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underground rodent deterrent made of rocks?  RSS feed

 
                    
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The idea is to dig a narrow, 18" deep trench, and line it with flat thin rocks, standing on edge.  They would be slightly overlapping on the edges, and poke out of the trench by a couple of inches. 

Would it work, would it stay, would it last, would it be worth it? 

We're going to try it around a small potato bed next spring.  We have access to an abundance of flat (1/2"-2" rocks. 
 
Jami McBride
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Hum... just thinking out loud - It sounds like the flat rocks are to provide smooth sides so the burgers can't get a foothold, but I wonder if there won't be areas where the rocks can't overlap completely due to their round shape.....

Since you guys have mastered cob Marina, after you test this and find it works why not use cob to fill in any spaces and remove any footholds and hold those rocks in place.  Your cobbers skills may you build a better rat trap.  Anyway, just a thought.

I've tried the bury a gallon plastic jug and lure them in with cheese or peanut butter placed in the bottom, but my field mice never went for it.  Rodents have established paths and routes so something like the jug needs to be right in the middle of their path.  So far those nasty spring loaded rat traps work the best for me, I just lay them along a wall which they run along to get from point A to B, and snap! 

For stopping the rodents getting into my chicken house - I placed bricks along the back wall of the c-house perpendicular to the house wall every 3' or so.  Then I placed a long board on those bricks a few inches from the house wall and leaned it against the wall.  This gave me a space my chickens couldn't get to that I could put the spring traps in along that wall.  Worked like a charm.  I could peek from one end through my tunnel and see when a trap was full.  Because of the bricks raising the board off the ground a few inches I could place and retrieve my traps easily.

If your trench doesn't work out maybe consider edging your potato bed with something vertical (boards, cob or other recycled material) and placing spring traps along this edging.  They will run up to and then along the edging before trying to go over it, and get caught. 

You can feed dead or alive, small to medium sized rodents to chickens - they love them!  Provides free range protein.  After all, if those suckers are getting fat on your veggies it's only right they should provide a you a benefit.

All the best with your trapping.
 
                    
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Our problem is mostly with tunneling rodents, so I was thinking that the underground rock wall would prevent them from digging into that area of the garden?  Maybe I should have been more specific in the thread title.

Still, thanks for the tips!  Rodents are seriously one of the most difficult to deal with garden pests, for me. 
 
Jami McBride
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Not a problem, I always jump to rats/mice as they can be so numerous 

For things that dig I've herd of using a thick layer of broken glass, stuck some how (maybe a rubber cement?) onto a mesh for easier placement and removal on or in the soil.  Funny how sharp glass changes a diggers mind....

Let us know how your rock trench goes if you decide to try it.
 
Jordan Lowery
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we have a similar problem, i have thought of this but came to the conclusion that it would be too much work for how long it would last. and if the gopher found even a small hole to exploit it would get through.
 
                    
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We have decided that we'll overlap all the seams completely with two layers of flat rock and do our best to get the whole depth of the trench impassible.  If they go underneath there's nothing we can do.  But most of the growies they look for are a lot closer to the surface. 

Yes, it is a lot of work, but it's also a huge disappointment to lose most of the potato harvest to gophers, as we did this year. 

It's a lot of work to install any sort of underground barrier, and this is the only one I can think of that would be gardener-friendly and rust-proof. 

Jamie, there is already so much broken glass out in the garden (from the previous people who lived/partied out there) that I'm really not excited about adding more, even if it's embedded in something.  But I'll keep that in mind if it turns out the rocks aren't enough of a deterrent.  We'll have plenty from what we've picked up and saved! 

Any new intern/visitor who wants to walk around here barefoot gets sent over to a bucket that's half full of glass pieces.  That that's the amount of glass we've found and picked up THIS season.  Everyone puts their shoes back on after looking at the evidence. 
 
Jami McBride
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Wow. . . .

Well the use for broken glass mat was mostly for under buildings, and other places where people wouldn't be walking or disturbing the soil, and I can see why.

Sounds like rocks is a safer way to go.

 
Jordan Lowery
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grow potatoes in barrels, you wont loose a single spud and they actually grow better. we had the same gohper / potato problem.
 
                                          
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soil wrote:
grow potatoes in barrels, you wont loose a single spud and they actually grow better. we had the same gohper / potato problem.


how would you think bottomless above ground contraptions like with landscaping cloth or canvas do?  would the morlocks dig above ground into a poly-bag?
 
                    
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grow potatoes in barrels, you wont loose a single spud and they actually grow better. we had the same gohper / potato problem.


We're going to try this too.  We're considering this rock barrier a test for a possible "fence" around the entire garden, since they don't limit their nibblings to only our potatoes.   

We tried mounds with four layers of cardboard beneath last year and apparently the cardboard melted too fast because they ate nearly all of the potatoes right before we harvested them.  We had another variety spread out in patches and we got to most of those before they did.  But it's nice to have a larger area just for spuds. 

We're attempting to figure out a solution that doesn't require rebuilding the bed every few years, or using materials that we have to re-purchase and re-install.  Rocks are the most permanent thing we can think of -- if they work. 

What about a thin layer of concrete holding the rocks together? 

Jami- I keep telling myself that if we just continue picking up glass every time we see it, eventually it will all be gone!  Right? 
 
Jami McBride
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marina phillips wrote:
Jami- I keep telling myself that if we just continue picking up glass every time we see it, eventually it will all be gone!  Right?   


hum, we can hope.

I like the idea of a thin layer on concrete.  You wouldn't want to do all that work and have the critters get through.
 
Jordan Lowery
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We're attempting to figure out a solution that doesn't require rebuilding the bed every few years, or using materials that we have to re-purchase and re-install.  Rocks are the most permanent thing we can think of -- if they work.


i am in the same boat, gophers are bad here. so far i just plant things they dont like for the most part and plant a lot of the things i do, and in some cases like the potatoes i grow them in barrels( which imo is far better for more reasons than the gophers)

i considered the rock barrier but came to the conclusion its not going to stop them, they arent stupid or anything. its not like they haven't encountered a rock before, they have methods of dealing with it just like we have methods to deal with our problems( except the gophers lol)

the only area that is not damaged here is the forest garden, there are gophers in there, but the damage they do is DRAMATICALLY reduced. and i even find them semi-beneficial as tillers of my clay soil and adding to drainage. that and the snakes love the forest garden too which keeps the populations down. but as far as traditional gardens go they are evil. there is a simple solution to stop them from doing damage im sure of it.
 
Philip Freddolino
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We have lots of gophers. so when we built our raised beds, we put 1/2" hardware cloth on the bottoms. We also lay pieces of it on the ground, put barrels cut in thirds on top of it. The barrels work great for potatoes.
 
tel jetson
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have you set your pigs on the gophers?  I've heard that recommended as a remedy for burrowing pests, but I haven't heard any firsthand accounts.

what about planting a perimeter of alliums or daffodils or something like that that critters don't like?  I don't know if anything grows deeply enough to keep critters from getting underneath, but maybe.  leeks do well planted in a trench.

I think the rocks could work if you're careful.  could take an awful lot of work to get it right.  might be worth it in the end, though.

what about a moat of burning oil?
 
Jami McBride
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tel jetson wrote:
what about a moat of burning oil?


  Brilliant idea! lol

 
                    
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what about a moat of burning oil?


AWESOME I'd get to listen to them die screaming. 

Obviously I don't have a lot of love for these animals. 

The pig idea is nice, but our breed of pigs don't root very much.  When they get in the garden they just eat grass.  Seems like they'd root up something I want to grow in the search for a rodent?

I've heard Jack Russel terriers are excellent at finding and killing them.  I'm not all that keen on owning a yippie little dog, but we've considered starting to make the pound rounds again looking for a mostly-russel mut. 

We've planted daffodils, are spreading them around as they multiply each year.  I can't see that it makes a lot of difference, but maybe we need like a two foot wide bed of JUST daffodils around the garden.  But then the gophers still IN the garden wouldn't want to leave? 

Harvesting sunchokes last week, we tried some underground propane explosions (allow propane to leak down into a hole for awhile then light it from a distance -- wooomp!).  While lots of fun, no idea if it's effective......and I've waited a long time to try that cause I feel like it would kill worms and such also? 
 
                      
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well from my reading mice can get in thru a 1/4 inch gap ... how tight are these flat stones to be to each other?
 
Jeff Mathias
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Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
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Hi Marina,

I might have missed something in your explanation but I believe should the gophers really get stopped by the rock moat that they will simply start a new run on the other side of the rock moat you are creating directly in your growing area. Gophers are amazing diggers and I think if they want in they will go under. If you going to try it do not compact anything. You want the gophers to encounter what appears to be soil too unstable to dig in. I have had limited success using gravel in a similar fashion as you are considering. What you want is for the run to collapse as they are digging it so they get dissuaded. Not the best answer for a place you will most likely need to stand on one day.

Is there an above ground barrier you are using that is stopping them now? That in conjunction with the rock moat should help reduce the loss.

Without more information I believe the real problems are as follows:

1. You are now growing an abundance of food desirable to the critters in an area that previously had a much more limited supply; which helped to keep populations lower.
2. The critters have few or no predators (natural or not).
3. The abundance of food + no real predators = increasing populations.

You cannot do much about the first problem. Perhaps set aside more wild areas where you plant or establish the same foods you are losing. You could also consider the damage and plant much more to accommodate the damage. This will of course continue adding to your problem with out addressing problem number 2.

Problem number 2: This to me is a two fold approach. You need to be adding habitat for the predators in your area so they deal with the problem for you. Until you have a good predator count you will need to be the predator. This is key, in most places we have displaced the natural order of things. For this to work we need either the real thing or to fill the niche that was lost. Usually it takes both, filling the niche now and increasing the predators over the long term.

Dogs, cats, pigs even chickens can help out here. So can a good pellet gun or .22 rifle. Both a pellet gun or a .22 are good cheap way to practice firearms safety as well as increase your aiming accuracy. Propane seems like a waste of good fuel. There are smoke bombs and these are very effective. You find the run light it toss it in as deep as you can and then bury the hole to keep the smoke in. Look around and make sure no smoke is coming out anywhere else either, if so cover that with soil also. I have found the key to the smoke bombs is to let the gophers get established in the run for a few days. Then use the smoke bombs in the early morning before the gophers are out or in the evening after they have gone in for the night. You want them sluggish and off guard. To help reduce the existing populations try to use the smoke bombs when the litter is still in the run before the parents start kicking them out for the summer.

Jeff





 
                    
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Wow, thanks for all the info, Jeff!  Agreed with the things you said about the garden providing food and our presence warding off most natural predators.  There is a large snake that lives out in the general garden area, we don't want to thwart his activities. 

Our garden kinda sprawls out on a saddle of a hill.  It's is in the middle of a five acre clearing surrounded by lots of woods.  I know there are lots of owls and birds of prey.  Our dog keeps away most anything on legs.  Our cats kill lots of mice and voles, but gophers are big, too big for the cats.  We use flood irrigation and this does a lot to keep them at least frustrated in the summer, but I'm worried about the garlic crop we just planted, cause we aren't irrigating this time of year and there's lots of gopher evidence out there. 

Hadn't thought of smoke bombs!  I think timing it to kill baby gophers is totally great advice.  Geeze, it sounds cruel but I've lost too many plants to the devils.   
 
Ryan Thomas
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I've thought of using sheet piling like you see along a waterfront. You drive it in with a pile driver so you don't have to dig a trench. I have no idea how much it would cost, but you would have to go probably 4 feet deep or so to significantly reduce the problem. Probably much easier to focus on reducing the gopher population.
 
rose macaskie
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What would the natural predatrors be, stouts weazels snakes eagles?
  I have seen a jack russel kill a rat incredible and small dogs are great they cost much less to feed, need less walks and are comfortable to have on your lap.
What about cats?
    My grandmotrher had chicken wire dug into the ground to keep rabbits out of the garden but i suppose gophers dig deeper than rabbits. Iif you wer in a position m¡money wise to put a deep fence in around the vegetable garden, i suppose it would pay off in the long run. making an inversion like tha tis easier for some than for others much as in the long run, even in the pretty short run, it make a big diference. rose macaskie.
 
                          
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My guess is that it won't work.  They will go under or over.  Gophers will travel above the ground. 

BTW, Jack Russels are not "yippy".  They are however aggressive and prey driven.
 
rose macaskie
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small dogs like jack russels are called rat catchers not lap dogs, they may have become yippy i syippy yuppy or do you mean they have a squeaky bark, they are still usefull on  farms i should think. A dog has to be fast to catch a rat, they can't afford the infections they might give them if they bite them.

Here in Spain they say, in a book i have on snakes, that ratcatrchers are the main enemy of snakes and i have heard a shepherds say that they are usefull because they let you know if a snake is nearby, that is if you are sensible enough to whatch your dog and notice what its up to and if you dont think it is silly, if you do you wont have an intelligent interpretation of its antics.

  My grand mother had chicken wire in the hedge round her garden as well as underground  and covering the gates to the garden and if a rabbit got though the fencing she used her gun,.I remember my mother being worried when she shoot a rabbit from her bedroom window in her nightdress, in her seventies, my mother felt the kick back from the shot gun would hurt her, she bruised easily, so she had several levels of defense from rodents. She was an efficient person, also she was not too poor though not too rich either, she spent everything on labour in the farm and upkeep which meant that she had a very nice place, my grandfather was rich so the house was nice but he left her so she had to make the land work for her. She did not have many clothes, she was good though at making them look good for a long time and hardly any holidays and a cheap car. Money helps doing things like fencing so it should be mentioned. rose macaskie.
 
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