How to Get Rid of Gophers Naturally (without Poison or Gas)
Gophers are a problem for many homeowners and can quickly destroy a natural grass lawn, vegetable garden, flowerbed or fruit trees. As they tunnel beneath the ground in search of food, they create tripping hazards with their holes and mounds, kill plants and trees as they eat the roots, and can even cause walkways or patios to collapse as their tunnel systems weaken the ground beneath them.
While many homeowners have never actually seen these ground dwellers in their gardens or on their lawns, you can see easily see the aftermath of their daily activities. Gophers rarely venture far from their tunnels and spend most of their time underground, which is why most methods of gopher control involve killing them in their homes.
The most common lethal gopher control methods include spreading poison pellets, gassing them in their tunnels, or setting traps. Using a garden hose to flood their tunnel systems is often considered a way to encourage them to leave your property, but it can drown them, so we can could include the garden hose method on the lethal list as well.
If you have other animals that use your yard, such as dogs or cats, using poison or traps is not a good idea and could injure, sicken or kill them. Gassing is generally considered a safe method to use if you have other animals, since you must keep your animals out of the area while the gassing is taking place, and the gas dissipates quickly. Therefore, your dogs or cats can go back to spending time in your yard the same day.
Poison and traps should also not be used if you have children or if children have access to your yard.
These lethal methods of gopher control are quite effective and widely used. However, none of them keep gophers out of your yard long term, and all of them involve killing animals that are just going about their daily lives and are not intentionally causing any harm.
For example, when you gas gophers in their tunnels, you may kill all or most of the gophers on your property; however, the gas dissipates almost immediately and you could have a new population of gophers established on your property within a couple of months.
Plus, the number of homeowners interested in killing inconvenient wildlife is shrinking as more folks search for ways to deter gophers, rats, deer and other animals humanely. After all, it is rarely the case that homeowners want to kill rodents and other wildlife for the sake of killing them; all they really want is for these animals to stop destroying their gardens and lawns. Therefore, non-lethal, natural ways to repel gophers and other unwanted animals are growing in popularity and are now more commonly used.
If you have gopher problems and would like to try to get rid of gophers humanely before turning to lethal methods, here are 13 of the most common, non-lethal ways to keep gophers out of your garden.
1. Gopher Mesh:
Install gopher mesh under natural grass lawns and areas with ornamental landscaping. Chicken wire is commonly used for this purpose, but it will not hold up nearly as well as galvanized gopher mesh (think: 1/2-inch hardware cloth), so get the right product for the job the first time to save yourself more headaches and expenses later.
Gopher mesh creates a barrier that prevents gophers from digging holes in your natural grass lawn or flowerbeds, but it does not keep them from eating roots that grow down through the mesh into the soil below. Therefore, they can still kill your plants by eating the roots as they tunnel beneath the mesh, but this usually does a good job of preventing the creation of holes.
2. Gopher mesh barriers:
Use the above-mentioned gopher mesh to create barriers around gardens, your lawn or your whole yard. For this method to be effective, you will need to dig a trench at least about one foot deep around the area you want to protect. Place the hardware cloth in the trench and make sure it is sticking up out of the ground at least a few inches. You can also build raised garden beds and create a barrier with gopher mesh on the ground before adding potting soil.
3. Gopher baskets:
In areas where gopher mesh is not an option, such as areas where you need to regularly dig or where you have sparsely placed plants that need protection, gopher baskets are the way to go. These gopher deterrents basically look like mesh baskets or bowls and are usually made from chicken wire or gopher mesh. Again, go for the gopher mesh if it is an option – or make your own baskets with leftover mesh from your lawn – but know that most garden centers sell gopher baskets made from chicken wire.
Gopher baskets are a good option for rose bushes, fruit trees, succulents and even vegetable gardens, if you have a significant gopher problem in your garden. As with mesh, the gophers can still eat roots that grow through the basket into the surrounding soil, but the gopher baskets will protect the main root system near the base of the plant and can significantly increase the chance of survival. This makes gopher baskets a good option for repelling gophers without killing them.
4. Live traps:
You can trap gophers for relocation just like you would trap a raccoon or other animal that you want to remove from your property without killing it. You can rent or buy live traps to do this yourself, or you can hire a wildlife removal company to do it for you. For many homeowners, it is easier to hire professionals, since trapping gophers yourself requires you to safely handle occupied traps and transport them somewhere to release them.
If you really do not want the gophers to die, make sure the company you choose actually releases them – some companies use live traps to make homeowners feel better, but then kill the animals after they remove them from the property.
5. Fabric softener sheets:
If you need to get rid of gophers in your yard without killing them, you may be able to repel them with something you probably already have in your laundry room. Gophers do not like the smell of dryer sheets, so sticking these fragrant sheets in every hole you can find can help repel gophers and keep them away from your lawn or gardens.
6. Peppermint oil:
To repel gophers naturally, try putting a few drops of peppermint oil on cotton balls, and then placing the cotton balls inside tunnel entrances. Gophers do not like the smell of peppermint, so this non-lethal gopher control method is a natural gopher repellent that can help rid your yard of these subterranean rodents.
Most homeowners want to repel gophers because they are killing their lawn or plants, but there are some plants that gophers do not like. This gives you the opportunity to plan your landscaping in a way that can help repel gophers naturally. For example, you can try planting lavender, rosemary or salvia as border plants along fences or around your lawn. To protect your vegetable garden from gophers, try planting marigolds as a protective border. Marigolds are well known for repelling many unwanted garden insects as well, so this option can help save your garden from a variety of pests.
8. Ultrasonic repellents:
Ultrasonic gopher repellents are easy to find at garden centers, home improvement stores and online. Most of these devices are powered by either batteries or the sun, so you can place them almost anywhere in your yard. The emitters are above ground, so you will see them. This may be an issue for some homeowners, but you should be able to place them out of view of outdoor living areas.
The ultrasonic vibrations emitted from the device is unpleasant and can help repel gophers and keep them out of your yard.
9. Garlic stakes:
The combination of garlic and stakes may make this sound more like a vampire repellent, but this simple, natural gopher control method can be quite effective. Touted to last up to one year, these small stakes are considered safe and can be placed throughout your yard everywhere you see a hole. You should be able to find garlic gopher repellent stakes and similar options at your local garden center or online.
10. Artificial grass:
One way to keep gophers from ruining your natural grass lawn is to replace it with artificial grass. While artificial grass does not guarantee an end to your gopher problem, it does make your lawn area a less desirable spot for tunneling. One way that it does this is by removing the food source. If there are no roots to eat, gophers are much less likely to think the area is a good spot to tunnel. Additionally, properly installed artificial grass includes layers of materials that create an environment that is not conducive to digging.
11. Caster oil:
Using caster oil to get rid of gophers in your yard is probably the fastest-growing natural gopher control method. Many homeowners are seeing success with this method and it is generally considered an effective way to repel gophers. The most common way to use caster oil as a gopher repellent is to purchase caster oil granules, but you can also make your own caster oil deterrent at home.
To make your own gopher repellent, mix one part caster oil with one part dish soap. Mix three to five tablespoons of this mixture with water and pour it near holes and in areas where there is gopher activity.
You can also place caster beans in the tunnels so that the smell of the beans will repel the gophers, or you can plant caster bean plants around your yard to deter them. However, castor beans are poisonous, so if you have dogs or children, do not plant caster bean plants or place caster beans anywhere in your yard.
If you purchase the caster oil granules (which is much easier and more convenient than the homemade version), simply spread the granules in areas where you want to get rid of gophers in your yard. The most effective way to use this method is to start by spreading the granules in one section of your yard then, a few days later, spread the granules in another section of your yard. Continue to do sections every few days to push the gophers to your desired point of exit.
Since we rarely get rain in Southern California, you will need to water areas in which you distribute the granules to get the caster oil down into the soil. If you happen to apply this natural gopher deterrent when rain is in the forecast, you can just leave them alone and allow the rain do wet the ground for you.
12. Owl boxes:
Okay, this one should maybe be on the lethal list, but we can always hope that encouraging owls to hang out around your property will simply scare the gophers away. Installing owl boxes provides potential homes for owls and encourages them to live on your property. This, in turn, can naturally cut down on your gopher population by either scaring them away or ensuring their spot on the food chain.
You can always try plastic owls first – just remember that you need to move your fake owls often or your gophers will quickly realize that they are not a threat.
13. Fill holes:
Once you have encouraged your gophers to leave your yard, be sure to fill the holes to help deter future gophers from moving in.
Have you used natural gopher control methods to repel gophers without killing them? Which methods have worked best for you?