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The Gopher Wars

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

Banishing a nemesis without chemical warfare

Our defense seems to be working. When we first moved here six years ago, gophers clearly thought this was their territory. We're not big fans of chemical warfare, nor did we find any use for field contractors. No, this was our war, and we planned our strategy well.

The first step was to change the battlefield. The lawn was scarred from past battles: holes, trenches, mounds of dirt any child with toy green army men would have relished. Removing the lawn was an easy decision...lush lawns are easy for gophers to dig in, and the moist soil acts as a field pantry to feed hungry gopher troops with rashens of grubs. Changing our lawn to a decomposed granite bocce court (actually, petanque) surrounded by drought tolerant plants has completely disinterested the enemy.

We then turned to the hillside where full grown shrubs would die overnight. Ninjas! Quietly chewing roots where no one could see, then suddenly the shrubs would wilt from lack of amount of water would quench their thirst. Phase two meant introducing new plants that gophers distaste, euphorbias at first, but daffodils became our land mines. Gophers hate them; eating their roots and flesh make them sick. We're using them close to more sensitive plants. When gophers find them, they turn in their tunnels and go somewhere else. Plant enough mines, and they leave.

We're planting new plants in gopher cages made of chicken wire. This is only for plants that stay relatively small. Our soft pathways, such as the decomposed granite, have a wire mesh layer as well. So far, the gophers haven't penetrated these defenses. Last fall, we planted another 200 daffodils of different colors for specific areas of the gardens. I think this will cause future gophers to go somewhere else. Well, that and our one soldier, a cat that stealthy hunts gophers like any solid assassin would do. Gardening is a constant battle, but one we welcome. Besides, we're looking forward to the beautiful daffodil blooms in the spring.

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