Vanishing pepper plants

joellenh(6b Jenks)June 8, 2011

I had five pepper plants in a raised bed. Carolina Wonder and Charleston Belle. I made special orders for nematode resistant seeds and started them inside. I actually tried to start 8, but only 5 made it.

One by one they have been disappearing out of my raised bed. The first couple of times I shrugged it off.

Last night my biggest plant vanished. It was about 2' tall and had many small peppers on it. I could cry. I have only two plants left.

There is no hole. No evidence of digging. There is no dead plant or leaves left behind. The whole plants are just GONE.

My Romanesco broccoli plants in the same bed vanished in a similar manner a couple of weeks ago.

What is going on here?


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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)


seriously thought that is very strange.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 9:14AM
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Weird. I had that happen to a basil plant that I planted in my front garden. After it was dragged away, I planted sage. It was also taken. And finally I planted hyssop, which also met the same fate. They just vanished. After that, I decided it wasn't meant to be. But if something was attacking my peppers, I might have a stake out. Do you own a camera? Just a thought.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 9:29AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Deer? If you dig in the ground where the root ball should be, is it there? If it is, I suspect deer. If the root ball is gone and there are no tunnels or digging to indicate moles, voles, gophers or woodchucks, then I suspect humans.

When deer are hungry, they can eat a lot. Back before we put up the taller fence, they got into my garden and literally ate an entire 100' x 100' garden down to the ground in 3 nights, including pumpkin plants with those big old coarse leaves, and sunflowers...from the big flower head to the stem and the leaves. They ate every bit of plant part above the ground. When they ate Swiss Chard they pulled the plants up out of the ground and ate the roots too (probably not deliberately on the part of the roots).

I don't have woodchucks and don't know much about them, but a few counties in NE OK have them and I know from stories Tim has told me about woodchucks in Pennsylvania where he had a vegetable gardener when he was a teenager, the woodchucks seem to eat anything and everything. If you have a woodchuck, you might be able to find its burrow somewhere on your land.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 9:35AM
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joellenh(6b Jenks)

Dawn, we have few to no deer here in Jenks. I've only ever seen one in a wooded area, and supposedly they are really rare. I have never ever seen a deer anywhere near my house. I have a 6' high property fence which would keep out most or all humans, and some deer (if there were any in the area).

I can't imagine a human hopping our fence and pulling out one plant every few days right outside our bedroom window.

I dug around and there is no root ball that I can find. No tunnels. No fur or animal droppings.

I googled disappearing pepper plants and someone said slugs (?!)...Do they eat the whole entire plant overnight?

The vanishing plants are only happening in one of my 20+ beds. The other beds are fine.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 9:55AM
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Jo, one year about 7 years ago ( I had a sandy garden then) I had plants disappearing like that. One day I was in the garden and saw a plant sinking. I ran over and pulled it back hoping I would pull the thief out of the soil also, but all I got was the top half of the plant.

I expect it was a gopher eating the plants. I also had some plants that died, when pulling them up I found the roots had been eaten.

Two day ago I found two small okra plants almost dead. A mole had gone under them and pushed them up and damaged the roots. I don't have gopher problems here, I don't think they like the hard, tight soil.

If your garden is not fenced you may have a neighbor child picking his mother some flowers.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 9:57AM
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joellenh(6b Jenks)

My garden is fenced, my property is fenced. During the daylight hours I am in full view of my garden even from inside the house. (back part of our house is mostly glass)I can rule humans out 90%.

We did have a BAD gopher problem last year and I actually witnessed sweet potato plants being pulled under.


I don't see any gopher mounds.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 10:14AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

With a small deer population and a history of gophers, then I'd bet on the gophers.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 10:49AM
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I know moles and gophers are different, but the moles we had in our front yard would go months without making a mound of dirt sometimes. I think they dig deeper during really hot and really cold weather.

Sorry about your peppers, though. That's my worst nightmare, because it took us several years to get rid of the one mole we had in our front yard, and I'm not even sure he's not still there hiding somewhere. I stuck one stick of Juicy Fruit down his hole on a whim about four months ago, and I haven't seen a hill of dirt since.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 10:57AM
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it was me.

no it wasn't. :) i almost showed you my pepper plant that had been destroyed when you were over yesterday, but we got busy :)

anyhoo- day before yesterday, when i watered everything was fine...later in the afternoon, i went out to the garden, and one of my peppers was dead. mine didn't disappear, but it was just lying there dead and shriveled. i checked underneath it, and the root ball was there, no holes, or tunnels or whatever. but not two minutes after i left the garden, Mr robin landed in the vicinity of my peppers, and starting rooting around and beating the dirt like you wouldn't believe. then i saw the thrashers doing the same thing in another part of the garden. i wonder if they did the pepper plant in, looking for food.

again, mine didn't disappear, and i don't know what's getting yours, but i know i've got to make me a "scarecrow" now....


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 11:54AM
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Jo - sorry. I've had gopher damage and it just infuriates me! They're so destructive....

If you're not finding any remnant of the plant, I think it's most likely a gopher too. This spring, we had to dig down almost a foot before finding the run...and one small, tiny leaf from a vanished cauliflower.

I've had much success with Castor granules. They give me about 2 months of protection before I have to re-apply. I've linked a page to show you the brand I buy....and you might want to order them. I've had to pay about 50% more at ace or lowes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gopher granules

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 12:00PM
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Jo that stinks!
We have a huge gopher and mole population, so when we put in our raised beds last year we used cinder blocks and lined the bottom with chicken wire. It is virtually a veggie Alcatraz. At least one mole has found its way in, but hasn't done a lot of damage so far. Almost every day, there are mole runs and gopher hills smack up against the cinder blocks, sometimes running all along the length of the bed. They are just trying their hardest to get at their old tunnels or at our veggies.
On the fence line where I only put chicken wire down and planted herbs, the gophers will go under the wire and hill up dirt through the chicken wire, or manage to remove dirt so that my herbs sink lower and lower.
In the places where I didn't put any wire, I have been systematically robbed of cypress vine before my eyes.

Good luck. Hopefully juicy fruit or the other suggestions will keep them out of your hair and plants.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 2:02PM
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Jammie - don't you almost laugh out loud at the mental picture of the gopher or mole tunneling thru only to suddenly experience "WHAP!" when they run into the concrete???? I do...we have the same problem.

I did try the juicy fruit....not sure it worked. DH finally relied on a 22. Haven't seen any new runs or mounds in over 3 weeks now. Of course, I say that and as I pull in my drive this evening will probably be a fresh mound right in the middle of the yard.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 3:26PM
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If it is a gopher, it will not be able to get 20 or 30 feet inside your property without making a mound somewhere unless there was an old tunnel that it reclaimed, which can happen for a year or two with old tunnels before they completely collapse.

I'd shovel out about two feet in every direction and a foot down from a missing plant and see if there is a tunnel there. Then set a trap if you find a tunnel.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 10:48PM
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joellenh(6b Jenks)

I was over at Dody's again today and she also had a vanished plant. We were walking in the garden and she let out a gasp and was like "Where did my plant go? It was RIGHT there"!

I think it was also a pepper plant, but I'm not sure. I was too busy digging around looking for roots or gopher holes.

Freaking gophers.

I can't go digging around too much in my raised beds because I'd uproot the other peppers and stuff that are (so far) still alive and well in that bed (knock on wood).

I might try those granules but I am also not above poisoning the gopher. My garden is fenced to keep our dogs out, so hopefully it would be safe.

I've lost a crazy amount of plants to gophers and I have about had it.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 11:40PM
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You know I was cracking up at how the mole run was headed in one direction, then made a sharp angle and ran the length of the bed, and also at the gopher hills that are right up against the blocks. The first time I saw this evidence of succesfully keeping them out (and we have GOBS)I cocked my head to one side and said, "Thass right, b*#@*es!"
Of course tonight when I planted more bush beans, many fell thru the mole run in the bed where some rogue mole is in there....hopefully not a female with babies. I don't know that it will find it's way out...

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 11:07PM
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And, of course, the day after I say I haven't seen my mole in months, I found a new dirt mound today. I'm about ready to call in a pro. This thing is driving me crazy!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 11:31PM
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owiebrain(5 MO)

One of our dogs dug up and killed a mole last week. Yay, dogs!!! That sucker was huge & ugly. I had no idea they were so big. I'd never seen one in person before.

I'm hoping that was the only mole in 10 square miles. Oh, hush. A girl can dream, right?


    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 11:47AM
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joellenh(6b Jenks)


I heard moles are rare there. Your dog is AMAZING, because he got the very last one. :P


    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 3:19PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)


In my garden ( I'm between BA and Bixby), when the gophers pull the plant down into the runs, the soil collapses as well, so I don't see the runs. I have sandy loam/silty clay soil. I'm not too terribly far from the Arkansas River.

The gophers here are pretty smart. They hide their entrances to the tunnels under low lying vegetation. The runs are really deep. I bought two of the sonic devices as I had some expensive perennials disappearing. Haven't had anymore disappear--won't say the gophers have left the yard. But, they are trying to get away! LOL They have dug up all along the road on the front edge of my property. I guess it's too difficult to tunnel under the street to the other side. Now if Paula's husband will come over with his gun . . .


    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 6:44PM
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Yep, that night when I got home there was A NEW large mound, only it was in the side yard where we had a large garden last year. He was probably hoping we planted sweet potatoes over there again. HA! Fooled him! NO garden is there this year!

Today when harvesting my crop of crab grass that's trying to choke out my remaining onions, I found ANOTHER tunnel under the onions. Seems gopher's don't like my Red Candies, thank GAWD!

Jo - I have used poison and I don't feel one bit bad about it. The best one I found is in rice pellet form and it's blue. I found it at Atwoods. I use a smooth metal rod to find the run. Gopher's make a hill, but if you look closely it's almost fan-shaped. The stupid critters shove dirt on top of the direction they're going. Anyway, starting at the base of the "fan", come back about 12 to 18". Use the metal rod to poke the ground to find the run. You'll know when you finally don't have to push thru the dirt and then wham, you hit bottom. When you find it, use that rod to make a larger hole by "stirring". I then take a funnel that is only used for the poison and pour the pellets in the hole. Since they're blue, you can see if you've left any on top of the ground where pets or children may come into contact with them. Some say to put a rock or something on top of the hole. I've done that but then I forget to go back and get the rock which then gets hit with the mower and DH gets pretty testy about that. (oops!) I've also left it open and I really can't tell it makes any difference.

I have several friends that are farmers and they use a disker attachment to their tractors and circle the areas where they have mole or gopher problems. This caves in their tunnels. When it's done regularly, they usually move on to somewhere they don't have to work so hard to build their little infra-structure.

Butterflymom - (Sandi?) - my FIL uses those sonic devices in his garden with much success, but they only seem to protect about 10 to 15 ft out. Decorative windmills or those cute little whirly yard stakes are said to help also. They don't like the vibrations they feel in the ground. I can also send DH that direction as he'll need some target practice before deer season this fall. ha!

Now you all know almost everything I know about pocket gophers. Forgive the novel, but I've fought these little suckers out here in my sandy soil for so long and I just hate it when anyone else has them too.

Diane - if your big dog happens to sire a litter, I'd be very interested in a pup from him!


    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 10:21PM
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tulsastorm(z6 Tulsa OK)

I HATE GOPHERS!!! Yesterday, I noticed a lily plant was about 6" shorter than it was the previous day. I pulled up on it, and that's all that is left. The root ball and bottom half of the plant is gone and there was a hole underneath. Then I noticed another one that was growing a couple of feet away had disappeared as well. This is in a raised bed, that, up until now, they've stayed out of. I sprayed some castor oil stuff I got at Lowe's on the flower bed. We shall see if that works. I've lost count how many hostas that have literally disappeared overnight over the past few years. I've started wrapping chicken wire around the roots of any new plantings I think the gophers might be interested in. Yeah, they can nibble on the new roots, but they can't kill the plant outright.

I'm trying to start a new lawn in front which they are partially responsible for killing last year. They are still churning up the dirt. Everywhere I step, I sink a few inches into the ground. I would have thought they would have moved on to greener pastures.

In my research, gophers generally eat plants and their tunnels can be several feet below ground. Moles usually eat insects (worms, grubs, etc.) and only tunnel a few inches below the surface. I've tried sticking a running garden hose down the gopher tunnels only to come back an hour later, and the tunnel is still not filled with water. I don't like using poisons and traps around my dog. The only other thing I can think of is adopting a good tomcat from the pound.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 7:45AM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

When my dad was alive, he invented a device to kill gophers. Essentially the device blew burning sulphur into the tunnels and gassed them. He couldn't use the device on other people's yards, he was told, as he didn't have a pest control license. Don't know what happened to the contraption, but I sure wish I had it.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 3:01PM
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My tomcat (now neutered) has been having a heyday with squirrels and I found a rat this morning (half of it.) I REALLY wish he would find a hankering for these other rodents.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 4:36PM
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There are three types of gopher situations that you might want to be aware of to help get rid of the ones showing up.

One is males digging long tunnels to find females. Fancy devices will not work usually on these, but traps and poisons will. These kind drive me crazy. I have excavated back over 100 feet and still not found a main burrow.

Second is females enlarging their network for more food. Again, fancy devices will not work on these, but poisons and traps will. This is what I find most in March through June.

Third is young that have moved out on their own and are starting a new tunnel network. This happens from now until the end of the year, and these can be killed pretty easily by lots of ways, including just digging 6 or 8 feet and finding the large burrow where they retreat to and wacking them. The network will be very small.

In none of these situations will the actual tunnels be visible above ground, just the fluffy mounds where they push out the dirt. Visible (pushed up) tunnels mean moles.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 6:02PM
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Are all mole tunnels fluffy and pushed up? We have big problems with moles or gophers. Few weeks ago I was watering my neighbors squash plants, he only waters by digging wells around each plant and then fill it w/ water, and I heard a suction-like noise, I looked down and saw the squash plant sucked down into the ground and all that was left was the empty hole. I dug down it was probably 6-8" below the hole, and there was the trail. There was nothing visible on the surface, yet other parts of the garden you will see some fluffy raised spots, but not continuous fluffy trails.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 6:34PM
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Sheri, we have moles but they don't make raised tunnels. The only way I can tell where the tunnels are is to either remove the dirt from the mound and see where the hole goes or step on them when the soil's really moist and soft. The tunnel's usually shallow enough that I can push it down by stepping on it. I think the biggest difference between moles and gophers is what they eat. Moles have no interest in plants. They just dig around in search of worms and grubs. Gophers are the ones that pull disappearing acts on plants or gnaw the roots off.

I wouldn't mind my mole so much if he/she were out in the backyard where our soil could use the aeration. But nooo, he/she has to be in our front yard in view of all the neighbors, digging under our driveway and sidewalks and making them crack and cave in. Ugh.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 6:52PM
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owiebrain(5 MO)

Miraje, I'll trade you my back yard moles for your front yard ones. I have some of each but, since the garden is in the back, I'd consider that trading up.

Paula, Kong was fixed right after we got him so the only he'd better not be siring anything!

Jo, I'm glad you heard they're rare around here -- and I'll pretend to believe it. ;-)

Sheri, our moles only make raised tunnels once in a great while. Other than that, it's a mound here and a mound there. Of course, since the dog killed the one and only mole in the entire county, there'll be no more! Right? Right?!?


    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 7:02PM
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