Gopher Wire 101: How It Works and Why It’s So Popular
Gophers can cause tremendous damage to lawns and grassy areas.
If you have ever had gophers in your yard, you know how much damage they can do. Damage to expensive sod and trip hazards can occur quickly from even a short term gopher infestation. The most effective method of protecting your landscape from the nuisance of gophers is by installing gopher wire below your grass or planting areas.
Gopher wire is a ¾ inch hexagonal woven or welded metal mesh typically made from 20 gauge wire. The mesh is buried a few inches under the soil to prevent gophers from burrowing under plants for food. When installed below grass, a dirt layer of 1-2" should be placed on top of the mesh below the sod or soil to be seeded.
It may sound like a lot of work to bury what can best be described as a ‘horizontal fence’ under your yard. But we will go into more depth (pun intended) below to show why gopher wire has become so popular.
Gopher Wire Rolls:
Why Does Gopher Wire Work?
Gophers are burrowing rodents that come up close to the surface to eat roots for food. In order to block gophers from eating plant roots, gopher wire is buried deep enough under the ground to route the gophers away from this food source.
Gophers have very sharp and strong, teeth and their lips go up behind their teeth, which helps keep dirt out of their mouth while they burrow through the earth. When a gopher is happily burrowing along and encounters something hard, like a rock, or a metal object, they will turn and try to go around the obstacle.
Photo of typical gopher
Gopher wire is that obstacle that keeps gophers from going up to where their food source is. After finding wire everywhere they look, the gopher will eventually leave the area for greener pastures.
Gopher Wire is Superior to Traps and Chemicals
While trapping or poisoning gophers is a solution, most people find these disagreeable on a few levels. There are traps you can buy and use, but then you end up with a carcass to dispose of in order to reuse the trap. You can use a live trap, but then you have a wild animal – with very strong teeth – that you need to relocate. And you may have to do this several times.
There are poisons you can use, but you cannot always be sure what will eat the poison. You may lose a pet, or your neighbor's pet could even stumble into the poisons. Chemicals can be toxic to the plants you are trying to save from the gophers. Which is counterproductive to keeping a beautiful flower bed or a pesticide-free garden.
For these reasons, gopher wire presents a humane and chemical-free way to gopher-proof your yard.
Mechanical Gopher Trap
Chemical Gopher Repellent
Gopher Wire Hexagonal Mesh
How to Install Gopher Wire
Installation is not complicated and can be done over a weekend with a bit of work following these steps:
- Dial 811 prior to digging. Having the public utilities come out and mark where any buried lines are is always a great starting point and will prevent you or the team from encountering hidden utility lines.
- Remove 1-1.5" inches of topsoil. Renting a machine will make this step easier but can also be accomplished by hand or you can bring in a professional to push off the topsoil.
- Lay down the gopher wire. It comes in either rolls or panels. Overlap the seams by 2" - 4". Orient the seams so that the top layer is closer to your home. That way, if a gopher gets between layers, it will be pointed away from the center of your property.
- Use landscape staples to hold the wire in place. Do this while you are laying the wire in place. The staples are U-shaped and keep the wire from moving during construction and manipulating it as you set it in place.
- Bend the wire up at a 90-degree angle. This adds extra protection to beds or specific areas you want to protect. The vertical wire should extend above the top of the soil by a few inches, which will make a border for your bed or can later be incorporated into a decorative border. (See Permiter Protection Guide for full details)
- Place the topsoil on top of the gopher wire. This would also be a good time to mix compost into the dirt to improve the soil.
- Top the bare earth with sod or grass seed. Care for your newly protected lawn as you would.
For best results in getting a really smooth compacted surface use a lawn roller prior to laying down the gopher wire. Lawn rollers help ensure a uniform smooth lawn surface.
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Will Gopher Wire Keep Out Moles?
Gopher Wire may keep out fully grown moles, but it is not suitable for keeping out baby moles or voles as they can potentially squeeze through the 3/4" mesh holes.
Gophers, Moles, and Voles what's the difference Oregon State University
Moles are small and burrow much closer to the surface than gophers. Moles can still cause damage to your yard or garden, but here is where moles differ from gophers:
3/4" Hexagonal mesh overlapped
- Moles eat destructive insects and insect larvae that cause problems for your yard.
- They also aerate the soil, which is helpful. Moles push soil up from their tunnels, which leaves mole hills all around your yard.
- Unlike gophers, moles almost never come to the surface, so their hills of dirt have no openings to their tunnels.
If you have a problem with moles and their piles of dirt, gopher wire may help keeping out the adults however, your best bet to get rid of moles is to remove their food source. By getting rid of their primary food source (insects and grubs) from your property you can make your yard a less attractive place for moles in general.
A chemical pesticide is typically the most effective method for grub removal.
Picture courtesy of saferrodentcontrol.org
Can You Use Chicken Wire or a Cheaper Alternative to Gopher Wire?
A common question that many home owners and contractors ask is weather they can use a less expensive alternative to gopher wire. These can be used but because of their less durable material construction they tend to degrade in 1-2 years when placed underground.
The two primary options brought up are Chicken Wire and Hardware Cloth because they are cheap. Its true that they are less expensive, but because they are typically not constructed of hot dipped galvanized metal, or of stainless steel they tend to not perform, breaking down and corroding after a year or two.
Stainless Steel is the longest lasting product available providing 10+ years of protection. Use this type of product if your goal is install once and then forget about gophers.
You Can Protect Smaller Areas With Gopher Wire
If you only want to protect a certain bed from being devoured by gophers then Gopher Wire can work well for your project. Its recommended to put the wire on the bottom of your raised beds during construction to prevent critters from intruding into your planter. (see below)
To protect a raised bed before you fill it with dirt or compost, staple gopher wire mesh to the bottom of the raised bed boards, and that will keep your plants safe from an underground attack.
Installing gopher wire is a popular alternative to using less humane measures to rid your yard of these pests.
As your protective barrier encourages gophers to look for food elsewhere, you may find that your neighbors may want to protect their plants as well. It would be a good idea to have a discussion with your neighbors early on, and you might be able to save on shipping costs if you bundle your orders together.
Ryan is member of the Mainline product team and as a former landscape contractor lends his expertise to the Mainline blog. Ryan can be reached by emailing Support@ mainlinematerials.com
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