Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Client's Request: I'm new to home gardening and I've planted many new fruit trees and other plants. Something underground appears to be is eating up and/or disturbing my plants, including my newly planted fruit trees. I don't see anything but maybe some dirt mounds near the plants. My neighbor tells me I've got a gopher(s) in my garden. What can I do to get rid of it (hopefully) or them (for sure).
MGCC Help Desk Response: Thank you for contacting the Master Gardener Help Desk desk with your question about gophers. Welcome to Contra Costa County where gophers are indeed a problem for many of us.
Your new fruit trees would certainly be on a gopher's menu. I've seen the results of gophers chewing all the roots off a newly planted fruit tree and it isn't pretty nor did the tree survive. Since you apparently have a large gopher presence in your neighborhood, planting new trees and shrubs in wire baskets (usually made with hardware cloth) is recommended to protect the young trees' roots. Once the trees are more established, they can usually tolerate some gopher grazing. You can make the baskets yourself or purchase them commercially. Install them when you plant the trees. Galvanized baskets gives the longest-lasting protection. Make sure they are large enough to give the roots room to grow.
You can protect raised vegetable beds by lining the bottom of the bed with the same wire (hardware cloth, often sold at hardware stores by the foot). Planting unprotected vegetables in the ground in gopher country is more difficult. You would need to make a large underground "basket" to contain the soil where the veggies will grow. You should also extend the wire above ground a few inches, as gophers can travel above ground to collect vegetation.
You might also consider trapping gophers to reduce their population. There are several different types of effective traps on the market, but we have found that the cinch trap is one of the easiest and most successful. There are several good videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to set cinch traps.
The following link will provide even more information on trapping and habitat modification to manage gophers in your landscape. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7433.html. There are also YouTube videos by UC on finding gopher tunnels and trap placement that may help you as well.
Please let us know if we can answer any other questions. Good Luck and Happy gardening!
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (SEH)
Note: The UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/).