How to build a simple and effective gopher cage
- If you live in California and you are not in a major city, you probably have gophers lurking nearby.
- Gophers are a serious problem and can kill a young tree very quickly.
- There are a lot of ways to address these pests which range from poisons to owl boxes. However, no solution is full proof and therefore it is a good idea to have a second line of defense for your fruit trees.
- (Side note: if you have ever thought about getting one of those electric/solar Sonic Spikes for Moles and Gophers, dont bother. In my experience they don’t do anything at all).
- A gopher cage is a great way to protect your newly planted tree. The roots will eventually meander outside the protection of the cage. However, the core roots of the tree will be protected.
- You can find gopher cages pre-made, but these are not available everywhere and they are considerably more expensive than the cost of making one yourself. Besides, you can custom make the cage to what ever size you want.
What you will need:
- Galvanized hard wire cloth with 1/2-inch openings
- Heavy duty gloves
- Some tool to cut wire. I like to use heavy duty wire side cutters
- Plastic cable zip-ties
Step 1, Get some galvanized hardware cloth:
- You can get this at many different places including Amazon.comas well as your your favorite home improvement/hardware store.
- The cloth usually comes in rolls that are 2 to 3 feet high and in variable lengths. For gophers, the wire mesh hole openings should be no less than a 1/2 inch (the last number in the given dimensions on the package). If the holes are too big then small gophers can squeeze through. Chicken wire for example has holes that are too big.
Step 1 cont, put on some heavy duty gloves:
- The ends of the wire is stiff and sharp.
Cut the wire mesh to size:
- Just bend the wire cloth to the diameter you want for your tree roots and cut from the rest of the roll.
- The bigger diameter, the more of the roots you will protect, but the bigger the hole will have to be.
- You can use wire cutters or metal cutting scissors to cut the wire hard wire cloth.
Secure the sides of the gopher cage:
- Attach the ends of the wire with some zip ties. Allow about an inch of overlap.
Make the bottom of the gopher cage:
- Bend one end of the wire mesh cylinder in half and make a crease in the wire. Do this again in the other direction. In doing so you have quickly measured out 4 roughly equal distance spots in the wire cage.
- Now cut down the wire mesh where you creased it to create flaps.
- The amount you need to cut down will depend on the diameter of the cage. A bigger diameter cage will require more cutting so the flaps can cover the bottom.
- If there is still a gap at the bottom that is open after you fold the flaps, you will have to cut down further to make larger flaps or add in a patch.
- Secure the flaps with a few zip ties.
Put the gopher cage in the hole:
- Flip over the cage you created and drop it in the hole.
- You can adjust the height with soil you add in.
- Many suggest that the gopher cage should rise about 4 inches above soil level to prevent gophers from walking over the top and getting into the cage.
- Depending on how much you want sticking up from the soil line his might affect your decision to get the 2 foot tall or 3 foot tall hardware cloth. However, wire sticking up out of the ground may be a hazard due to the the exposed sharp ends of the wire cage. On the other hand, if it is sticking up (a lot) it may also deter rabbits.
- Check out my recent post for planting tips to help you avoid transplantation shock.
Gopher Cage Update:
That’s the new score in the ongoing battle.
Below is a photo I took of some dramatic subterranean activity along the outer edge of the gopher cage. As you can see, the gopher cage has stopped the varmint in its tracks despite what looks to be a major effort to get inside the cage. That hole in the picture is new and located in an area of previously very solid ground.
I am sure those pesky rodents got some of the smaller rootlets that grew past the confines of the cage. However, the core of the tree is safe. In fact, you can see in the photo below where the Longan tree (Dimocarpus longan) has put out a new flush of growth that doesn’t seem to be affected by the unsolicited soil aeration.