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Why I Despise Gophers–Fear and Loathing in Gopherville, Part 2


Prinses Irene tulip–one of the many garden plants gophers like to eat. I haven’t found a way to make gopher mounds look artistic, and I refuse to make the effort it would take to get a picture of a gopher. So this picture is a memorial to the tulips I’ve lost to gophers.
How can I love you when you won’t go away?
This summer I’m doing an experiment. I was going to make a raised bed in the sun for cutting flowers, with chicken wire on the bottom to keep the gophers out. This is a common local remedy for gopher invasion, and it generally works until the wire rusts out.

But being as I’m unhandy and unindustrious, I’ve been putting off the evil hour when I would have to do the building-the-raised-bed part. (The boyfriend in part 1 of this story has long since departed–probably the best thing for both of us.) Me and boards and measurements and tools, well, it’s not a pretty sight. I knew at the least I’d be losing my temper, and that most probably it would take about four times as long as I thought it should.

So when we had some welcome spring rain–well, I just started digging. I’m doing a sort of half-baked version of double digging, where you dig up a crater, then refill it with the soil mixed with amendments, so it fluffs up over the top of the original soil line, providing drainage and good root growth space for the plants.

And I thought, while I have that crater dug out, I’ll just soak it down with some castor oil solution. It leaches in the rain, but I wanted it to leach. I wanted it to go far down into the ground, where it would discourage any gophers in the neighborhood, and send them another direction.

I’d heard you could make your own castor oil solution, and remembered seeing the recipe at answers.yahoo.com. The only thing I did differently was to use a hand whisk and mix the soap and oil in the measuring cup instead of using a blender. Unless you have a predilection for washing equipment, I’d recommend this method, since it only takes about ten seconds to whip them together. Then you add in some water; that takes five seconds more. Put it in a jar with a lid and shake before using.

I put the castor oil solution in my sprayer in the recommended dilution, and soaked the bottom and sides of the cutting bed thoroughly. Later I will soak the upper layers of soil the same way, and I’ll have to keep that up about once a month–not too strenuous a schedule. (Especially since I’m not planning to have a huge flower bed, in keeping with my Nonindustrious Gardener status.) I’ll keep you posted as to whether this experiment works.

Right now the rain is leaching castor oil, I hope, far far into the ground.

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