HELP!!! Gophers Are Destroying My Garden

dethcheez(Sunny SoCal Z10)April 18, 2012

This year is stating off worst than past years

I'm loosing plants left & right

Almost to the point of giving up

Any Sure Fire Ways To Control Them???

Would kind of like to stay away from poisons


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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

One option is to build raise beds and placed hardware cloth underneath (with small openings). I do not know if it is sure fire, but I had heard of someone putting fish emulsion (not deodorized) into the runs with success.

All other options generally require death of some kind, which is the most effective, once you get them all. Some swear by cats. If you see it, you could shoot it. There are traps. I'm sorry to say, but we have had the best luck with poisoning. They even ate pine trees!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 6:52AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I agree with the raised beds with the hardware cloth (NOT chicken wire! Too flimsy and the holes are too big!)
You guys are going to pooh pooh me, but I've been using one of those things that you stick in the ground and it "chatters" every 30 seconds, and it seems to work! My field and front yard are filled with gophers, but I haven't seen one in the garden area! The only mounds we saw in the garden area last year were when the batteries died. Once we replaced them, no more activity! Nancy

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 9:53AM
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gardenmom(z4 WA)

I tried the 'gopher gassers.' They were fun to light, and such a horrible smell. But I'm not sure they were very effective. DH wants to buy some BIG firecrackers, m-80's, and drop them down the gopher hole. He thinks the percussive effect might damage the gophers/moles/voles or whatever critters I have. And, yes, I'm keeping him out of my garden!!
I just bought a bottle of castor oil (4 oz)at Walgreen's. I'm going to mix it into a gallon of water, a few drops of detergent and spray the garden. I've read the oil will soak into the soil and encourage the varmints to move elsewhere.
Still too cool and wet to plant much outdoors yet. Last year I watched the voles take out 2 rows of potatoes in a single week. You have my sympathies. And good luck with the wire.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 12:08AM
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geosprouter(z5 WA)

I had the same problem and finally went to raised beds with hardware cloth tacted on the bottom that has worked well. It is expense. My beds are 4x12 and 4x4. I planted raspberries in a 2x12. Last year I planted corn in a 4x12 and had a great crop. Dogs and cats also help... Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 9:49AM
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You can also try ground glass. I used to know where to find some, but not anymore. Any recycling center should have a pile though. If there is enough of the stuff in the soil, gophers will stay away. It is almost as much work as pulling out all the soil, placing h. cloth, and backfilling, but it is cheaper, and some veggies have roots larger/longer than h. cloth openings and depth. Voles are more practical, if they encounter hardware cloth underneath they will step out, jump over the bed's edge, and burrow from above. For them only ground glass or poisons.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 4:06PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

A friend poured gasoline down some gopher holes and lit it! The whole yard kinda lifted up and went whoomp! His yard was nicely tilled, though! LOL Nancy

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 7:52PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

I have actually seen gophers climb around wire baskets too on trees and have heard of them doing the same with raised beds but it could be worth a try. One friend recommended trying something with getting the exhaust of the truck into gopher tunnel but there were caveats that could have lead to breaking the truck. A bottle of poison is less than $10.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 8:23PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Got a cat? Got a litter box? Use the cat's fresh waste (both kinds) by carefully opening the top of the gopher hole and shoving the stuff down, then cover the hole.

It really does work! I guess it makes the rodents think a predator is following them underground. All my gophers moved next door. (Never liked that guy, anyway!)

And NO, FRESH pet (dog or cat) waste doesn't pose a health hazard when buried. The soil microbes break it down. The only danger is when pet poop is contaminated with parasite eggs and it sits out in the air and the eggs 'ripen' (the outer membrane gets tough and practically impervious to heat or cold). This takes 15-30 days. Use FRESH waste.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 1:00PM
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bluebirdie(Z8 SF E Bay)

The gophers problem is also serious in my yard because no one else plant edibles in the immediate neighborhood. I also did the raised beds with hardware cloth. A few years later the wires kinda disintegrated, and gophers are back. Tried some of the remedies mentioned here and none worked so far.

The hardware cloth was the only thing that did work, even though only for the first few years.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 2:33PM
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Doesn't anyone around here know how to get rid of gophers? There is only one effective method although it does take some persistence. I searched for my answer from another post. Here it is.

A pair of traditional Macabee traps work well most of the time. You attach a wire already attached to a stick (preventing a gopher from pulling the trap back down the hole and reminding you of the trap location) to the coil end. Press the spring loaded sharp pronged jaws open, set the trap and insert one going each way in the main tunnel which is usually less than a foot away sideways and down from the hole with the pile of dirt. You cover the exposed area with boards and dirt and wait a few hours for a gopher to return to repair the damage. When its nose hits the trigger it gets gruesomely jabbed and squashed. You then have to open the trap up with all the gore so you need to be prepared for that. Of course if half your produce just got chomped off at the roots then some exploding guts might be just the ticket.

To be clear: look for a fairly new pile of dirt. The main tunnel is a short distance down and perpindicular to the soil disposal hole. You MUST put a trap in the main hole in both directions at once. A reasonable approach would be to have at least two sets of traps set in different areas to speed things up. You Will kill gophers. It will be messy and unpleasant. And after looking for new dirt piles and repeating a few times, your gopher problem will be gone; for awhile.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 4:34PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I just picked up one Macabee trap from freecycle. I guess I need 2?
One of the radio shows on gardening also said to freeze the gophers (YUK) and take them up to the wild animal preserve where they re-hab wild animals and give them to them.
The chattering things are working in my garden. I'll try the Mac in the front yard where they all went to get away from the chatterer. Nancy

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 8:47PM
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I cant get rid of the problem except there is this guy who would gas them out and warranty for only 3 months. Here in CA, its illegal to use CO gas, otherwise, I would take a hose connected to exhaust of my vehicle and jam it down the gopher tunnel and put them to sleep for ever. its done with 100% success but its dangerous. I dont recommend but folks do it.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 1:08PM
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Nancyjane, yes pretty much. Of course, if one came from the right direction you would be ok, but they might not, and then you might teach that one how to avoid the traps. The traps aren't that expensive. I used my father's 2 traps for 50 years and got a couple new ones as well. They don't wear out.

I tried the gas thingies once and found that smoke was just leaking out around the edges of rocks and foundations etc. and it wouldn't have gone all that far anyway. With the macabee traps, the gophers come to you. Very considerate of them.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 1:40PM
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get an electric fence, thats what i did

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 12:29AM
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Have you tried a Jack Russell Terrier? They were specifically bred pretty much for this purpose.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 2:52PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

An electric fence for gophers????

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 9:15PM
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Hi nancyjane; I don't think xCSx knows what gophers are! But an electric fence IS good for deer AND bunnies if you set a couple of low wires. By the way, I guess we're just talking to ourselves (perfectly useful of course) because the OP hasn't shown up.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 2:31PM
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DWD2(10a, Sunset 17)

dethcheez, An excellent source of information about gopher control can be found on the Gophers Limited web site. Particularly under the Pest Information tab. I think most gardeners who have successfully battled gophers would agree with chas045's opinion.

Good luck getting your gophers under control!

Here is a link that might be useful: Gophers Limited

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 3:15AM
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Rat traps baited with peanut butter will get rid of your gophers. Ther is also a product called Sweeneys that is an effective poison. Not always pleasant but an alternative.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 1:12PM
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I have tried cages: only works if your plants are not already established. If tey are then it could shock them
Bubble Gum:darn things blew bubbles and laughed at me
Castor oil: ran off, didn't allow the water to soak in. IE water and oil don't mix. Dog drank it and had diarrhea for a month.
Cat: we are deep in coyote country and he was eaten in broad daylight.
Hose down the hole: just collapsed my yard and boy does that hurt when you're mowing. Plus it makes it's own holes and the water goes forever. Did get two that way though. You do need to bap them on the head with a shovel though and that's kind of gross.
PLEASE do not try broken glass. We are renting and the last renter put it all over the yard. I was planting and found it and it almost got my hand. Only use this method if you own the house and no one else, especially little children, will be playing in that portion of the yard. I am not sure how effective it is because the gophers are running rampant all over the yard. Tried all of those means and no help.
I was in my very well established vegetable garden (2 months established. The tomato plants are 3 1/2 feet tall) and I noticed something missing. The darn thing took my lettuce. Slurped the whole darn thing right underground and left us with nothing. Now I don't know what to do. Any suggestions? I had no idea that we had a gopher problem until the garden was very well set. Now I don't know what to do. I'm ready to go crazy. Anyone that has used anything else might be able to help me. Thanks so much and good luck to all of you.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 4:20PM
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harveyhorses(7 Midlothian Va)

So sorry for your hassle. Raised beds and hardware cloth are working for me. Jack Russels can do more damage than the gophers!
How does an electric fence work for gophers? I have one for the above ground pests.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 4:54PM
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Given that you already have a garden (so you can't use hardware cloth) and don't want to use poison (me neither) I think your best bet is to get Macabee traps or similar from other vendors. Macabee traps are no longer made in USA, so you might as well buy whichever ones you can find readily.

Next year, use hardware cloth.

This year, go fill in all gopher holes and flatten all mounds. Then watch for new activity. As soon as you see new activity (a wilting or missing plant, a hole, or a mound) place a trap. If you find a missing or wilted plant, you can dig in that area and find the gopher tunnel leading away from the plant. It can be tricky to find it. The act of digging may partially cover the hole. Probe the sides of your hole gently with your fingers. When you find the tunnel, place a single trap in that tunnel. Stake the trap so the gopher cannot pull it farther into the tunnel. Do not use any bait. Cover the whole area with a board or something so nobody trips or sets off the trap. If you catch nothing in 48 hours, give up on that location.

In my experience, there is little or no gore. Usually the gopher is dead when I find it. The trap is not supposed to break the skin. Some people like to leave the dead gopher in the hole. They think it deters other gophers. I don't do that.

In general, clean up after the gophers so that you can readily recognize fresh activity. When you see it, don't wait. Set the trap right away. After you do it a few times, and if you keep the supplies handy (gloves, traps, stakes, and a trowel or small shovel) you can set a trap in less than 5 minutes.

You can also probe for main tunnels by randomly digging around active sites or using some kind of stick to probe. If you find a main tunnel, dig it out, and place two traps facing away from each other in the tunnel.

I have a very high success rate trapping gophers with single traps in the tunnels leading away from a plant they have destroyed. These are feeding tunnels, and they come back to see if they can continue to feed, I guess. I have seen so many gopher damaged plants, that I can spot it very quickly, before the whole plant is gone. This may be a critical part of success. Once the plant is totally gone, maybe the gopher won't revisit that hole.

Gophers are solitary except during mating season and child-rearing. Once you catch one, you are usually done at that location. Don't bother resetting the trap in the same location.

Gophers do not hibernate (it is not cold where they live). Gophers stay below ground as much as possible. Trying to eliminate them with BB guns and slingshots and such will not be effective unless you have a team of people watch the garden 24 hours a day.

Gophers DO NOT climb over small obstacles. They will not enter a raised bed if it has boards around the outside that stick up above ground, and the bottom is closed off with 1/2 inch hardware cloth. For me, galvanized hardware cloth lasts many years underground, and comes up with no rust at all. The galvanization is critical to having it hold up. There must be no gap between the hardware cloth and wood. There must be no holes in the wood (I mean, no holes big enough for a gopher to go through).

Gophers may enter a raised bed if there is dense vegetation or a dirt mound forming a ramp to the top of the board. Likewise, they do not climb over wire plant baskets which stick up out of the ground, but may get in if dirt or vegetation forms a ramp. They will happily burrow through compacted roadbed gravel or decomposed granite.

The vast majority of deterrents don't work (according to UC Davis).

Chewing gum does not work. A researcher in UC Davis fed it to captive gophers for many years.

Gophers do not spontaneously go away. If you see no activity, that does not mean they are gone unless you did something. Gophers can tunnel horizontally for a long way. The same gopher may plague both you and your neighbor. Gophers can easily burrow under sidewalks, driveways and streets.

There may be plants that gophers don't like, but I don't know which ones they are. They like all plants that you might have in a vegetable garden including garlic. They like many landscaping plants, and can kill small trees also.

Feel free to repost with or without attribution (and don't worry, I didn't copy it, it is original with me).

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 8:50PM
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