Great battles can ensue between homeowners and gophers as they compete to harvest vegetables. These burrowing creatures can cause significant damage with their extensive burrows that go into gardens and underneath structures. Thankfully, you can use plants that gophers hate to help repel them from your property.
These include popularly used plants such as lavender, garlic, pine, salvia, oleander, marigolds, geraniums, and daffodils. Plant these around the perimeter of your garden, or put them in moveable pots. With patience, aromas from these plants will tell gophers to stay away.
This article lists plants that gophers hate to smell and eat and other natural substances you can use to drive them away.
This article includes other options for repelling gophers that can be effectively used in conjunction with plants for a multi-pronged approach.
Plants Gophers Hate
Gophers rely on their keen sense of smell to find food. As herbivores, they will eat entire plants, including roots and tubers, buds and flowers, as well as grass and vegetables.
The following plants are those that gophers do not like to smell or eat. These plants either smell terrible, have a disagreeable taste, or are toxic; therefore, gophers avoid them.
In particular, when a gopher’s sense of smell is overwhelmed or inhibited, it cannot smell potential predators. This makes them feel unsafe and more likely to leave an area.
Please note that these lists are not all-inclusive, and other plants may work, primarily if they emit a strong, offensive aroma. The plants listed here are the ones most commonly used to repel gophers.
Plants Gophers Hate to Smell
- Caper spurge (Also called “gopher spurge”)
- Crown imperials
- Pine (tree or shrub)
Plants Gophers Hate to Smell
These also smell bad to gophers, but if they decide to nibble on them are toxic or bad-tasting.
- Narcissus (daffodils)
Note: Garlic stakes are a popular product. These stake directly into the ground and emit an offensive odor to repel gophers and other burrowing creatures.
Gophers do not prefer many species of drought-tolerant plants. However, choose plants that will thrive in your area and soil.
A local gardening store typically offers plants that grow in your area, whereas online companies will ship out anywhere.
Remember that plants need to be planted in different seasons, so knowing what you want and when to plant it is beneficial. This method of repelling gophers takes time.
Plant these around perimeters and, amongst other vegetation, to create an odor barrier. Many of these will deter other pests, such as squirrels, rats, and ants.
Herbs and plants such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and geranium can be planted in pots and moved around to areas where gophers eat other vegetation.
Using Plant Oils
Knowing that gophers dislike many plant aromas, you can deter them with essential oils derived from them by making a DIY spray.
Popular essential oils are lavender, thyme, rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, or geranium. You can safely mix these oils as well.
To make a spray, add 10 to 15 drops of essential oil(s) to a spray bottle filled with water. Shake to disperse the oil drops each time before spraying.
Conversely, you can put a few essential oil drops on cotton balls or pads and place them near gopher holes or plants you wish to keep them away from.
Take care not to get essential oils on your hands or skin. Undiluted, these are very potent and can cause skin irritation or “burns.” Keep these out of the reach of children and pets.
Essential oil applications must be reapplied every few days and after it rains.
Other Natural Things Gophers Hate
Gophers also do not like the smell of other natural things such as fish oil, pet feces, coffee ground, castor oil, or tabasco sauce.
The scents will mask food sources and keep gophers from smelling any nearby predators.
Here are some suggestions on how to apply each of these:
Fish oil: You can pour fish oil directly into burrows and onto topsoil.
- Some people will use fish scraps (such as scales) after fishing and put these in gopher holes and around plants.
- While fish oil and parts are offensive to herbivores, like gophers, they can attract other pests that eat meat.
Pet feces: Cats and dogs are predators of gophers. Toss some cat litter waste or dog feces into gopher holes.
- Handle pet feces with precaution and wear gloves.
Coffee grounds: Use leftover grounds from your morning cup of coffee.
- Pour them into the entranceways to their burrows.
- Bury some in the topsoil around plants (if they are acid-loving).
Castor Oil: This vegetable oil has a strong odor and tastes offensive to many rodents. What to do:
- Add two tablespoons of dishwashing detergent to ¼-cup of castor oil. Add this mixture to 1 gallon of water.
- Then pour it into a spray bottle as needed and apply generously near burrowing areas and around vegetation.
- Alternatively, castor oil can also be purchased as granules sprinkled on and then watered to set in.
Tabasco sauce: Make a spray with 4 cups of water, half a bottle (1 ounce) of tabasco sauce, and a squirt of dish detergent. Shake to mix and apply generously around areas of infestation.
- Conversely, you can add this spray to cotton balls and drop them into gopher holes.
- Chili powder or flakes can also be sprinkled to have similar effects.
What Else Do Gophers Hate?
Gophers also do not like things that disturb their burrows or that give them a sense of danger.
The following implements can be used in conjunction with plants that gophers hate. Often a multi-prong approach that varies works well to keep gophers from getting comfortable with deterrents.
If you try these along with plant deterrents and the gophers stick around, it may be time to call for professional help.
Many of the following strategies are also effective for other pests that invade yards.
By creating physical barriers (exclusion), you can deter gophers.
Hardware Cloth/Wire Mesh
Bury hardware cloth or wire mesh minimally 2 ½ feet deep with an “L”-bend away from the plants. This creates a barrier that gophers cannot burrow through.
Line the base and walls with hardware cloth for raised garden beds so they cannot burrow up into the area.
While gophers spend most of their time underground, they will come to the surface for food.
You can create a garden cage to keep them out in conjunction with hardware cloth to surround your plants.
If you cannot build an entire cage or bury fencing around large areas, you can try wire mesh baskets. Digger baskets can be purchased premade, or you can make them yourself.
If you make one, ensure no gaps for gophers (or other burrowing pests such as voles) to squeeze through.
To use these, you dig a hole and place the basket into the hole. Then, you put the plant into the basket and fill it with soil. The plant’s roots have no problem growing through the wire, but it keeps the gophers out.
Soaked rags with pine disinfectant or fabric softener sheets stuffed into gopher holes can be effective stinky deterrents.
However, consider reserving these for use only if other odors fail to work. These can negatively impact the soil, other wildlife, and groundwater.
Remember that gophers do not have excellent eyesight or hearing, so noises from windchimes or flashing lights are only sometimes the best deterrents.
However, loud sounds that create ground vibrations can scare them away. Some ultrasonic devices are modulated to produce sounds that gophers can hear.
Sound tactics typically work for a short term because gophers will either ignore or get used to them.
Gophers fear pets, barn owls, and gopher snakes.
Gopher snakes eat every 4 to 6 weeks but typically are not the primary controllers of gopher populations. However, a small family of urban owls can eat up to 1,000 gophers a year.
An owl decoy is less likely to deter gophers since they spend most of their time underground, and they will eventually learn that it is a fake. So if you wish to invite live barn owls to your property, set up an owl nesting box, and hopefully, one will move in!
The presence of pet dogs and cats can scare gophers away. Make sure your pets are up to date with their vaccinations.
Baiting And Trapping
Catch-and-release traps or baits and lethal traps should only be used as a last resort. However, many local laws and state regulations about using traps and rodenticides exist.
Make sure you know if these methods can be used in your area. Professional wildlife control or exterminators can help you determine the best course for persistent gopher issues.
Many plants are offensive to gophers, including caper spurge, rosemary, lavender, sage, eucalyptus, allium, and garlic.
Planting these around your yard, garden, or in pots can help to deter them from eating other vegetation.
Essential oils and other natural methods using tabasco sauce, coffee grounds, or fish or castor oil can add to the offensive odors from which a gopher will run.
Additional strategies, such as wire baskets or embedded hardware cloth, can further protect vulnerable vegetation from gopher consumption.