Gophers, commonly known as pocket gophers, are small burrowing rodents that can wreak havoc on your lawns or gardens. They are about 6-8 inches long and weigh about 200g. Gophers belong to the order Rodentia and the family Geomyidae.
A total of 13 gopher species are available in the United States. This animal is widely known for tunneling and damaging lawns or gardens. They have cheek pouches, known as pockets.
They use this to carry food to their tunnel networks. And they can damage the harvest of one year of hard work in just a few hours. Therefore, preventing gopher damage is a must for all property owners.
But how to prevent gophers from eating your garden? You may be allured to pour water in their burrows or set poison traps. But that can cause more harm than good. You must use the best gopher prevention methods to keep them at bay. That includes natural pest control, wildlife management, lawn maintenance, and more.
In this guide, we will talk about gopher-proofing methods in detail to help you protect valuable plants from gopher attacks. Let’s get started.
Best Methods to Prevent Gopher Damage
Pesky pests like gophers should be prevented at any cost to keep your favorite plants from damage. But that requires the implementation of various prevention methods. Here is a detailed overview of these methods.
1. Inviting Predatory Birds
This natural pest control method allows you to control the gopher population in your garden. You can prevent gophers from damaging your garden by creating suitable environments for birds of prey, like haws or barn owls.
How to Apply This Method?
Step 1: You need to set bard baths in the garden. If you can’t buy bird baths, place large containers and fill them with water.
Step 2: This will invite many predatory birds into your garden. These birds have great eyesight and agility, so they will easily locate gophers if they peak out of their tunnels.
Step 3: Hawks or barn owls will hunt gophers to reduce their population, and it will prevent gophers from damaging your valuable crops.
- You don’t need to spend much to apply this method
- Completely organic method, which is good for non-pest wildlife
- The process is very slow
- It won’t completely remove gophers
2. Setting Up No-Kill Traps
This method is also known as live trapping because the gophers you catch are relocated to reduce their population in your lawn or garden. Using this poison-free and affordable method, you can easily prevent gophers from plant damage.
How to Apply This Method?
Step 1: To catch gophers in this method, you need to use traps in gopher tunnels.
Step 2: Locate the main tunnel to set the trap. Use a metal rod to poke the soil and locate the tunnel.
Step 3: Put juicy fruit gums, apples, lettuce, or carrots as bait inside the traps to catch gophers.
Step 4: Once you catch a gopher, you should carefully relocate it miles away.
Step 5: Fill gopher tunnels with soil to prevent new gophers from entering old tunnels.
- This method is very effective in reducing the gopher population
- Live traps are humane
- It takes a lot of time and effort to set up the traps
- Eradication of gophers isn’t guaranteed
3. Using Physical Barriers
The methods we have shown above can be time-consuming and do not guarantee the elimination of gophers. However, using physical barriers can be a more effective method of keeping gophers out of your lawns or gardens.
Metal mesh fences work excellently as physical barriers. It prevents gophers from feeding on the roots of your plants.
How to Apply This Method?
Step 1: Choose wire mesh fences with about half an inch spacing. It is better to have a narrow spacing.
Step 2: Dig trenches around your garden or a specific area where you have plants. They should be at least two feet deep to prevent gophers from burrowing.
Step 3: Line the fence around the garden and fill up the trench. It will keep the fence upright. Gophers won’t be able to reach the roots or tubers after setting up the fence.
- Very effective method
- Works in the long term
- It costs a good sum
- Installing fences requires some experience
4. Using Companion Plants
Companion planting is a popular method for improving soil quality, controlling wildlife behavior, and deterring garden pests. You can also invite pollinators or beneficial insects using companion plants.
How to Apply This Method?
Step 1: You need to select the right companion plant for your crops. For example, if you have carrots in your garden, you can plant onions, chives, radishes, sage, or rosemary as companion plants. Study plant physiology a bit before applying the method.
Step 2: Plant them in a way so that there is some distance between the plants.
When companion plants grow together, they prevent gophers from damaging your target plant. And some of these plants work as natural gopher repellents. For example, gophers can’t tolerate the scent of rosemary.
- Naturally repels gophers
- Improves soil quality
- Require hard work
- It may not fully prevent root damage
Gopher-Proofing Your Garden
The best way to gopher-proofing your garden is to make the prospect of animal burrowing behavior seem hopeless. That can be achieved using various techniques, and here is a quick overview of them.
Using Mesh Barriers
You can create in-ground garden fencing with galvanized mesh wires. These are also known as chicken wires. It will take a lot of hard work if you want to bury the mesh in the ground. However, creating a mesh barrier for raised beds is more convenient.
Using Gopher Baskets
Gopher cages or baskets are an effective way to gopher-proof your garden. These are made of metal wire mesh; you can plant trees or shrubs within these baskets. They protect the root of the plants, so gophers can’t come close to them.
Simply surround the plant with gopher baskets while planting. It is more suitable for shrubs or fruit trees. But if you want to use gopher baskets for all plants in your garden, that will take a lot of time and effort.
Raising Garden Beds
It becomes almost impossible for gophers to reach the root of your plants when you have raised garden beds. Making the bed higher than usual is the simplest way. But you can also use wooden planks to support a raised bed.
And the plant beds can be put inside a container to prevent gophers from damaging the plants.
Natural Pest Control for Gophers
Besides altering the bed height, you can use some natural ways for garden pest control. Check the following natural pest control methods.
Using Natural Predators and Their Urine
If you have dogs or cats as pets, taking them for a walk in the afternoon can be effective in threatening gophers. You can also place gopher snakes into the burrows. As the name suggests, these snakes hunt gophers down.
California king snakes are also effective in reducing the gopher population in your garden.
Among other wildlife management practices, a useful technique can be placing predator urine in gopher burrows. You can collect the pee of your dog or cat and pour that into the burrows. Also, pour some urine around the hole openings. Gophers can identify predators from their urine smells and probably won’t dare to peek out of their burrows.
Using Natural Repellents
Natural pest repellents are a great idea to keep gophers from attacking your valuable plants. Castor oil is one of the best pest repellents for gophers. You can use castor oil granules or liquid oil around the garden. It works as a laxative for gophers. And gophers don’t like the strong smell of castor oil.
A lot of other natural deterrents are also useful. For example, you can sprinkle chili powder inside gopher tunnels. It is very effective in preventing gophers from peaking out. Peppermint oil is also effective as a gopher repellent.
Fish oil, tabasco sauce, or coffee grounds will also prevent gophers from damaging your plants. You should use these deterrents near gopher tunnels and plant beds.
Other Methods to Prevent Gophers
Besides natural repellents, you can use chemical or mechanical repellents to deter gophers. Here are a few methods.
You can buy chemical repellents from your nearby stores. They contain a strong scent to discourage gophers from coming to your lawns or gardens.
These devices are battery-powered and create ultrasonic sound to deter gophers. Though these sounds aren’t audible to humans, gophers will be really annoyed by these sounds.If you’re looking for more information on how to deal with gophers in your yard, be sure to check out our articles on how big gophers can get and how to trap and catch a gopher. Our piece on how big gophers can get explores their physical characteristics and size, while our article on how to trap and catch a gopher provides practical advice on how to get rid of them.
Check answers to frequently asked questions about preventing gophers.
Q: Are there any natural predators that can help control gopher populations?
Predatory birds, like hawks or owls, can help reduce gopher populations. Gopher snakes are also helpful in gopher damage prevention.
Q: What are the signs that gophers have infested your garden?
When burrowing, gophers will push excess soil upward. It will create long mounds in the garden. During regular lawn maintenance, you will see dried dirt patches on the lawn.
Q: How can you prevent gophers from damaging underground utility lines and pipes?
You can use chemical repellent around underground utility lines and pipes to prevent gophers from damaging them. Another way is to surround these lines or pipes with up to six inches of coarse gravel.
Gophers can be downright annoying for property owners. They absolutely love the juicy roots of the plants in your garden and build an extensive tunnel network to easily reach those roots. We made this guide on how to prevent gophers from eating your garden that covers the best techniques to prevent gopher damage.
- You have several gopher-proofing methods that will prevent them from infesting your garden in the first place. But not all of them are good for your gardens or lawns. So, you must understand what good and bad these preventive measures do.
- Using natural predators or repellents is the most environment-friendly way of reducing the gopher population. We also suggest you not use poisons to kill gophers, as your pets can eat poisonous gophers and get harmed. It is also harmful to other non-pest animals.
- You should research more on natural pest control and experiment with different gopher prevention methods to figure out which works best in your case.