Gophers and iris

svanessa(9/SoCal)January 8, 2014

I planted my hillside with iris over the last 2 years (hundreds). What I noticed outside of the rabbits being desperate enough in late summer to eat the green leaves to the rhizome is that the gophers love the 'newer' hybrid rhizomes and ate them ravenously but pretty much left the older historical iris (pre-1960) alone. Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? My hillside is pretty much bare of all but historical iris because of this. I've bought some gopher screening and plan to plant future iris into these submerged baskets. Won't stop the rabbits but at least I won't lose the whole plant.
SoCal 9A

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iris_gal(z9 CA)

After they ate all the tulips, ranunculus and other bulbs, they began on my beardeds (60s - 80's). There were 2 separated 'Persian Berry' in bloom, of which 1 was for a share. Went out to dig it next day (in bloom so my friend would receive the correct cultivar) and that one had vanished. Dug thru tunnels searching - not hide nor hair.

I think the historics that have survived are those that keep on multiplying despite neglect. The unnamed only historic I have never grows the fat juicy rhizomes of my newer ones. It wasn't in the bed the gophers cleaned out.

By the way, I saw depressions in the dirt where the gopher had laid and munched.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 6:46PM
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Yea, this was an EXPENSIVE lesson. I've since added a bushel of daffodils to the hillside because I know gophers won't eat them. All my remaining iris are in pots...thinking of just burying the 1-gal pots but that's a lot of work as they would need to be divided pretty much every year because of the diameter of the pot. Making wire baskets is a real pain too because of the number needed.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 4:45PM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)

Agreed. Our gopher tunnels are only 6-8 inches down. My thought was taking a 10inch width and burying it in a circle, rather than forming a basket.

Tried the gallon size - disaster. TBs need space even for 1 yr. - at least a 2 gal. better a 3 gal.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 9:03PM
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I've also had issues with gophers and voles. They haven't decimated my iris, but I do believe they have compromised and weakened some of them. I think part of the problem is that the larger my garden gets, and the more I cultivate, the more these critters seem to invade. Possibly driven in by drought. Also my gopher guy cannot use the gas he used to anymore because of law changes. Bait is ineffective for the size of my garden, and the proximity to open space... and I have chickens running about.. so, not really an option.

As for baskets..1 gal sized gopher baskets are only useful for small bulbs and annuals... maybe some little rock garden plants... The iris need a broader width than a 2 or 5 gal size, and a 15 gal is way too deep.. I too have thought of surrounding clumps with wire, but because of the voles, I need to use a finer gauge.. they go through gopher wire. My latest thought is to use a large 24" wire basket frame as a form to bend wire over. They are shallower and wider than the biggest gopher basket you can buy. I'm also thinking about building raised beds with wire on the bottom and stapled to the sides.
Why are there always so many challenges to gardening!?!?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 5:04PM
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Actually I bought the gopher wire in a roll along with snips to cut it. I'm going to make my own baskets wide but not deep, maybe 4"-5". I just want to protect the rhizome and some of the roots. The roots can grow thru the basket into the soil. If the gophers get these roots at least I'll have the rhizome and 'shorter' roots protected inside the basket. Hopefully that will be enough for them to live AND bloom.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 10:42PM
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kittyl(8/9 Calif)

I've grown irises for decades, and when I lost my favorite fox terrier, who worked in partnership with my cat to catch gophers, I started having gophers move into my iris beds. I don't have time to set traps, I don't want to use poison because I don't want myself or my neighbors to have sick pets.... so I use Sweeney's Sonic Spikes. I place about 15-20 feet apart. They do seem to drive gophers away, and then I see less signs of rhizome damage. They don't kill, the gophers just don't seem as active in the area, and all I have to do, is replace batteries about once a year. And I've had other gardener friends say they get about the same results.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 9:36PM
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bear_with_me(8 Pacific NW)

I don't know if this helps, but i built raised beds for my bearded irises. Each is 4 by 8, and about one foot deep. I constructed the frame from 2 by 6 by 8 boards. I made bottoms from them using 1/4 inch hardware cloth. i stapled the hardware cloth in place. Then I filled with a soil / compost mix.

So far it works ok. In the first bed I made, I used chicken wire. Moles got into that bed.

I could see terracing a hillside with screen bottom beds. Lots of work tho.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 10:54PM
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