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Re: Shade, Gopher Resistance

  • Subject: Re: Shade, Gopher Resistance
  • From: "Linda Starr" mtnstar@ocsnet.net
  • Date: Mon, 7 Nov 2005 04:51:22 -0800

Dear Pam,
This is my second home location with a large gopher infestation and I have learned much more than I care to about gophers.  My previous location was Zone 7 at 2900 foot elevation and now Zone 9 at 1000 foot elevation in Sierra Nevada foothills.  Unfortunately both locations have more sun than shade, so I can only recommend a few shade and gopher-tolerant plants.  At both locations after loosing many plants completely or having the plants roots dislodged, I started using wire baskets I make from aviary wire on rolls 3 foot wide.  I make 4 darts in a 3 or 4 foot square section of wire and place that in the planting hole and bend the part sticking out of the planting hole down over the top of the ground.  I have determined that if a plant is worth planting and caring for - then it is better planted with a wire basket, since, even if the gophers don't like the plant they may burrow up next to it and dislodge the roots or bury the plant with their mounds of dirt.  Spring and fall seem to be major migration times and hence more activity for the gophers - they tend to move from one location to another in anticipation of wetter or dryer weather - I suspect.
Our neighbor's cat relocated to our house and is a great gopher getter - but he has had two major foot injuries from gophers biting his foot when he jabs his foot down gopher holes trying to get them. One of the cat's back toes was half eaten off and the pad on his front paw on another foot was cut and he had to have antibiotics due to an infection that set in. 
I never want to kill anything - even spiders in my home are relocated outside with a broom - but last summer my husband and I had had it with the gophers mounds everywhere - so we started shooting them with a pellet gun and one week we killed 14 - you have to be real patient and shoot them when they come above ground - but they multiply with three litters a year and lots of babies in the litter - so we didn't even make a dent.  The farmer's in the central valley have resorted to installing barn owl nesting boxes in their orchards - a nesting pair of barn owls will eat up to 1500 small rodents in a season - and this is fast becoming a popular method of gopher control.  Coyotes also eat gophers but unfortunately many ranchers have considered the coyote a pest and have shot them when they see them on their ranches - so the gopher populations have gone unchecked.  Also larger snakes including rattlesnakes eat gophers but again many rattlesnakes are killed.
At my previous location I had a large herb garden and most herbs were left undisturbed but these were all planted in sun.  My tangerine artemesia and May Night salvia plants were pulled completely underground and disappeared in one fell swoop.  Yarrow, Japanese painted fern, leatherwood fern, valerian, campanula, foxglove, carex, and yellow variegated acorus were left alone.  At my present location, I have lavender planted in rows under ground cover cloth and when they were young a gopher came up over the ground cover cloth and pulled up 7 plants but didn't eat them.  The gophers pulled my chocolate cosmos completely under ground.  My major herb garden here was constructed with aviary wire layed in rows on top of the ground and then I built a rock wall and backfilled with soil and compost and then planted my herbs and layed ground cover cloth over the top.  I notice this fall the gophers have pushed their way up through the seams (even though the seams overlapped) in the aviary wire and next to the plants - now their mounds are showing - so far they have not eaten any plants but the mounds are creating a lot of destruction.  I have volunteer culinary basil growing in several locations without wire baskets and they have not eaten them.
My vegetable garden is planted in raised open bottom wooden planters each measuring about 3 foot wide and 20 feet long with aviary wire layed on the bottom - one of the 8 inch high planters (most are 16 to 20 inches high) had a gopher climb up the side and tunnel from the top but he later left when he found that he couldn't tunnel down through.
Plants not disturbed by gophers so far in my native section are willow trees, deer grass, two varieties of native roses (but supposedly gophers love other roses yet the previous owner planted roses long the fence and none have succumbed so far), cottonwood, coffeeberry, valley oak, dunn oak, live oak, several varieties of manzanita, snowberry, California fuchsia, sulfur flower, and several varieties of ceanothus.
Landscape plants not in baskets and undisturbed so far are iris, star jasmine, variegated Japanese silver grass (miscanthus - in basket but has grown outside now), golden stipa, Mexican grass, lantana, clumping bamboo - phyllostachys (in baskets but have grown outside now), citrus (orange and lemon here) (and several neighbors have said that gophers do not like citrus - but here again they tunnel around the trees and create mounds), canna lily tropicana (in baskets but have grown outside now), modesto ash, flowering plum, and deodar cedar.  Several neighbors have fruitless mulberry undisturbed.
Hope this helps.
Linda Starr
Springville Lavender Gardens
Southern Sierra Nevada foothills, CA, Zone 9
P. S. Gophers love fig trees.

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