Summer 2013 – As I went out to my garden each and every day to water, weed and observe, I began to get excited at the new varieties of tomatoes, potatoes, basil, and sunflowers that were just about to burst. I knew that within days, it would be time to reap the bounty of all my hard work! In my garden, soil surrounded by slab, i had little pest problems and wasn’t too worried about losing anything. Out of nowhere, I noticed a sign. When you look at a garden every day, you notice the most minor tweeks and bends in your plants. My prized Black Krim tomato plant seemed to be leaning, but I thought it would bounce right back…boy was I wrong!
Over the next 2 weeks, almost all of my crops in my 8×8 vegetable garden had been pulled into the endless system of tunnels immaculately crafted by the dreaded gopher(s)! My african blue basil, purple potatoes, almost blooming sunflowers…gone.
It was so frustrating, a feeling I hope you never have to experience…that’s why I’m writing this article. Since that season, I have personally made it a goal to figure out the best way to compete with these gophers.
Here are the methods of gopher protection that I’ll cover: Gopher Traps, Gopher Baskets, Gopher Wiring for Raised Beds.
Gopher Traps (Cinch Traps)
First off, they work. I have had success catching gophers. If and when you do catch them, they are “taken care of” as the product tag describes. If killing a gopher is not what you’re into, then skip to the next section now! The way to catch a gopher is to know the gopher. They have tunnel systems and like to keep the entry way to their fresh hole cleared of soil and debris. Just after a crop has been taken by the gopher and the hole is still fresh, you must find where the tunnel leads by digging it out with a small trowel. Stick the trap deep in the hole so that when he goes to clear it, the trap goes click. This is not my favorite style of dealing with gophers, and that’s why I mention the other techniques below. You never know how many gophers you will have to catch and if others will continue to migrate into your yard.
Gopher Wire Baskets
StartOrganic constructed individual wire baskets 10” deep and about 8” in diameter. These are intended to place one plant in each basket and let it grow without giving the gopher a chance to suck it under and disturb the main root ball.
These baskets work great but in my opinion have one major flaw. When you use gopher baskets, you can ONLY plant in the cage and there is never an option of succession planting lots of radishes, spinach, beets, carrots, etc. That’s why I’ve implemented the next technique in every garden around my house. Keep in mind, I live in Saratoga (South Bay Area, California) which is FILLED with active gophers.
Complete Gopher Wire Inside of Raised Bed
This is definitely the best option and most recommended gopher protection. If you are putting in raised beds and even THINK that there might be a chance of gopher activity in your yard, install gopher wire. It’s the cheapest and best insurance policy and, when you use the right wire, it will last a really long time. This allows you to succession plant any seed at any time and not have to worry about it getting gobbled up. Peace of mind is a great thing when gardening. Knowing your immediate environment and eliminating possible disturbances will allow you to focus on the more important things like, recipes, cooking methods, and which friends to invite to your homegrown barbeques!
In short, my philosophy has become one that if you don’t have to kill something, don’t. Protective wire allows you to not have to worry about gophers getting into your garden and no matter how many there are, they will NEVER take your tomatoes!
For solutions specific to your yard, feel free to have us come take a look!