78° F Saturday, June 24, 2017

By Mitzi Vansant

I have a new design client who lives about a mile outside the Smithville city limits, and gophers or moles are wreaking havoc on her property. Before we install new plantings we must devise a way of eliminating the critters. I’ve done some research on how to rid a landscape of the animals, but after reading extensively on the Internet I can tell it won’t be an easy proposition.

Moles and gophers prefer a light soil (my client has a sandy soil), but are pretty adaptable. They may burrow close to the surface or go as deep as two to three feet. In northern climates they may have only one litter per year, but in the South it is usually two or perhaps more per season. They eat both the roots of plants and also surface to pull down into the hole plant parts growing above the soil.

I had a good chuckle reading a few of the suggestions I found and will share a number of them with you:

• Strychnine-laced grain can be planted into the tunnels, but obviously this will be toxic to other animals, and can even kill predators who eat the poisoned gopher/mole.

• Zinc phosphide is also an option, but it must be applied by a licensed applicator.

• Purchasing a flexible pipe that attaches to a car/truck exhaust pipe and then inserting the other end into the hole and running the engine for 15-30 minutes

• Buying a variety of traps which attract and then snap closed, killing the animal. I don’t consider this an option – it seems inhumane to me.

Being an organic gardener, I would not attempt the poisons, and would try some of the other options. Mole mover stakes, which are battery powered and emit a low vibrating sound, are questionably effective. Watering heavily was offered, but this isn’t a good option with our scarce water resources. It can create a muddy mess. A number of repellents were suggested, with varying success. These include use of human hair, fox urine, peppermint oil (or crushed peppermint candy), castor oil, scented fabric softener sheets, dog poop or used cat litter. One contributor suggested a recipe of one-half a cup of castor oil, one teaspoon Tabasco sauce and a few drops of peppermint oil that could be poured down any visible entrances. The application of broken glass into the tunnels was another suggestion. One state-extension site suggested using a combination of these repellent methods and changing them out at intervals.

Homeowners can purchase gopher gassers, which are small flare-like tubes that can be lighted and dropped into the holes. In that same vein, another contributor suggested M80 fireworks applied the same way. Another suggestion was the “whistle and shoot” method. That is, when you see the gopher out of the hole you whistle to get his attention and then shoot him with a rifle. This, the explosives and peeing down the hole are options best suited for the country gopher.

Some plants were avoided by the pests, and these included lavender, iris, salvia, catmint, oleander, penstemmon, rosemary and euphorbia. The use of sticks of Juicy Fruit gum inserted into the holes and then eaten by the gopher was said to cause gastric distress that would kill the animal. The simplest solution was given to me by my truck-farming friends who said their cats’ mission in life was to hunt the gophers on the property, and that they had seen little damage to their large fruit and vegetable operation as a result of their efforts.

If any of my readers have suggestions that have worked for them locally, please visit my website: www.thefragrantgarden.com and share them with me. Use the “Contact” option that will create an email message to me. I can then follow up in a later column and share the advice.

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