Boxing Out The Gophers

I thought the gophers were bad last spring, but this winter they are atrocious!  In their desperate search for food, they are leaving a slew of holes and dirt piles everywhere around the garden.

Trapping has not been working as well as I’d like it to; the little smarties are setting off the traps without getting caught, and burying them so deep in the ground we’ve got to perform excavation after excavation to retrieve them!  I’ve tried flooding them out with a garden hose, but their seemingly endless tunnels go on and on for yards – maybe even miles- underground, wasting too much of our precious water.  I’ve also let our dog, Einstein, have at ’em from time to time, but the holes and ditches he leaves behind are usually ten times worse than the ones that were there to begin with.  So, what’s a girl embarking on a new gardening season to do to prevent gophers from ruining all her hard work?  Borrowing from a term and technique I learned while playing basketball in high school, “Box ’em out”!

In basketball, boxing out takes place when one is trying to rebound a ball, whether on offense or defense.  It is the act of placing one’s body between the basket and the opposing team’s player to position one’s self in the best possible place to get a rebound. Here’s what it looks like:

(If you’re interested in learning more about the boxing out technique in basketball, you can read a short article about it here, where I obtained the picture.)

Okay, so where does this “boxing out” business fit in with a post about gardening and gophers?

Well, in basketball, if you’re good at boxing out, you’ll probably be the first to get your hands on the basketball for a rebound —  and, isn’t that also my goal in gardening – to be the first to get my hands on all of the prized fruits and veggies before my dastardly opponents, the  little vermin, do?  It sure is!

So, here’s how my boxing out strategy works in the garden…

First, I dig a giant hole in the ground, about a foot and a half deep, rectangular in shape.

Then, I lay a nice, wooden frame on top (my husband constructed this one out of old 2 x 4’s and grape stakes)

After that, I line it with chicken wire, making sure the the bottom layers have a good overlap, and the tops are stapled well to the wood.

Finally, I fill it all back in with the dirt, mix in a little compost, and it’s ready to plant in.

A lot of people have told me that the holes in the chicken wire may still be too large to keep baby gophers out, and that, after some time it will all rust and rot away.  Well, hey! Iin basketball, even if you do everything you can to box out your opponent, it doesn’t perfectly guarantee that you’re going to snag 100% of the rebounds!  But, I can tell you from experience, that when you fail to box out your opponent, he’s probably going to be the one to get his hands on the ball.

So, although I may not be 100% gopher-proofing my garden,  by placing a barrier between the gophers (my opponent) and my food (the basket), I’m hoping that, at the end of the year, I’m going to register some great stats in the harvest category, and that the food my opponents steal (if any) will be kept to a very small minimum.

Boxing out the gophers…here’s to a winning year!

P.S.  Immediately after I finished writing this post, I saw a gopher coming up out of one of his holes in the garden.  Using a combination technique of garden hose and dog, we scored another one for our side!


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