• Outwitting gophers in the Sierra foothill garden

    by  • February 4, 2012 • Garden, Sierra Foothills, Wildlife

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    Pocket gopher-Wikipedia, Gillian Bowser

    Pocket gopher-Wikipedia, Gillian Bowser

    Gophers and other living garden pests can drain the enthusiasm from the hardiest gardener in the California Sierra foothills.  To have your beloved plants eaten from below can be very discouraging.  Once, while relaxing on the patio, I came suddenly alert by a waving plant in the distant garden bed.  On a windless day, a leafy plant,…waving??  Upon closer investigation I noticed that the plant had also become shorter!  It was being dragged underground before my very eyes. Gophers are fearless.  I noticed a nearby crunching sound one day and watched as one popped up and ate leaf after leaf of a dandelion as I sat up on the hill and didn’t feel bad at all about that.

    One way is to use traps.  ‘Gopher John’, from North Fork, digs a hole in a gopher tunnel , secures a baited trap set with a screwdriver sunk in the ground and attached to the trap to prevent the gopher from pulling the trap further into the hold. He covers the hole with a cedar roof shingle to darken the hole.  He says, “If there isn’t a gopher trapped within an hour or two, I try another tunnel.  He ha succeeded in trapping more than 50 gophers in a week this way.

    Another way is to plant primarily California native and herbal plants, which gophers find less tasty.  Daffodils are not eaten by any living creature.

    Poppies bloom brightly behind the protected Iris bed

    Poppies bloom brightly behind the protected Iris bed

    Mary Ann and Larry from Mariposa have a method of preventing gophers by constructing hardware ‘cloth’ wire lined flower beds among the stunning boulders in their back garden.  hardware cloth is wire mesh with 1/4 inch holes. Pocket gardens of bearded iris, Million Bells®, Calibrachoa, and purple verbena flourish there and the tender roots are protected from hungry pests by the large wire ‘baskets.’

    Iris, calibrachoa, and purple verbena have proven to be quite deer resistant in our foothills, where they are quite common.

    Wire lined iris bed

    Wire lined iris bed

    First, they dig down a foot to eighteen inches and then lay the hardware cloth down forming rolled edges to protect the gardener from scratches while walking or working around the plants. The beds are sized and terraced to fit between the boulders and are then attractively edged with landscaping block.

    Planting beds between the boulders

    Planting beds between the boulders

    Newly planted iris bed shows the rolled edges

    Newly planted iris bed shows the rolled edges

    Protected and planted beds

    Protected and planted beds

    Below is the stunning beautiful result in the first year.  As the iris fill in,…even better.

    Mary Ann and Larry's rock garden

    Mary Ann and Larry's rock garden

    One more way to prevent a population of gophers is to have your very own Gopher snake (Pituophis melanoleucus catenifer) in the garden.  I was startled to see one in the orchard, while watering last summer, and although wary, I knew that this was a good thing. No snakes for you?  Cats, maybe?

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    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.