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Outsmart Gophers in Your Garden

Building raised garden beds and lining them with wire is one fool-proof way to beat the insatiable varmints.

Gophers are a pain in your garden. There's no arguing with that and, shy of poisoning them, there's no easy way to get rid the varmints.

I remember when I was a kid, Mary, the grandmotherly neighbor up the road, had a fail-proof method to keep gophers out of her flower garden. She used to run a garden hose into one gopher hole while lurking over the other end of the tunnel, armed with a flat-nosed shovel. When that near-drowning gopher spurted out of the tunnel, Mary brought down the shovel on it with all the strength in her 4-foot, 10-inch body.

Personally, I've never been able scare a gopher out of a tunnel with a garden hose-induced flood. Other failed methods I've tried include: gopher traps baited with cheese, peanut butter or chewing gum; urging my dogs to hunt gophers; and shooting a flare gun into the tunnels (though that is really entertaining).

The only thing that's ever worked is building a garden bin and lining it with gopher wire. That's precisely what we're doing in the backyard.

Plus, beyond beating the gophers, the raised beds look clean in the yard, mean a little less bending over while gardening and allow us to control what type of soil we're growing our veggies in.

Here's what you need:

  • Long 12-inch wide planks of wood. Redwood is great because it doesn't need to be treated (bad for your veggies) and lasts for about 10 years. Get these pre-cut to the dimensions you want when you buy them, unless you have a good saw at home.
  • A roll of gopher wire (the holes in chicken wire can be too big and some enterprising gophers can wiggle their way through). 
  • 2-by-4s (optional).
  • Nails or wood screws; hammer or electric drill.
  • Staple gun.
  • Good dirt.

We found a great deal on redwood planks at Big Creek Lumber, the family-owned timber company based in Davenport with outlets in Watsonville and Santa Cruz. About 100 linear feet (the end of the pile) cost us 80 cents a foot.

From that, we constructed four planter boxes: two standard 8-by-3-foot units and two trapezoid-shaped boxes with the scraps. The little remnants we had left were cut into blocking pieces to reinforce the corners of the boxes.

Pick the bottom side of the bin and roll the wire over the edges of the wood. Staple gun the to the frame of the garden bin.

Flip the bin back over (you may need a friend to help—redwood is heavy). We edged the top with two-by-fours to create a nice finish and a little ledge to sit on when digging in the new garden.

Lastly, fill with dirt, and plant your veggies and flowers.

It's that simple. You can garden without fear gophers will gnaw down your produce in its prime. There are more pictures of the building process on Santa Cruz Wire.

Get supplies at:

  • Big Creek Lumber, 1400 W. Beach St.; hours 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday; 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays; closed Sundays
  • , 1060 S Green Valley Rd.; hours 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays
  • , 355 S. Green Valley Rd., hours 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 8 am. to 8 p.m. on Sundays

Next week? We'll talk with expert gardeners about what to plant.

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