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Gopher "village" drains water from the soil

 
Eben Campbell
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Our locale is getting drier,  used to be quite wet. I have been mulching and burying wood downhill from existing trees and plantings in an effort to keep moisture in the soil over the dry season. However, the gopher tunnels are efficiently draining away water.  We are thinking of strategies to interrupt the network of drainage tunnels. We have set traps, so far no luck. We hope to dig down and interrupt the tunnels so that the upcoming rains will silt up the holes.
We are thinking of adding some hugelkultur beds, starting below ground. Has anyone had gopher incursions into hugel beds?  We only have maple and Doug fir to use , not ideal but what we have.
Any ideas?
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
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Location: South West France
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Eben, we also have a big problem in this year of drought. Not with gophers but with moles who have dug tunnels all over the gardens.

We're the only place for miles around where the earth is cool, full of food (For moles) and soft enough to tunnel.

Most of our garden beds began life as hugelkultur piles - some more than 15 years old and at the moment, they are attracting an incredible amount of activity. Every day there are about a dozen or so new mole hills. (Even in the newer hugel beds.)  I usually don't water much but when I notice a flagging plant, I water around it and the earth disappears into the holes around the plants !



I can't think of any way to control them, we've dogs, cats and chickens around and I don't want to use traps and so I'm filling the holes - pushing well into the ground - with wool daggings to at least try to keep some of the moisture around the plants. It's working for some things but it's heartbreaking to see how much work these wee creatures can do in one day. 

Any advice is welcome.



 
Eben Campbell
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Oh wow, Irene, thanks for that information.
Sorry for your troubles.  We have moles in a lawn area and don't worry about it.... I can see how a nicely decomposing hugel bed would be mole heaven as they go for the bugs.  In the past, I have viewed both the gophers and the moles has kind of helpful, in the sense that they mix up the soil and moles eat bugs. Now that we are trying to keep water in the soil those darn tunnelers are a nuisance. I am hoping for a very wet rainy season this year, thinking that may curb the populations.  Our cats occasionally get gophers and moles. We have a good gopher dog, tho she also eats Gravenstein apple trees and would eat cats if given a chance...so she is banned from orchard and garden. I will share any ideas I come up with...
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
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Location: South West France
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I agree that moles and any other burrowing beasties are useful to get good stuff into the soil but it needs (for my needs) to be done gradually.

We've always had a good mole population so at the start of the season, I let our dogs dig for moles and they catch and kill a lot. We have five Dachshunds who are great wee hunters and just love it when they're allowed to "go for it".



Mini-diggers at work


This year, I have the impression that there's an underground rave party going on and everyone's invited !!!
 
christie pont
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Eben Campbell wrote:Our locale is getting drier,  used to be quite wet. I have been mulching and burying wood downhill from existing trees and plantings in an effort to keep moisture in the soil over the dry season. However, the gopher tunnels are efficiently draining away water.  We are thinking of strategies to interrupt the network of drainage tunnels. We have set traps, so far no luck. We hope to dig down and interrupt the tunnels so that the upcoming rains will silt up the holes.
We are thinking of adding some hugelkultur beds, starting below ground. Has anyone had gopher incursions into hugel beds?  We only have maple and Doug fir to use , not ideal but what we have.
Any ideas?


If you are here in the states I suggest an air rifle, a 22 rim fire is good as well, but practice practice practice. Or you can smoke them out (they make smoke bombs just for this purpose),  also up to the task are M-80's or ash cans which used to be available only in rural areas, you drop them in and wham.  Poison is discouraged as your dogs might find them and eat them and then they die.
 
Eben Campbell
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Irene - Cute mole getters!  They are built better for the job than our large dogs.🙂

Thanks for the tips Christie. Yes we definitely don't want to use poison...to protect our dogs and birds of prey, etc.  T is a good shot but we rarely see the suckers. We will investigate smoke bombs. We definitely need to reduce the population and fill up the tunnels to have any hope of storing water in our soil.

I am going to install a hugelkultur bed to test how gopher proof that proves to be...may work very well for a few years. Our gopher-proof raised beds aren't very good for holding water in the ground.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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Interesting since I have the exact opposite impression of the role of gophers.  I think their holes and tunnels actually improve water infiltration into our heavy, compacted clay soils.  The summer here is far too dry for earthworms and other kinds of soil insects away from irrigated areas.  On its own, the clay is so compact that even water from a drip emitter will make a spreading area of moisture at and near the surface and still be bone dry a few inches down even after all day on.  The gophers are attracted to irrigated areas and ruin quite a few plants....all my important perennials and trees get planted into sunken chicken-wire baskets.  But in terms of water infiltration I've taken to mimicking their work by augering deep holes into the soil near my trees, stuffing these with loose fabric or something similar to keep them from filling in completely, and locating an emitter right above this for deep-penetrating moisture.
 
gene gapsis
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Yesterday, I tore apart my 4 year old hugel kultur bed, about 30 feet long.  It had become the perfect home for rats, who were eating my tomatoes off the vine.  I abhor rats, and while their cozy digs may have kept them from trying to find ways into the shed, I found at least 8 adults and a nest of new ones when I finished my unearthing process.  I liked the idea, but it seems other types of critters enjoy the real estate as well.  I will return to more standard gardening methods. 
 
Eben Campbell
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Great  ideas, Alder Burns, for deep penetration of moisture and plant protection. 
I think our hillside situation is what makes our gopher holes drain water from our garden.  The rag filled holes are something I will try.
Good to know about your rat experience, Gene Gapsis. I do have a hugel spot in mind that is well removed from the tree line and has free cat access, so will risk a small hugel bed. And I'll keep an eye out for rats.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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One of the best "Natural" deterrents for moles, voles and gophers is camphor oil. When soaked into cotton balls or cloth and put down the holes, the varmints will tend to leave because of the irritant vapor.
We have had an influx of moles and voles and this has worked quite well for us this year.  It does work as does collapsing every tunnel you can find. 
Moles tend to make their  entrances in wood piles or rock piles since those places give them some protection.
Voles are the easiest to locate since their tunnels are just under the surface, simply using a heavy foot will collapse their tunnels and pretty soon they decide to move away from the area that is always creating more work for them.

Gophers are harder to use the tunnel collapse technique on since their tunnels are deeper under the soil.
For them several camphor oil soaked wads of cotton stuffed as deep as you can usually do the trick, especially if you can find the escape route holes as well as the main entrance.

Good luck

Redhawk
 
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