[permaculture] rodent-repellant herbs?

Ben Martin Horst benjamin_horst at myrealbox.com
Thu May 12 19:50:08 EDT 2005


Just a note on terminology, as folks seem to be confusing moles with 
gophers:

Moles are insectivores -- basically subterranean shrews. They primarily 
eat worms, grubs, and other arthropods living in the soil. Their tunnels 
may uproot plants, but they're unlikely to do much munching on roots or 
any other part of your plants.

Gophers, on the other hand, are rodents, and will eat plenty of 
vegetation. In some parts of North America they can do a lot of damage 
to one's garden. My in-laws (northern Willamette Valley, Oregon) have 
plenty of gophers, and occasionally they'll notice that certain plants 
have gone missing entirely. Upon further observation, they find that the 
gophers have pulled the entire plant down into their tunnels to get at 
the nice green bits that grow above ground. The stories I've heard from 
folks who have lots of gophers suggest that there are no really 
effective ways of controlling or eliminating them. Gopher plant (castor) 
doesn't work (they won't eat it, but it won't keep them from anything 
around it), predators (cats and dogs) can get at them only on the rare 
occasion that they surface (maybe ferrets would do better?), and sonic 
devices (thumpers) seem generally to annoy people more than they do 
gophers. Traps will kill some of them, but they breed and recolonize a 
lot faster than they can be trapped. Also, some traps (the ones that 
fire a bullet into the ground) have a bad tendancy to misfire and do 
extensive injury to the person setting them -- and they're probably 
illegal in most places.

My suggestion would be to experiment a bit ... gophers really seem to 
like certain plants more than others. Out of the 18 gopher species in 
the US and Canada, 13 of them have very localized ranges. The camas 
pocket gopher, for example, is found only in the Willamette Valley of 
Oregon. Texas has around 10 species. This high localization suggests 
that they might also be fairly specialized in terms of diet, sort of 
like Darwin's finches in the Galapagos, but on a larger scale. One could 
try planting a wide variety of plants and keep careful track of which 
species and varieties get heavily munched and which are avoided.

On the other hand, one could discover that the "standard" garden 
vegetables are all on the gophers' "delicacies" list. Another 
possibility would be to create raised beds and enclosing the sides and 
bottom with a fairly fine-grade wire mesh down to a depth of a couple 
feet... this would be a labor-intensive method only suitable for a small 
area.

One last suggestion would be to leave plenty of brush, mulch, and rock 
piles around to provide habitat for snakes. Never underestimate the 
value of a good reptile. Of course, if one is living in an area where 
poisonous snakes are common, one might not want to encourage their 
presence close to heavily-frequented areas like the home and garden.

-Ben
Southern Willamette Valley



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