How to Control Garden Gophers and Moles Organically

Learn how to naturally control gophers and moles in your garden without the use of harmful chemicals. Discover effective and organic techniques to keep your plants safe and healthy.

Understanding the Behavior of Garden Gophers and Moles

Garden gophers and moles can be a common nuisance to gardeners, landscapers, and homeowners. Not only do they dig up lawns and gardens, but they can also damage trees by chewing on their roots. These critters are often confused with each other due to their similar behavior and habitat preferences. However, understanding the biology and behavior of gophers and moles can help one control them better.

Biology of Gophers

Physical Description

Gophers are small burrowing rodents that belong to the family Geomyidae. They have stout bodies that range from 5-14 inches in length, depending on the species. They have small eyes and ears and short tails covered with fine hair. Gophers are best known for their large front teeth; they use these incisors to dig tunnels and gnaw on plant roots.

Gopher fur typically varies in color from brown to grayish-brown or black, depending on the species. The pocket gopher is one such gopher whose fur varies from a creamy white color to dark brown or blackish-brown.


Gophers are fossorial animals that reside underground most of their lives. They build complex networks of tunnels up to six feet deep into the soil using their strong limbs combined with specialized digging claws on their forefeet. Gophers create extensive burrow systems that include living quarters, storage rooms for food caches as well as nesting areas.

To find food in forested areas or agricultural fields, they build cylindrical mounds above ground called “mole hills” which signify where they dug into soil looking for insects, worms or vegetation roots. Some common plants damaged by gophers include vegetables like carrots, root problems in pecan orchards etc.

Additionally, gophers don’t hibernate in winters so they stay active throughout seasons making sure they have enough food supply in the burrows. Due to their tunneling behaviour they may also at times cause erosion, desertification where soil loose its moisture .

Biology of Moles

Physical Description

Moles are small cylindrical-shaped mammals that belong to the family Talpidae. They share certain physical similarities with gophers, like having a short tail and tiny eyes and ears. Moles are usually smaller than gophers about 5-8 inches long. The most recognizable feature of moles is their broad shovel-like forepaws which are armed with stout nails alongwith naked palm surfaces.

Like Gophers, the fur coloration of these animals varies from almost black to somewhat grayish-brown or occasionally even light brown.


Moles spend most of their time underground as well, except for when breeding. They can dig upto 18 ft an hour and create shallow tunnels near lawns or gardens. Moles eat primarily insects like grubs, earthworms and other small prey that inhabit soil layers. Low Calcium content in soil determine mole’s maturation. They usually live by themselves unlike gophers who generally reside in colonies. However, in less ideal conditions such as competition for resources (food, mating partners etc.),they take up monogamous relationships. Females breed during Feb-March giving birth to litters of around 3-5 pups per litter. Most mole species don’t hibernate either .

Differences Between Gophers and Moles

Garden gophers and moles have a few notable differences between them:

  • Tunnels: Gopher tunnels run several feet deep, larger than those made by moles which run closer to the surface.
  • Soil Displacement: Mole hills are conical shaped, resulting because the animal pushes soil directly outwards while gopher’s mounds appear circular due to push-and-pull action involved.
  • Diet: Gophers consume mostly plant roots and generally have meatless diet, whereas moles are carnivores that feed mainly on insects.
  • Paws: Mole’s front paws are shaped like spades with 5 finger-like structures to help them move soil out of the way, whereas gophers have longer claws in comparision suited for burrowing in harder substrates.

What is Gopher?

Gopher is a protocol for distributing, searching, and retrieving documents over the Internet that was popular during the early days of the World Wide Web. [Wikipedia]

Signs of Gopher and Mole Infestation in Your Garden

If you’re a gardener, one of your worst nightmares may be the sight of a gopher or mole infestation in your garden. These burrowing pests can cause serious damage to your plants and make it difficult to grow anything successfully. It’s important to identify the signs of these pests early on so you can take action before it’s too late.

Identifying Gopher Infestation

Gophers are small rodents that live underground and can create extensive tunnel systems in your garden. Here are some signs that gophers may have invaded your space:

Surface Activity

One common sign of a gopher infestation is when you see mounds of soil popping up throughout your garden bed or lawn. These mounds, also known as “gopher hills,” occur when the animals push dirt above their underground tunnels as they dig around.

Another way to spot surface activity is by looking for raised ridges on the ground’s surface with about three-quarter inch-wide openings, which are indicative of large soil plugs pushed out from beneath.

Plant Damage

Of course, not all gophers build tunnels exposed enough for hills to appear; therefore plant damage may come as an additional marker of their presence. They typically enjoy feeding on root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes along with other plant roots making new seedlings unable to grow since their foundational work has been ruined.

If you notice that certain plants in your garden have wilted leaves or suddenly die altogether, gophers might be at fault. The same goes for trees: if they lose bark because those burrowed cavities encircle most of its roots, then it won’t last long until death comes knocking at its door.

Identifying Mole Infestation

Moles differ from gophers physically; they have pointed noses and large front paws created for digging through loose soil and subterranean application. Here are the signs of a mole infestation you should look out for:


Tunnels in your lawn or garden bed are the most common sign of a mole infestation. Mole tunnels differ from gopher hills in that they occur just beneath the soil surface instead of creating noticeable mounds, you could be looking for connected paths with roughly 2 inches wide ridges. These structures aren’t only an indicator of digging activity but also trapping around preferred food items, earthworms to be specific.


While mole tunnels don’t obvious mound up dirt like those of gophers, one running directly beneath usually leads to pile-ups camouflaged within grass patches known as “molehills.” These new humps arise when the moles come back to their burrows to empty soil excavated during their full-time job exploiting your garden.

When you see any signs that suggest gophers or moles may have taken up residence in your garden, it’s time to take action before they do too much damage.

Remember: never use toxic chemicals as they can harm both wildlife and future crops. Implement natural remedies like mesh wire barriers or castor oil granules safe for humans and non-pest animals but triggers irritation that approaches unbearable stinging conditions on salivary glands of these burrowing rodents so much they pack-up and leave the premise permanently.

Natural and Organic Methods for Controlling Gophers and Moles

Gophers and moles are destructive rodents that can cause significant damage to gardens, lawns, and yards. Garden lovers often find themselves in a dilemma when these pests dig up the roots of their plants or tunnel through their well-manicured lawns. While there are various commercial products available in the market for controlling gophers and moles, they contain harmful chemicals that can be hazardous to both humans and pets. Fortunately, there are natural and organic methods that can help control these pests without harming the environment.


Trapping is an effective way of controlling both gophers and moles. The process involves placing traps in active burrow systems. When set properly, traps lure the animals into them without causing any harm to other animals or the environment.

Gopher Trapping Tips
  • Identify where the gopher has dug its tunnels.
  • Set traps in pairs back-to-back so that you trap the gopher coming from either direction.
  • Use gloves when handling traps so as not to leave human scent on them.
  • Reset or relocate traps after catching one gopher since they all have their own burrow system.
Mole Trapping Tips
  • Identify active mole runways by flattening out mounds.
  • Position traps correctly perpendicular to mole tunnels near surface openings.
  • Avoid touching th event with your hands – moles have a very keen sense of smell
  • Check your trap regularly as stale air inside runs could kill trapped individuals.

Burrow Destruction

Burrow destruction is another method used in controlling gophers and moles naturally. It entails collapsing tunnels using water or crushing them manually using a shovel while wearing gloves.

Properly filling up burrows with soil will interrupt their daily routines like eating feasting on plant roots with needed access to oxygen or living space above ground, then forcing them to move on.


Fumigation involves the use of natural or organic substances to expel gophers and moles from their burrow systems. One effective method involves using the smoke produced by burning natural materials like castor oil granules or chili pepper powder. By pouring a good amount of these products down burrows and lighting them up, they will cause repeated coughing, sneezing, tearing up – stimulating unpleasant effects on those pests until they leave their comfort zone in search for comfort elsewhere.

Ultrasonic devices can also be used to emit a high-pitched sound that human ears cannot detect but disrupts the hearing abilities of gophers and moles. However, some might find certain pitches particularly annoying which may then result to a false claim given by marketers about its effectiveness while it is mostly exaggerated in most cases.

Repellent Plants

Using repellent plants can be an eco-friendly way of controlling gophers and moles while adding color and texture to your garden landscape. Natural repellents like garlic, thyme, rosemary discourage rodents by obstructing their sense of smell. Planting these herbs around flower beds or plant containers can keep more troublesome house pests away instead of other chemicals with persistent residues found in commercial stores for toxic alternatives.

  • Garlic: Not only does garlic repel household insects such as mosquitoes; it’s also effective against other animals.
  • Castor beans: These large seeds contain ricinoprotein which causes common pet animals’ digestive systems to collapse when consumed (mutually beneficial mammals like ground squirrels naturally avoid them.)
  • Daffodils: Alkaloids present makes daffodil bulbs not suited for eating but great at scaring off rodents.

To conclude, controlling gophers and moles organically entails taking measures that prioritize both the environment’s well-being as well as keeping your garden healthy without fallouts of biochemical threats. Hopefully, the natural methods outlined above will lead to more sustainable practices that keep gophers and moles under control while preserving the beauty of your home’s yard.

Companion Planting Strategies to Deter Gophers and Moles

Garden gophers and moles can be a significant headache for gardeners. Instead of using toxic chemicals or traps, companion planting is an organic method that discourages these pests. Companion planting refers to planting certain plants, herbs, and flowers together to help each other grow.

Here are some companion planting strategies to control garden gophers and moles organically:

Plant Families That Repel Gophers and Moles

Some plant families are known for their ability to repel garden pests like gophers and moles. Here are some examples:

  • Alliums: Onions, garlic, chives, leeks
  • Euphorbia: Spurge
  • Fritillaries: Checker lilies
  • Marigolds: Pot marigold, calendula
  • Narcissus: Daffodils
  • Castor Beans

Planting these plants around the edges of your garden or between your crops can be an effective way to deter gophers and moles. Their strong smell helps mask the aroma of roots that these pests love.

Plants That Attract Natural Predators

Another organic method is attracting natural predators of garden gophers and moles. These predators include birds of prey, snakes, owls, coyotes, foxes, cats. Try adding plants that attract them into your garden ecosystem like:

  • Sunflowers: These beautiful flowers attract birds such as blue jays who feed on rodents.
  • Clover – Many beneficial insects like ladybugs hunt cabbage moth larvae in the clover.
  • Yarrow – A colorful flower that attracts predatory insects like hoverflies which fly over the fields in search of aphids while preying on small caterpillars.

Birdhouses are also great additions to your garden if you want more bird visitors. The housing will provide a nesting area for feathered friends that target rodents.

Cover Crops

Cover crops are non-cash crops planted to help protect and improve soil health. They support beneficial insects and help suppress weeds while also benefiting human health. Sowing cover crops can be an effective way to deter gophers and moles. Here are some popular cover crop options:

  • Brassicas: These plants can be great options for deterring gophers, as they create toxic chemicals which repel these pests.
  • Legumes: Plants like clover can add nitrogen back into the soil helping increasing soil fertility.
  • Sorghum Sudangrass is a plant disease suppressor with powerful roots that penetrate deep into the earth surface, making it ideal for suppressing weeds while simultaneously providing shade to the nearby garden crops.

Bulleted list:

  • Cover crops help improve soil health.
  • Cover crops can deter gophers and moles by creating toxic chemicals or making the area less favorable to them by preventing weed growth.
  • Legumes, brassicas, sorghum sudangrass are examples of great cover crop choices that attract beneficial predators in addition to nurturing the soil.

By implementing companion planting strategies like planting repellent plants alongside beneficial predator-attracting plants, you can maintain a healthy environment in your garden organically. By planning ahead with natural means of protection against unwanted pests, you won’t have to rely upon more toxic alternatives which often harm our land over time.

Proper Soil Management Techniques to Discourage Gophers and Moles

Gardening enthusiasts often consider gophers and moles as pests that can wreak havoc on their lawns and gardens. These creatures can damage the roots of plants, cause tunnels that destroy soil structure, and leave mounds of dirt on the surface of the ground. While some would resort to lethal methods such as trapping or applying pesticides, others prefer more natural ways to control these critters. Proper soil management is one technique that organic gardeners can adopt in discouraging gophers and moles from invading their gardens.

Proper Irrigation

All living organisms need water to survive including plants, gophers, and moles. Although these digging pests do not directly feed on plant roots, they are attracted to moist soil where there is an abundant supply of food such as insects. By controlling irrigation properly, gardeners can create soil conditions less conducive for rodents’ existence.

  • Water deeply but infrequently – Gradually moving water deeper into the soil encourages roots to grow deep instead of staying near the surface where they are susceptible to being chewed by digging creatures.
  • Install a soaker hose system – This system delivers a slow and steady flow of water directly onto the garden bed’s root zone reducing evaporation while promoting deep watering.
  • Avoid evening irrigation – Moisture left on leaves at night attracts insects which in turn attract burrowing animals. Water plants early in the morning so leaves can dry during daylight hours.
  • Use drought-tolerant crops – If there isn’t any host for gophers, then they will not be attracted to your garden.

Soil Aeration

A well-drained but oxygen-rich environment is essential for healthy plant growth while making it challenging for tunneling rodents since moist dense soils are harder to dig through than soils with a good structure.

  • Use aerators – Lawn aerators pull-out small cylindrical divots that penetrate through compacted soil allowing air and water to flow freely into the root zone. Core aeration should be done in the fall before winter sets in.
  • Till a new plot of land – If you’re planning on growing vegetables or flowers, it’s best to start off with untilled-over soil as opposed to pre-planted land. Moles are more likely to leave your garden alone if they sense undisturbed nature.

Soil Amendments

Adding soil amendments improve soil structure, nutrient absorption, plant growth while discouraging burrowing animals from damaging your garden beds.

  • Add organic matter – Compost adds vital organic material to the soil which breaks up hard clay soils and improves the texture of sandy soils. The presence of beneficial microorganisms attracts worms which naturally aerate and fertilize the earth while creating tunnels that discourage burrowers such as rodents from settling down near plants.
  • Use castor oil granules – Castor oil-based repellents disrupt gophers’ digestive system causing them to search for food sources elsewhere.
  • Plant Gopher Spurge – A drought-tolerant herbaceous plant that bears toxic sap poisonous enough for killing gophers when ingested.

The Role of Beneficial Predators in Gopher and Mole Control

When gophers and moles invade your garden, it can be frustrating to find effective ways to control them. While there are various methods of controlling these pests, such as traps or poison baits, they often harm other wildlife and the environment. Fortunately, there are natural predators that help control gophers and moles without causing additional harm.


Owls are nocturnal birds of prey that hunt for small mammals like gophers and moles. They use their sharp talons to catch their prey silently while in flight. Owls have excellent night vision which makes them efficient nighttime hunters. These birds can eat up to 80 rodents in a month, including mice, rats, gophers, and moles.

Attracting owls to your garden requires creating an inviting habitat for them. You can do this by nesting boxes where the owls can roost during the day; ensure that they have access to plenty of water and food sources like insects and small rodents.


Hawks are raptors that hunt using their keen sense of sight when soaring overhead. They prefer hunting larger animals than owls hence making them ideal for areas with lots of open spaces like golf courses or pastures.

Similar to owls, hawks also require habitats with ample food sources (such as smaller rodents) to survive regularly. If youโ€™re interested in attracting hawks towards your garden area during nesting season (from March through August), make sure you install a tall pole or tree branch high off the ground so they can spot the rodents from above easily.


Snakes are great natural pest controllers since most snake species prefer feeding on small mammals like mice rather than seeds or any vegetation type-based foods. Gophers and moles are their commonly preferred food type.

Some common garden snakes that feast on gophers and moles include Western Diamondback, Bullsnake, Garter Snake, among others. You could encourage these natural predators to your garden by installing snake-friendly habitats such as bushes (where small rodents would tend to flock), rocks with crawl space underneath for hiding.


Cats are one of the most popular pets globally, but did you know they’re also natural hunters? That’s right; they’ve been known to possess superb hunting skills that can help control rodent populations in and around your gardening areas.

While house cats may occasionally kill mice or rats as toys, feral or farm cats can be more effective at controlling larger populations of pests like gophers and moles. If you have a cat at home who loves chasing after small animals outside, consider allowing them access outside regularly since they might get lucky enough sometimes to catch one of the garden pests.

Homemade Organic Gopher and Mole Repellents

Gophers and moles can wreak havoc on your garden by destroying plants, digging tunnels, and ruining the overall aesthetics of your yard. While there are many chemical pesticides available to control these pests, they often come with harmful side effects for the environment and other wildlife. Instead, why not try some homemade organic repellents that are safe for both you and your garden? Here are four effective options:

Castor Oil

Castor oil is a natural oil derived from the seeds of the castor bean plant. It has been used for centuries as a remedy for many ailments, but it also has insecticidal properties that make it an effective pest repellent. When sprayed in or around gopher and mole tunnels, castor oil disrupts their sense of smell, causing them to vacate the area.

To make a castor oil spray:

  • Mix one cup of castor oil with three cups of water.
  • Add one tablespoon of dish soap (to help the solution adhere to plant leaves) and shake well.
  • Apply the mixture using a spray bottle directly to gopher or mole holes/tunnels.
  • Reapply after any heavy rain or irrigation.

Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is another home remedy that can be used as a non-toxic gopher repellent. The high magnesium content in Epsom salt creates an unwelcoming environment for these burrowing rodents.

To use Epsom salt:

  • Sprinkle one tablespoon of Epsom salt into each hole before watering.
  • Another option is to mix two tablespoons of Epsom salt per gallon of water in a sprayer bottle and apply over areas where gophers have been active.
  • Reapply every few weeks.

Chili Powder

Chili powder contains capsaicin which irritates animals’ nasal passages when they inhale it. This gives chili powder a powerful scent that repels gophers and moles from your garden. It is also good for deterring other pests such as rabbits and deer.

To use chili powder:

  • Sprinkle some chili powder around the perimeter of your garden or near any burrow holes.
  • Repeat every two to three days until you see results.
  • Take care not to overapply the chili powder as it can irritate human skin and eyes.

Garlic and Pepper Spray

A mixture of garlic and pepper spray can create an unpleasant smell that will drive away rodents. The intense spiciness in peppers will help deter gophers, while garlic has a strong odor that can mask desirable scents like plant roots.

To make a garlic and pepper spray:

  • Blend together one small onion, four cloves of minced garlic, one tablespoon ground cayenne pepper, and one quart water in a blender or food processor.
  • Let the mixture sit for at least 24 hours.
  • Strain through cheesecloth or any fine-mesh cloth into a gallon-sized container.
  • Add water until the container is full.
  • Pour your homemade repellent into a spray bottle and apply directly into or around gopher tunnels.

Tips for Preventing Gopher and Mole Infestations in Your Garden

Garden gophers and moles may seem innocent at first, but it doesn’t take long for them to wreak havoc on your garden. These pesky critters dig tunnels and create holes that can damage plants, uproot roots, and cause uneven ground. Worse still, their presence can attract predators like snakes, which few people want to have slithering around their property.

If you’re struggling with a gopher or mole infestation in your garden, don’t worry! There are plenty of organic methods you can use to control them. Here are some tips:

Garden Maintenance

By maintaining your garden regularly, you decrease the chances of attracting gophers and moles in the first place. Keeping your garden trimmed also makes it easier for you to detect any signs of infestation early on.

  1. Mow your lawn regularly:

    Keeping your lawn mowed short will help prevent gophers and moles from burrowing underground where they often do significant damage.

  2. Clean up debris:

    Remove any unnecessary piles of leaves or debris as they provide hiding places for rodents.

  3. Prune bushes and trees:

    Ensure bushes are cut back every winter so that there is less shelter for these pests to hide under.

  4. Keep grass clippings off plants:

    Leaving grass clippings on top of plants encourages pests because it creates a warm moist nest.

Physical Barriers

One way to stop these critters from munching away on your plants is by using physical barriers.

  1. Plant in raised beds: Raised beds aren’t just helpful for drainage; they create an extra barrier between soil layer containing the plant roots and any burrowing animals underneath the soil.

  2. Use wire baskets around bulbs:

    When planting bulbs such as tulips make sure to surround them with a wire basket to prevent gophers and moles from and digging them up.

  3. Strategically placed mesh fencing:

    Place galvanized hardware cloth or landscape mesh fencing at least 2-feet deep in strategic locations such as underneath plant beds barrier around vulnerable plants.


Keeping an eye on your garden will help you catch any infestation issues early. You’ll be able to react quickly to signs of trouble, whether itโ€™s hemipharodial mounds or tunnels.

1>Watch out for pile-ups: If you see piles of soil on the lawn or in your garden beds, It’s likely that they are pests’ tunnels which indicate their presence.

  1. Check Your Plant Roots:

    Plants may start to wilt when roots have been gnawed away, roots damage typically be a sign of gophers or moles underground.

  2. Castor oil repellants:

    Another way to monitor these pests is by planting nigella damascena flowers which can repel these pesky critters naturally. 

Landscape Design

A well-designed landscape could also reduce the chances of getting plagued by rodents.

1> Remove their habitat: Removing tall grasses, leaf debris and rocks from the yard can decrease hiding places for rodents.

  1. Use companion planting techniques

    Techniques such as Tansy herb planted around susceptible plants act as natural repellents.

3>Layout keeps them down: Outlining borders of garden with border stones enables homeowners restrict vulnerable areas entry points in gardens where gophers and mile hide-aways exist.

In conclusion, while organic pest control requires more effort than simply using poisonous bait products available at most shops, taking the time to perform maintenance tasks like checking roots regularly, monitoring for specific pests seasonally helps deter infestations restlessly looking everywhere for viable shelter alternatives including your garden land!

Try these natural and organic techniques shared Employing an integrated approach that encompass regular maintenance, physical barriers placement around vulnerable areas, landscape designing and monitoring is pivotal in managing garden pests with nontoxic means.

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