By Luke Sumpter

Moles and gophers aren’t a common problem for most cannabis growers. However, when they do show up, they can cause all kinds of trouble. By eating and damaging plant roots, they’re more than capable of stunning the growth of your weed specimens, and even killing them altogether. Find out how to deal with these tunnelling critters, and how to prevent them from becoming a problem in the first place.

Getting to Know Gophers and Moles

What creatures come to mind when thinking about cannabis pests? Most seasoned growers are more than familiar with aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites. While these pests are a serious issue, other, less obvious animals can also inflict some real damage on a cannabis garden. Both moles and gophers autumn into this category; they seldom show up, but when they do, you could find yourself with wilting, stunted plants.

Below, we’ll clue you in on the key differences between moles and gophers. Then, we’ll break down exactly how they affect cannabis plants, and what to do about them.

Moles and Gophers
Moles (top) and Gophers (bottom)

What’s the Difference Between Gophers and Moles?

Moles and gophers are both burrowing animals, and neither of them hibernate. While cute at face value, their feeding and movement habits can cause disaster in cannabis gardens. Despite their shared subterranean lifestyles, these two creatures are rather different in how they eat and where they show up.

Moles primarily show up in gardens across North America, Europe, and Asia. In contrast, gophers are exclusive to North and Central America. Whereas moles are strictly insectivorous (they don’t eat plants), gophers are strict herbivores and love to chow down on plant roots and bulbs. Both moles and gophers have poor eyesight. However, the mole’s sense of smell and gopher’s sense of touch allow them to successfully navigate their extensive and dark underground tunnel networks.

Signs of Gopher or Mole Damage in Your Cannabis Garden

Moles and gophers spend their time tunnelling underground in search of calories. However, because they have different feeding preferences, they cause different signs of damage to cannabis plants and the garden as a whole.

Signs of Moles and Gophers

The key signs that moles are hard at work tunnelling in your cannabis garden include:

  • Molehills: Small, oval-shaped mounds of soil are a surefire sign of mole activity in your garden. These piles form as moles force soil to the surface as they go about tunnelling underground. They’re typically around 15cm in diameter.
  • Surface ridges: Because moles tunnel close to the surface, they leave a topographical indication of their tunnels as they push the top layer of soil upward.
  • Wilting plants: Moles don’t eat cannabis roots. However, they can damage these delicate networks as they tunnel. If they tear right through a patch of cannabis plants, they’ll potentially rip up some roots and leave plants looking wilted.

Gophers also produce telltale signs out in the garden. If you’re dealing with these critters, you’ll come across the following:

  • Larger mounds: Gophers also create mounds as they tunnel in the soil. However, you can differentiate them from molehills, as gopher piles are crescent-shaped and around 30cm in size.
  • Wilting plants: Gophers can also cause wilting plants. Unlike moles, they cause this damage intentionally by chomping away at plant roots.
  • Disappearing plants: Gophers will also pull entire plants underground. If you notice your seedlings or young plants vanish, gophers are likely at play.

How to Deal With Gophers and Moles in Your Cannabis Garden

Moles and gophers eat differently and leave different signs of destruction in the garden. However, gardeners can use the same solutions to deal with these tunnelling critters. These strategies are simple, cheap, and don’t involve drenching your gardening with poisonous chemicals. Harness the power of natural substances, and household pets, to keep your weed plants safe.

🧄 Caster Oil and Garlic Water

Both castor oil and garlic are effective at repelling moles and gophers because they contain pungent molecules that make these animals pack up and tunnel elsewhere. Let’s start with castor oil. Pressed from castor beans, this oil contains a constituent known as ricinoleic acid that moles and gophers find repulsive. Simply mix three parts castor oil, one part organic soap, and three parts water. Decant this solution into a spray bottle and apply it close to plant roots and around mole hills and gopher mounds.

Similarly, garlic contains several pungent sulphur compounds that repel moles and gophers. Blend up a few cloves into some water and spray the solution onto the same areas. While both of these methods work quite well, these solutions also deter beneficial lifeforms, including worms. Use these sprays sparingly, and cease their use once your mole or gopher problem comes to an end.

🪤 Catch and Release Traps

Catch and release traps are a humane way to remove moles and gophers from your garden. When it comes to trapping moles, you’ll need to locate a mole run. Start out by locating two molehills that are relatively close together. Next, use a long screwdriver or tent peg to start probing the ground between both hills. Eventually, you’ll feel your probe insert into the ground with no resistance; you’ve found a tunnel. Grab a trowel and excavate the ground until you expose a portion of the tunnel. Insert your live trap into the tunnel, cover it over, and mark the ground. Return in 24–48 hours, and relocate the mole far away from your garden.

For gophers, you’ll need to purchase a live trap from a garden centre. Find a gopher mound and set up your trap according to the manufacturer's instructions aboveground. Place some bait into the trap, such as a piece of carrot, and wait for your resident gopher to autumn victim to its own ravenous appetite. Relocate the gopher away from your garden.

🐱 Enlist the Help of Your Cat or Dog

If you’re getting desperate, then you can release your cat or dog into the garden to get the job done. Cats are skilled and agile predators that will dispatch a mole or gopher with little mess. Dogs, on the other hand, will dig into the ground and may cause damage to garden beds and plants. Depending on the breed, you might also need to train your dog to motivate it to hunt down moles and gophers.

Mole Trap

How to Prevent Gophers and Moles in Your Cannabis Garden

If you’ve yet to contend with moles or gophers, then count yourself lucky! But luck alone won’t keep these animals out of your cannabis garden. Use the methods below to actively prevent them from showing up and damaging plant roots.

1. Companion Plants That Repel Moles and Gophers

Companion planting involves raising different plant species in close proximity to cannabis. As well as deterring pest insects and attracting beneficial species, there are several plants that repel moles and gophers. The most effective companion plants for dealing with moles and gophers include:

  • Castor beans: Much like castor oil helps to deter moles and gophers, castor beans themselves also repel these animals. Plant castor beans close to your cannabis crop to minimise the chance of tunnelling and root damage.
  • Alliums: This family of plants includes onions, leeks, spring onions, and garlic. The potent compounds that give them their spicy tastes help to ward off moles and gophers. Because they’re hardy plants, you can start them off and get them established early in the growing season.
  • Marigolds: This flowering plant works wonders in the garden when it comes to attracting pollinators. Additional benefits aside, moles and gophers aren’t fans of the potent aromas produced by marigold blooms.

2. Line Your Raised Beds With Mesh Wire

Moles and gophers strike from underground, so it makes sense to grow weed above their territory. Raised beds allow cultivators to situate a large volume of growing medium above the topsoil. Before loading your bed with high-quality compost, place a layer of wire mesh against the ground; this will keep the roots off limits.

3. Invest in Rodent-Repelling Devices

To further buffer your garden’s defences against moles and gophers, you can instal a series of devices specifically designed to deter these animals. While many of these gadgets are designed to kill these animals, some of them work in a far more humane fashion. For example, ultrasonic repellers are a non-lethal means of keeping them away from your cannabis plants. These devices emit high-frequency sounds outside of the hearing range of humans. They’re inserted into the ground using their built-in stakes, and emit sound waves that alert and irritate pest animals, driving them out of areas of the garden.

Rodent Repellers

Moles & Gophers: Not Likely, But Still a Pest to Be Aware Of

Moles and gophers don’t show up often. Indeed, they won’t show up at all if you live in certain areas of the world. However, they have the potential to cause serious problems for some growers. Now that you’re aware of the difference between them, how to counter them when they show up, and how to prevent them from making an appearance altogether, you’re fully equipped to handle these potential pests.

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