How Do I Ensure That Gophers Will Not Damage My NEW Artificial Grass?

by Ronald Dombroski

How Do I Ensure That Gophers Will Not Damage My NEW Artificial Grass?
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Has your lawn seen better days?  Has the drought and watering restrictions been only part of the challenge your lawn has faced. Are you fighting a losing battle with gophers?  

A common question for homeowners considering artificial grass is “will I still have gopher challenges and if so, how do I ensure that gophers will not damage my new artificial grass?”

Southern California has pocket gophers.  They vary in size and are highly adaptable to their surroundings.  Understanding your little friend’s habitat and foraging patterns can help understand how to curtail their activity and damage.

Gophers rely on a system of burrows and tunnels to utilize their search for food.  This network could range up to 200 yards or 700 square yards. Keep in mind that the poorer the soil the more extensive the network may be. The mounds you see in your yard and “gopher holes” can produce up to 2 ¼ tons of soil being moved in a year and one gopher may create up to 300 mounds in one year averaging 1-3 a day.  The system is typically 4” to 18” in depth but depending on the climate, could reach five feet in depth.  

What are gophers searching for? Food!  Their diet consists of vegetation and roots.  The roots they eat are encountered during the tunnels they create which are usually the width of their body or 3 inches.  Gophers may surface, but only will travel about a body lengths away from their holes.  Another popular technique you might have witnessed is your plants or vegetation being pulled into the tunnel and vanishing.  Alfalfa and dandelions are some of the most preferred and nutritious foods for pocket gophers.  

Typically gophers prefer softer soil conditions but will also inhabit rocky soils and burrow tunnel around rocks.

Artificial Grass and Gophers:

You are considering artificial grass for your home and are concerned that gophers will undermine your investment.  This is a just concern and there isn’t a 100% guarantee against battling a creature living where you can not see them.  The good news is that by installing artificial grass you are most likely eliminating the food source for the little critters.  

You know your yard the best and if you have had a challenge with gophers in the past please let your design and estimating consultant know of your challenges.  If you have witnessed moderate activity, then typically the standard demo of your old lawn and preparation and installation of compacted class 2 road base should help your situation.  

Here is a review of an artificial grass installation process:

EXCAVATION

We will excavate 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches from final grade.

GRADING & DRAINAGE

At this point if drains need to be installed, this is the time to do so as well as account for proper water-flow away from your house.

INSTALL BORDER (BENDER BOARD OR MOW-STRIP) (OPTIONAL)

For aesthetics and structural integrity of the perimeter, we will install bender board or a paver mow-strip around the outside of your project, where-ever we are abutting up against soft-scape surfaces.

SUB-BASE COMPACTING

We will use a plate compactor to compact the sub-base. This is crucial as we do not want to have any air gaps in our system. If you skip this step, it will lead to undulations or depressions later on.

WEED KILLER

Spray the entire area rather generously with weed killer to reduce the chances of weeds appearing in the future.

BASE PREPARATION & COMPACTION

We will prepare 2-3 inches of Class II Road Base which will be dispersed throughout the entire footprint of your turf project(this is for a Southern California installation as other regions will require different specs). Once the base has been set, we will hose the base down, and compact it until we reach a compaction level of 95%.

It is important to note that the class 2 road base is made of ¾ inch sharp angular stone, varied size smaller angular stone and concrete fines.  This compacted base is a non-friendly environment for a gopher and in combination with their food source being eliminated and the artificial grass being installed and nailed to the base,  should cause the gopher to look elsewhere for new food sources (maybe your neighbor’s yard).  Just kidding!!

Now keeping in mind that gophers create a network of tunnels and may try to find daylight,  the main risk at this point is a tunnel network close to the compacted base causing the base to weaken. This would create a soft spot or dipping in the artificial grass.  

The Good News:

The good news is that we have installed thousands of projects and I can not recall any call backs because of gophers.  Homeowners that have had a severe problem in the past can take an added precaution and have us install Gopher Mesh.  

Gopher Mesh:

Choosing the correct Gopher Mesh is very important.  Using a typical chicken/poultry wire or aviary fence is not intended to be buried and will fail in a short period of time.  Chicken wire can be used but why invest and install a product that will not last?

We prefer to install a galvanized gopher mesh with a mesh size of 1/2”x1/2”.  We find this to be an ideal size because the openings are small and stiff enough to prevent gophers from gaining access to the surface.  If they should decide to travel to the surface they will bump their heads on the wire and move along.  

Installation of Gopher Mesh:

After your yard is prepped and prior to the base being installed,  the Gopher Mesh is installed on top of your native soils.  The Gopher Mesh arrives with your artificial grass or will be delivered by your design consultant or artificial grass installer.  The mesh we provide comes in a 4’x100’ foot roll.  

The mesh is rolled out in it’s 4’ width with each section having a 6” overlap.  The overlapped sections or “seams” are stapled into the native soils.  All of the outer edges need to be trimmed using tin snips and shaped to fit your area.  As with any project,  the actual Gopher Mesh is relatively inexpensive and could average between .40 to .50 cents a square foot to purchase.  It is, however, tedious to work with and adds extra time to a project.  Adding additional time for labor/installation, material and company profit, our average cost is  $1.60 per square foot.   

After the Gopher Mesh is installed your project proceeds following the normal installation procedures.

Final Thoughts…

Gopher Mesh is not always needed to have a successful long term and durable artificial grass installation.  If you are concerned about gophers it will add additional durability and great peace of mind for your investment.

INSTALL-IT-DIRECT offers a Two Year warranty on installation. {Note: undermining of the compacted base could be hard to foresee and therefore not covered under the warranty}

Enjoy your new yard for years to come and say goodbye to those pesky GOPHERS!

Ronald Dombroski

Ron is a 1986 graduate of Jacksonville University where he achieved a BS degree in Management and Social Economics. His Liberal Arts background also focused heavily on the Arts and Humanities. Ron will not only enjoy helping you design your project but he will also be with you throughout your transformation to ensure a great experience and a product that will not only add value and durability to your home but one that you will consider “ a work of art” for years to come. You can follow Ron on Google+.

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