Gophers have a way of ruining just about any landscape project you can create. From vegetable gardens to rows of flowering bushes, gophers will help themselves to just about anything. Thankfully, there are ways to deter these borrowing (albeit adorable) critters.
While gophers have terrible eyesight, they have a very strong sense of smell. Gophers hate strong scents such as rosemary, sage, thyme, eucalyptus, geranium, pine, lavender, coffee grounds, peppermint oil, and castor oil. These scents mask potential food sources and irritate a gophers senses.
Read on for more about what scents gophers hate and how to use them on your property to repel them. We’ll also talk about a few other effective and non-harmful ways to keep gophers out of your yard.
Why Gophers Are Bad For Your Yard?
Gophers can cause considerable damage to your yard. The main gopher behavior that causes damage is burrowing. When gophers burrow in your yard they can cause damage to trees, shrubbery, garden beds, and other landscaping.
Gophers burrowing in your yard can also destroy underground lines for electricity, water, plumbing, and other types of irrigation you may have in your yard. A hungry gopher can destroy an entire plant from the inside of a burrow. Food is one of the only reasons that gophers come above ground.
Fixing structural problems caused by gophers is not cheap. No one wants to have to replant and landscape their yard. Planting vegetable gardens can be quite expensive on their own between the cost of raised beds, soil, and the plants themselves.
Replacing these things you have worked so hard to build is extremely time-consuming and frustrating.
If you do not take care of your gopher problem fast, you can be in for a very expensive game of repair and replacement. Finding where gophers are burrowing, identifying if the gopher holes are still active, and then moving on to getting rid of the gophers is the best plan of attack.
Gophers can also cause damage by urinating in your yard and near structures and foundations which can cause bad odors both inside and outside of your house. As we know, gophers love to burrow. When they burrow near the foundation of your home, they may urinate inside their burrow and this can cause significant damage to your property, not to mention the smell.
Unlike many other pests that can cause damage in your yard, gophers usually do not come in packs. While you might think that it would take a few of these critters to do any real damage to your property, all it takes is just one gopher to do some serious damage.
Types of Gopher Damage
Using scents gophers hate, underground mesh or wire, and above-ground caging for gardens are all methods you can try to help repel gophers.
The types of gopher deterrent methods you use will depend on what kind of damage you are seeing. No two problems are alike and you will want to keep that in mind as you start to search for the best solutions to your individual gopher damage problems.
Damage to garden beds: If you have garden beds you will definitely want to consider lining your beds with gopher-deterrent mesh wire to prevent the gophers from burrowing up into your food beds.
Damage to bushes and landscaping: If you are seeing more damage to areas like your bushes and landscaping you might want to try treating the holes that are still active with one of the DIY or a purchased product that can help get the gophers moving away from your yard.
Damage to your foundation: Damage to your foundation and underground irrigation systems require still another type of gopher protection, which may include treating the area with scents gophers hate, fencing, or trap and release methods.
Damage to your septic: Gophers can cause extensive damage to your septic system with their burrowing. More on how gophers can cause septic tank damage here.
If you are unsure of what types of gopher-proofing you need on your property, consulting a professional is a good place to start.
The Best Gopher Deterrents
Noise, flashing lights, and supersonic sounds are not effective against repelling gophers. Gophers do have eyes, unlike moles, but their eyesight is poor. Gophers also have bad hearing. This makes these methods unreliable and quite ineffective when it comes to deterring gophers from visiting your yard.
So, what else can you use?
The EPA suggests that a multi-prong approach is the best when it comes to repelling gophers in your yard. Gophers may become acclimated to a single approach, rendering it ineffective.
This is often your best bet for getting rid of stubborn rodents in your yard. If one method doesn’t work or doesn’t completely solve the problem, another method can give an extra boost of deterrence or protection.
How to Use Plants That Repel Gophers
Plants like rosemary, thyme, sage, and geranium can be planted in the ground or in pots, and gophers will not like the scent. You can also use eucalyptus and pine as a plant, tree, or shrub. However, you can take advantage of the gopher deterrent properties of these strong-scented plants by using their essential oil extracts as well.
If you want to use the essential oils of these plants that gophers hate, you can make DIY sprays of one or more oils.
Simply combine 10-15 drops of the oils with a base of water or water mixed with vinegar. You can also soak cotton balls in the diluted oils and place them in spots where you have noticed gopher holes.
Always make sure to dilute your essential oils before spraying them around your property. Essential oils are highly concentrated and should not be used undiluted.
All of these plants and herbs have a very strong smell. Gophers do not like these plants because they overwhelm their sense of smell which they rely on heavily as a part of their defense mechanism. If they can’t smell a predator, they won’t know when to jump in their holes to hide.
While these plants are offensive to gophers, they do offer a pleasant smell for your yard and often make beautiful additions to edging and garden beds.
If you do not want to make your own gopher repellent spray, you can buy pre-made products like Tomcat Mole And Gopher Repellent. This product can be hooked up to a garden hose and used right away. The water from your hose will mix with the repellent ingredients and penetrate into the soil to repel underground gophers.
9 Scents That Keep Gophers Away
Planting aromatic plants that will keep gophers away is a great passive way of deterring these destructive critters. You can simply plant them and leave them to do their work, but just be aware they cannot protect your yard in the winter.
You can also use the essential oils of these plants to deter those stubborn gophers and keep your plants safe!
Let’s go over some of the best scents you can use to deter gophers!
Gophers Hate Lavender
The lavender plant is known for its calming abilities. It is also a popular plant used to bring a lovely sweet aroma into our homes. But when it comes to gophers, lavender is known for its ability to make these pesky rodents head for the hills.
Gophers do not like the smell of lavender. The plant’s sweet aroma is pleasant, but strong, which is unappealing for gophers who are overwhelmed by the scent of lavender.
Planting lavender in your yard is a good deterrent for gophers. Adding these plants to the edges of your yard, or in areas where you may be seeing mounds from gopher burrows can help keep gophers out of your yard.
Rosemary & Thyme Keep Gophers Out
Rosemary and thyme are herbs often used in cooking. These bushy herbs can be planted directly into the ground or in pots or raised bed gardens.
While rosemary and thyme have a pleasant smell for humans, they are very strong and gophers do not like it because it overwhelms their sensitive sense of smell.
If you want to use rosemary or thyme to repel gophers you can use the plants themselves, or you can use an essential oil like Maple Holistics Undiluted Rosemary Essential Oil. Thyme also comes in an essential oil form.
Sage Deters Gophers
Another herb often used in cooking, sage has a strong scent and is used in a lot of different applications. People cook with sage, burn sage to cleanse and deodorize spaces, and it is a common garden herb.
Sage is a scent that gophers hate because it throws them off their hunt for food and distracts their sense of smell from being able to predict danger or predators.
You can plant sage in pots or directly into the ground. Sage makes a great garden accompaniment to rosemary. Planting these herbs together around your yard does double duty as it deters gophers and gives you fresh herbs for your pantry!
Strong Scented Geranium Repels Gophers
Geranium is a popular flowering plant that is used in a variety of ways from essential oils to perfume. The essential oil of geranium is actually distilled from the leaves. Whereas the flowers are often used for cutting flowers for landscaping.
Because of the strong scent geraniums have, these plants deter gophers from burrowing near them and snacking on them when they are in your yard.
You can use geranium in its essential oil form by mixing a spray at home or soaking cotton balls and placing them in trouble spots around your property. Just be sure to dilute your essential oil with water.
Eucalyptus Keeps Gophers Out
A notoriously strong smell, eucalyptus leaves are often used as decorative wreaths or in flower arrangements for their beauty and aromatic properties.
Gophers’ sensitive sense of smell makes eucalyptus a good candidate to repel gophers. Any plant that is very strong-scented will be off-putting to a gopher, and eucalyptus is one of the most strong-smelling plants you can find.
One of the easiest ways to make use of this plant’s repellent properties is to use pure eucalyptus oil. You can make a DIY spray that gophers will hate by adding 10-15 drops of eucalyptus oil like Majestic Pure Eucalyptus Essential Oil to one cup of water.
Spray this wherever you are noticing gopher holes or disturbed areas in your yard.
Gophers Will Run From Pine
Most people are familiar with what pine smells like. This evergreen tree has strongly scented needles and you can find it scenting anything from candles to incense.
Pine is one of the most popular scents that gophers hate. It is often used in many store-bought gopher repellents. You can also make your own spray with essential oils. Planting pine trees, or planting your other plants near existing pine trees is a good way to use pine to keep gophers away.
Strongly scented plants are a good option if you are seeing burrowing and plant damage in your yard. Since a gopher has poor eyesight and hearing, it relies heavily on its sense of smell to find its food. While burrowing, if a gopher is overwhelmed by a strong smell they may be put off and burrow elsewhere.
Peppermint Oil Repels Gophers
Similar to many other animals and insects, the extremely strong smell of peppermint, specifically peppermint oil can irritate the senses of a gopher causing them to stay away from a desired source.
You can use peppermint oil to repel gophers in two ways. The first is using an essential oil concentrate, OR you can use a general, all around natural pest control spray. Naturally, you’ll want a spray that works for the outdoors as well.
While it doesn’t specifically list gophers as an animal it repels, it’s an all rodent repellent. Check out Rodent Sheriff Ultra-Pure Peppermint Spray for a highly regarded peppermint pest control spray.
Gophers Hate Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds are an effective and easy-to-use gopher repellent. Application is fairly simple and if you are a coffee drinker, the grounds are as simple to come by as holding onto the grounds from your morning pot of coffee.
To use coffee grounds to repel gophers, pour some coffee grounds into the gopher tunnels that you have found in your yard. Cover the holes with some soil.
The acidity of the coffee grounds will deter the gophers from digging in that area again. While this method may not completely take care of your gopher problem, it will be a good addition to your efforts to get rid of gophers.
Castor Oil Keeps Gophers Away
Castor oil is a type of vegetable oil. It has a very strong odor and taste to animals like gophers and other problem pests.
You can make a DIY spray with castor oil to repel gophers. To prepare this solution, mix 3 parts castor oil with 1 part dish soap and mix this into 3 gallons of water in a large container. Apply this to areas where gophers are burrowing on your property.
To spot areas of burrowing you’ll want to try to find the main hole that the gophers are burrowing. If you are treating a hole that gophers are not visiting any longer, the treatments may not be very effective. Gophers often do not revisit areas where they have already used to find food.
If you are using this method, thoroughly spray and soak the entrances to holes and burrowing tunnels to coax out any gophers that may be inside and to deter gophers from returning to do further root and landscaping damage.
Castor oil is widely recognized to be an extremely effective method to get pesky gophers off of your property.
More Ways To Keep Gophers Away
Exclusion is another way to keep gophers away, specifically away from trees, shrubs, and garden beds. This works great in tandem with scent repellents.
According to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, you can use hardware cloth or wire mesh to exclude gophers. It should be buried at least 2 ½ feet deep, with the last six inches being bent into an ‘L’ shape away from your vulnerable plants.
With raised garden beds, you can line the base and walls with mesh and/or wire to keep gophers from burrowing up and into your gardens and damaging your crops. Mesh like Gonzo’s Gopher Shield will work great and is designed specifically with gophers and moles in mind.
Adding exclusion methods into your gopher deterrent plans will give you further protection from those destructive burrowers.
If you’d like, you can check out our piece on using wire to keep gophers out here.
How To Tell If a Gopher Hole Is Active
If you are going to be taking care of your gopher problem yourself with DIY methods, at some point you will want to know if certain gopher holes are active. That is, you will want to know if gophers are still returning to this area to either get to your gardens or eat the roots of your plants and landscaping.
You can still use deterrent methods on gopher holes whether they are active or not, but your treatments will go further if you treat areas where you see evidence of active gopher presence.
So, how can you tell if a gopher hole is still active?
The best thing to take notice of when you are trying to see if a gopher hole is still active is to check the openings. If the hole is open and clear, the gopher is probably not still working on finding his next meal inside there.
If a gopher hole opening on your property is covered with fresh, fluffy dirt or soil, a gopher is most likely still at work inside. These areas are a good place to focus your DIY methods of gopher repellent.
Professionals Can Help Get Rid Of Gophers
Depending on where you live and how bad your gopher problem is, a professional may be a good option for helping to get gophers out of your yard. You can use our nationwide pest control finder to get in contact with a local professional for free!
There are a few different methods that professionals use to get rid of gophers. Some professionals may use trapping methods to catch and release gophers from your property to prevent further damage from their burrowing habits.
If your landscaping is being repeatedly damaged, you might want to talk to a professional about what methods of trapping they use on rodents like gophers.
Wrapping It Up!
Gophers can do a lot of damage to your property. Damage can be costly and time-consuming to repair. Obviously, if your property is suffering from gopher damage you will want to take fast action before things get out of hand.
That said, most people want to find a way to safely and humanely deter gophers from their yards. Because gophers have such a strong sense of smell, using scents from oils, plants, and other compostable foods is a great deterrent.
To recap, some of the scents and smells you can use to deter gophers include:
- Coffee grounds
- Castor oil
In addition to using scents, it’s recommended to pair them with other deterrent methods. Using wire mesh to physically exclude gophers from vulnerable plants is a great addition to your gopher-repelling plan!
If you have tried all of these methods and are still dealing with gopher problems on your property, you can call a professional who will be able to offer you further advice on how to remove gophers from your yard and additional options on how to keep them from coming back.
If you’re up for an interesting read, check out our piece on keeping gophers as pets here!
Epple, Gisela, et al. “Pine needle oil causes avoidance behaviors in pocket gopher Geomys bursarius.” Journal of chemical ecology 22.5 (1996): 1013-1025.
Epple, Gisela, et al. “Behavioral responses to pine needle oil in the northern pocket gopher.” (1995).
Engeman, Richard M., and Gary W. Witmer. “Integrated management tactics for predicting and alleviating pocket gopher (Thomomys spp.) damage to conifer reforestation plantings.” Integrated Pest Management Reviews 5.1 (2000): 41-55.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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