules with water and pour the mixture down the gopher hole. It will expand and plug the gopher run, holding moisture next to the plants that the gophers had been eating.
|Accept No Substitutes|
12. If you're putting in a new lawn, here’s a tip from Gophers Limited. Make sure your contractor puts down the optimum size layer of dirt between the gopher-busting wire mesh and the sod. Too little soil (the most common mistake) means gophers can pull the sod down between the mesh and destroy the lawn. Too much soil means that gophers and moles can live between sod and wire and destroy the lawn. Optimum amount of soil is 1½ - 2 inches. Not all contactors are experts in this area, so do discuss these details.
Gopher control isn’t much fun, but a gopher-free garden and yard can be satisfying. I hope that these suggestions will help you to craft an ideal solution if gophers are a problem at your house.