The bad news is you’ve got gophers. The good news is you’ve got gophers. Why is this good news? Well, considering you could also have moles, voles, squirrels, chipmunks, or rabbits, gophers are generally the easiest of the lot to get rid of, if you know what you’re doing.
If your garden has become a moonscape of mass destruction, there is a good chance that a lone gopher is responsible for most of that damage. That’s because gophers tend to be territorial and don’t tolerate others of their kind getting too close. Therefore, if you nab that single culprit, most of your worries will be over.
Well, most of your worries, but not all, because it is not uncommon for another, neighboring gopher to move in and fill the vacancy that was left after you’ve evicted your last pesky tenant.
The point is: If you’ve been invaded by gophers, keeping them at bay may have to become part of your regular garden maintenance. Here’s how.
BAIT: Nat Waller, owner of ProGarden Supply (progardensupply.com), says that his favorite and least labor-intensive method of controlling gophers is using Wilco Zinc Phosphide Gopher Bait, TKwhich kills in one doseTK. “Look for recently excavated tunnels,” he explained. “Opposite the crescent-shaped mound, to one side of the gopher hole is where you would probe with a piece of rebar or similar tool. When the soil gives way and the tunnel is located, deposit one tablespoon of the bait into the hole.” Other baits, including poison grain, are applied in a similar way.
TRAPS: Once I learned how to set them properly, I had the most success with the Macabee Gopher Trap. Don’t misunderstand: I hate killing things, and I’m fully aware that I’m taking a heap of bad gopher karma into my next life. But still, nothing is more disheartening than discovering that a gopher has made a smorgasbord out of your [CQ on single quotes] ‘Mister Lincoln,’ your ‘Double Delight,’ and the rest of your rose garden.
Other popular traps are the Black Hole Rodent Trap, The Black Box by Victor, and the Gophinator by Trapline. To avoid snagging yourself in one of these products, I strongly recommend reading about their proper use online. And, as with bait, it is critical to remember that the traps don’t discriminate between your pets, small children, and other wildlife, so please use with caution.
GASSERS: I never had much luck with these guys, but they’re out there, and people use them. Basically, they look like little sticks of dynamite. You light them and shove them down a gopher hole, and the gas they discharge is supposed to kill the gopher. My experience is that if you don’t block all of the exit holes, the gas just escapes out of the ground.
ALTERNATIVES: I think it’s an urban legend, but supposedly you chew some Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum until the flavor starts to come out and then drop the stuff into a gopher hole. Attracted to the fruity scent, the gopher eats the gum, which it cannot digest, and dies. Sounds like a waste of a good piece of gum.
I’ve heard similar stories substituting Irish Spring soap or Ex-Lax laxative for the gum. I’d imagine that Irish Spring will repel almost anyone, including gophers, and feeding Ex-Lax to gophers will probably get you a bunch of frantic rodents trying to get in your house to use your facilities.
My friend the garden goddess Karen Ciabattoni once wrote a courteous note to the gophers that were plaguing her garden. In it, she politely suggested that they should consider relocating to another garden. She rolled up the note and slipped into the gopher tunnel. No threats, no gas, no poison — the varmints were gone by the next day.