HELP!!! Gophers Are Destroying My Garden

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


Comments (34)

  • 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!

  • nancyjane_gardener

    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

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    how is he destroying it? Digging in the dirt? Eating your plants? Rolling around? I have 2 dogs that each destroys in their own rights. For dirt digging, add some chicken wire to the ground around your beds to keep them from digging. It can be hidden right beneath the dirt and plants can still grow thru it. Plant eating? My dogs love grass and its so they can clean themselves out naturally. Make sure you don't put toxic plants for them like grapes etc. I don't think they're eating roses but if so, talk to your vet. Rolling around? Well, if its nice cool dirt or grass, they like it. Also it could smell like rodents that've passed through or a cat etc. They do this to make their spot. You could only use a fence in this case or teach them their boundaries. NO means No! I suggest marking off your dog's area. We have a separate fenced area just for them and they only go into the big yard if we're with them. Its not expensive to do and its just to keep them in their own poop area for easy clean up. I've since fenced off my garden plot because it takes only a second for our one to sneak in even when I'm there but not looking because they see me dig, they think its okay to dig also... sigh... they're like 3 yr olds, lol. You always have to keep an eye on them. But they do stay out of the flower beds. go figure... Good luck!
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  • gardenmom

    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.

  • geosprouter

    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.

  • glib

    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.

  • nancyjane_gardener

    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

  • 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.

  • Belgianpup

    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.


  • bluebirdie

    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.

  • chas045

    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.

  • nancyjane_gardener

    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

  • behlgarden

    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.

  • chas045

    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.

  • xCSx

    get an electric fence, thats what i did

  • Edymnion

    Have you tried a Jack Russell Terrier? They were specifically bred pretty much for this purpose.

  • nancyjane_gardener

    An electric fence for gophers????

  • chas045

    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.

  • DWD2

    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

  • wisbill

    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.

  • lovemanyplants

    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.

  • harveyhorses

    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.

  • mckenziek

    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).

  • Diane Fanes

    My next-door neighbor has a great way to rid his yard of gophers. Every month or two he runs a roto-tiller through his yard, gradually getting closer to the fence he shares with me. I guess the gophers move ahead of him, because after he's done my yard is devastated!

  • Suzi AKA DesertDance So CA Zone 9b

    Haven't tried this, but I read that if you soak rags with ammonia and stick it in their tunnels they will vacate. They don't like the smell.

  • Christen Genova

    First of all I am glad to find a forum on this subject with CURRENT (spring/summer 2016) posts! I am in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles and have a likely gopher (although it could be a vole aka field mouse). From all I have read, moles do NOT eat plants, just grubs and insects; so since vegetation is disappearing from my garden in whole or in part, I am assuming gopher and maybe vole. They are the plant eaters. I recently planted my first "edibles garden" (I avoid the term "vegetable garden" since most "vegetables" are fruits - they have seeds -they're fruits), in years in my parched, drought affected yard. Our current water restrictions had me hesitant, but I figured, why not? Growing your own food is better than just facial stuff like watering the lawn. I did not realize though, that I had a critter underground until a couple hundred dollars later, and much, much, much, tilling, amending, and planting, all with a spade, and a rake, and my arms and legs - no machinery or help from others. As of now, I have had 2 whole chile pepper plants disappear underground entirely - poof, gone! A branch of a larger tomato plant also disappeared underground right before my eyes! I have enclosed my garden with garden fencing, but my spaniel-mix dog is doing more damage to get to the gopher than the gopher itself is doing! Between the two, I am going nuts. Replacement plants are expensive, when you have not resolved the underlying (literally!) issue! I am on the verge of wanting to kill this creature, yet I really rather not. I have read many, many weblinks on how to 'repel' these animals (everything from moth balls to radios to wind chimes....which had me laughing hysterically, actually).

    I noticed that the critter is most active between noon and 2 p.m. give or take. I came up with an idea that I am experimenting with, that does not eliminate the gopher but potentially prohibits the disappearance of whole plants being pulled under the soil line. Here it is: Take an old CD you no longer need, and cut half way through it to the center hole. Then carefully pry it open where the cut is and wrap it around the stalk of your young plants. This may only work on plants that are not too big or mature (with fat stalks) or too young and small like seedlings. My theory is when Mr. Gopher drills that 1.5 inch hole around the plant base and goes to pull that plant down, the plant's limbs and leaves will bunch up and get stuck at the top of the CD's hole and not be able to be pulled through. If this critter is Ironman, then it might not work. But if there is some resistance, it hopefully will not get away with the entire plant! I used an old Microsoft software CD that I no longer need and snipped it with a sharp scissor and put it on my plant yesterday (my last remaining chile). I also put two other chiles in those chicken wire baskets made specifically to deter gophers ($5.00 for two at Home Depot). They look terrible but seem to work.

    I just want to get to the point where my tomatoes and chiles are not costing $99.95 each with time, labor, materials, water, and replacement plants!

    I also placed sriracha sauce, hot indian curry powder, red pepper ground, red pepper flakes, onion flakes, and garlic down the hatch with water. Time will tell!

  • chas045

    Well, I don't think gophers have changed since the invention of computers. My post well above (10th response) is as accurate now as then. Mckenziek may be correct about solitary gophers, but as they said, gophers have children. I have certainly killed more than one from the same tunnel location. Mckenziek is certainly wrong suggesting that one need not set traps in both directions in the main tunnel. It is silly to simply place a trap in the side mound which is where excavated dirt is removed only. Get the macabee traps. Use them correctly; they work. Forget all this other nonsense.

  • zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

    When I gardened in SoCal, I often had gopher problems. Since I garden organically, poisons don't make sense to me... especially if I intend to eat produce from that location.

    I always had good luck with flooding. It takes time & water, but if the garden is on level ground, it usually works. They will either emerge from one of their tunnels, or dig a new hole to escape. The best time to do this is mid-day, so you can see movement. They are slow above ground, and can't outrun a shovel. Oh, and when you flood, you will be able to locate active tunnels; inactive tunnels are blocked off.

    "Gophers are solitary except during mating season and child-rearing. Once you catch one, you are usually done at that location."

    Partially true. While there may only be one original occupant of the tunnel, juveniles from nearby areas may re-infest the tunnels, especially if there is a high population (read: neglected property) close by.

  • blue_skink

    There are no mounds of dirt anywhere on my property where the gopher holes are. I know those holes are gopher holes because I see the little bggers coming and going into them. I place heavy bricks on those holes but of course they find their way out eventually. This is all happening near the garden but not in it.

  • zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

    If there are no dirt mounds, what you have is probably not gophers. Gophers seldom venture out above the surface, especially in daylight. If what you see is small(er) and gray, my best guess would be voles, which nest underground, but leave little to no evidence of their digging. If the holes are larger, probably some type of ground squirrels, which are very active during the day.

  • blue_skink

    I think I am familiar with voles. These rodents are larger and look like this only darker, not so white. So you are correct, they are indeed a "ground squirrel"! Thanks.

    They are properly called Richardson Ground Squirrels; I recall being told this a long time ago - that we should not call them "gophers" but that is what they are generally known as on the prairies.

    I feel like a real schit persecuting them. My next project is fixing the bottom of my fence with small-grid wire.

  • zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

    My uncle had trouble with ground squirrels, and he too referred to them as "gophers". He brought home a couple cats, which successfully reduced the population. Occasionally the cats would bring their catch into the house to prove their prowess. My aunt wasn't too happy about that, especially if the catch was still moving. ;-)

    Ground squirrels are hard to deal with, since they can climb over or dig under almost any barrier. They also form colonies, which can be large if located on neglected property... and in those numbers, can be very destructive.

    When I lived in California, I had to deal with ground squirrel colonies in both San Jose & San Diego. In both cases, the colonies were located on vacant property adjacent to my garden site, about 200' away. Once they discovered the garden, they dug bolt holes nearby, where they could take cover if their escape route to the nest was cut off. I could easily drown any which went into the bolt holes, but flooding the main burrow was a lost cause.

  • blue_skink

    Speaking of cats, we had a wonderful, intelligent, rather large male cat once. I saw him dragging a full-grown rabbit. Sure wish I had him back, he died of old age in good health. He would make short work of these bstrds. He never brought his dead prey into the house, though.

    I hosed water into some holes and all that happened was they escaped thru some other hole I didn't know about, but they were wetter than wet. He he he...

  • prairiemoon2 z6b MA

    This is a riot. The OP posted over a month ago and hasn't responded since. Does anyone ever wonder, when this happens, if someone is playing a joke on you? [g]. Maybe they are bored and think, what could I ask that would get a lot of responses. lol. I just don't get why someone posts and never responds to all the very friendly, helpful advice offered.

    On the other hand - I'm sure a thread with a discussion of gophers will be helpful for someone. :-)

  • blue_skink

    Well, that was back in 2012 so maybe the gophers are gone and this person forgot to thank those who gave some advice that worked!

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