Gophers can be a serious problem for gardeners. These burrowing, sharp-toothed pests will devour the roots of vegetables, berries, and other plants in no time, and an infestation can cause widespread death in your backyard.
So, introducing plants gophers hate (like gopher spurge, oleander, lavender, rosemary, daffodils, and marigolds) can help to deter them, especially when used in combination with other control methods.
What are gophers, and why are they a problem?
First off, what’s a gopher?
A gopher is a type of burrowing rodent native to North and Central America. They’re small (6-8 inches long), furry and brown, and spent most of the lives in their subterranean burrows.
Gophers are great diggers and use their powerful, long-clawed forepaws and long teeth to scrape and gnaw their way through the earth.
They are specially adapted for life underground and have lips that close behind their teeth while digging to keep dirt out of their mouths.
They also have highly sensitive whiskers, which they use to feel out their surroundings when they’re moving around in the dark.
Gophers are sometimes referred to as pocket gophers because of the fur-lined ‘pockets’ on the outsides of their cheeks. They use these pockets to carry nesting materials and food, a little like a hamster.
As cute as they sound, gophers are never welcome visitors, especially as far as gardeners are concerned. This is because they are serious plant pests and enthusiastically chomp their way through the roots of vegetables, berries and other types of plants.
This often kills the plant altogether or, in the case of older, hardier trees, can destroy their health and stunt their growth.
Gophers usually feed underground, so the extent of the damage often goes unnoticed until the affected plant keels over.
As if they weren’t destructive enough, gophers have also been known to chew through plastic irrigation pipes, which can be costly and time-consuming to replace.
Which garden plants repel gophers?
There are several types of plants gophers don’t like, which can help to deter these nuisance rodents from entering your backyard. Installing a border of gopher-repellent plants around your garden can stop gophers in their tracks, and will help to keep them away from your other veggies and shrubs.
The key garden plants that repel gophers include:
- Gopher spurge (Euphorbia lathyrus)
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support claims that these plants deter gophers.
Keep in mind!
However, there is no scientific evidence to back this up so, if you have a recurrent gopher problem, it may be a good idea to pair the use of gopher-repellent plants with other control methods.
Other gopher control methods
While a border of gopher-repellent plants can help to keep these critters out of your yard, they won’t be enough to completely eliminate an infestation.
If your garden has been taken over by mole-people and your plants are dying left and right, you’ll need to combine preventative and active control methods to reclaim your backyard.
Install underground fences
Underground fences may be an effective way to keep gophers out of your yard. Mesh hardware cloths, buried at a depth of at least 18 inches, can help to protect your vegetable garden from these pests by creating a physical barrier between them and those delicious roots.
However, this can be costly and time-consuming to implement, especially if you have a large area you need to protect. It’s also not 100% foolproof, as particularly persistent gophers may simply burrow deeper to gain access to your garden.
Use other types of gopher repellent
Gopher-repellent plants are just one way to keep these rodents out of your yard.
Chemical repellents that mimic the scent of gopher predators have been reported to work effectively in some cases. Other smells gophers apparently hate include tabasco, dryer sheets, mothballs, coffee grounds, and castor oil, and these can be sprinkled into gopher tunnels to drive them out.
Flood their burrows
Flooding gopher burrows can force them out of hiding.
If you have a decent population of gopher predators around your home (such as owls, cats, dogs, snakes, and coyotes) these guys will then finish the job for you.
Set up gopher traps
Trapping is an effective way to reduce your gopher population. The devices are often lethal, and setting up several of them around your backyard can be a quick way to kill large numbers of these pests.
If you’re dealing with a small or moderately sized infestation, trapping can be the quickest way to eliminate it, without the need for potentially hazardous toxic baits.
If all else fails and your rodent population is out of control, rodenticides may be your best hope for reclaiming your garden.
There are several types of toxic bait that can do the job, but use these with caution – poison baits of any kind can be hazardous to people and other animals, and they must be used carefully to avoid poisoning non-target species. Always follow the directions on the packaging to the letter and, if in doubt, call in a pest control expert to help.
Gophers can wreak havoc in your garden and cause widespread damage in backyards across North and Central America.
These burrowing pests chew their way through any edible roots that land in their subterranean paths and can kill vines, young trees, and other plants rapidly. Even larger plants aren’t safe from their feeding habits and gopher damage can stunt the growth and vigor of even mature trees.
Gopher spurge, oleander, lavender, daffodils, and marigolds are among the plants that gophers reportedly won’t touch, so planting a border of these can help to keep them out of your yard.
And when used as part of an integrated pest control plan, these plants may help to keep your gopher population to a minimum.
Other gopher control methods (like trapping, underground fencing, and chemical repellents) should also be used if you hope to completely eliminate gophers from your grounds.