How to Deal with Gophers and Moles in Your Cannabis Garden?

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Added 15 May 2023

As cannabis growers, we all know the joy of watching our precious plants grow from cute little seedlings to vibrant bushy plants with loads of flowers. But let’s face it, sometimes, Mother Nature may have different plans for your plant. 

Sometimes, her plans come in the form of garden pests, especially moles and gophers. These little rodents may look cute — they are — but they can wreak havoc on your cannabis garden in no time. The result can be stunted growth, damaged roots, or even dead plants. The entire ordeal can be super frustrating. 

But fear not. Dealing with gophers and moles while growing cannabis outdoors doesn’t have to be a nightmare. With the right techniques, you can not only get rid of these rodents but also prevent them in the future. 

But what are they, and how can you do that? Learn all about dealing with gophers and moles in your cannabis garden with this article. We’ll cover everything you need to know about these rodents, how to identify them in your garden, and some effective techniques to get rid of them and keep them away from your garden! 

About Gophers and Moles

About Gophers and Moles

Moles and gophers are an infamous nuisance for those that grow cannabis outdoors. They don’t often show up, but when they do, they can wreak havoc in your cannabis garden by eating your plant’s roots and damaging the plant. They can easily destroy your plant or, at the very least, stunt its growth or cause other problems. 

But what are gophers and moles? Are they the same animal? 

Nope. They are quite different. 

Moles and gophers are small burrowing animals that share only a few commonalities. They burrow in the soil, look super cute, and are quick to destroy cannabis plants. Other than that, they are as different as a dog and a cat. 

Moles are insectivore animals that feed on insects and are usually found in North America, Asia, and Europe. These mammals have small eyes, short tails, and long, pointy snouts. And they are covered in black or dark gray fur that’s velvety to the touch. 

On the other hand, gophers are only found in Central and North America, and they are herbivores — they love feasting on plant matter. These creatures have small ears, large front teeth, and powerful forelimbs that help them dig deep in the ground. Their fur is gray or brown, and they have a furry tail. 

Identifying Moles and Gophers

Identifying Moles and Gophers

How do you know your plants are damaged by moles or gophers and not by anything else? There are a few signs that you can look for, such as the following. 

1. Damaged Roots

One of the first signs of rodents is damaged roots since both moles and gophers are burrowing creatures. They chew on plant roots, which can cause significant damage. Look for signs of gnawing or missing roots when examining affected plants.

However, gophers are the more notorious of the two species since they love feeding on plant matter and are more likely to chew on cannabis roots. 

Moles, on the other hand, avoid burrowing through roots, but if they find soil rich with earthworms, they may make an exception and cut right through your plant’s root system. 

2. Chewed Up Canopy

Similarly, gophers are also notorious for chewing up the canopy of plants. They do this when they surface, and since they are hungry creatures, they can chew up a significant portion of your plant within a couple of days. Moles, on the other hand, don’t eat the canopy since they rarely surface and aren’t a fan of eating plant matter. 

3. Missing Plants

Again, gophers are the prime suspect if your cannabis plant has disappeared entirely (unless someone has stolen it). No, the gopher didn’t eat the entire plant, but they dig wide tunnels and have strong forelimbs. If they like your plant but don’t feel safe on the surface, they may pull the entire plant underground and feast on it over the next couple of days. 

In addition, gophers and moles feed on the roots of plants, so if you notice cannabis plants suddenly uprooted or wilting for no apparent reason, it could be a sign of their activity.

4. Mounds in Your Garden

Finally, one sign that your garden may be host to both moles and gophers is the presence of mounds on the surface. Both these creatures burrow underground and, while digging in, make various mounds on the surface. 

Fortunately, their mounds are easy to distinguish. Moles create regular cone-shaped mounds that look akin to ant hills. On the other hand, gophers create fan-shaped mounds that are a bit larger since they dig wide tunnels. These mounds can be several inches to a foot or more in height, indicating extensive tunneling activity.

5. Runways 

Both moles and gophers dig runways or tunnels all over your garden. The only difference is moles dig a little deeper, and gophers dig a little wider tunnels. One way to check for runways is to walk into your garden and look for soft soil that bucks under your weight. You’ll also see ridges in the soil, which is another sign that they are active. 

If you find a runway, you can quickly check to see if it is active or not. Step on the entire length of it and wait for a day. If the runway stays flat over the day, it is inactive, and the rodent has likely passed through, but if it moves or inflates, the rodent is still active in your garden. 

6. Burrow Entrances or Holes

Both gophers and moles create burrow entrances that appear as small, round holes in the ground. These entrances serve as access points to their intricate tunnel systems. Think of it as a door to your home. Gopher holes are typically larger, ranging from 1 to 2 inches in diameter, while mole holes are usually smaller, about 1 inch in diameter. These holes may be scattered throughout the garden and are often accompanied by soil mounds or ridges nearby.

7. Missing Tubers

Gophers have a particular affinity for bulbs and tubers, so they go out of their way searching for bulbs and tubers. If you observe missing or partially eaten bulbs or tubers of other plants in your garden, it is a strong indication of gopher activity. Gophers will dig around and consume these underground plant structures, causing significant damage.

8. Disrupted soil and loose dirt

As gophers and moles excavate their tunnels, they loosen the soil, resulting in disrupted areas and loose dirt near the surface. You may notice uneven patches of soil, depressions, or areas where the soil seems loose or crumbly. This is because of their constant burrowing activity and disrupted soil can affect the stability of plants, making them more susceptible to toppling or damage.

Ways to Protect Your Cannabis From Moles and Gophers

Ways to Protect Your Cannabis From Moles and Gophers

As much of a nuisance both moles and gophers are, it is relatively easy to get rid of them. YOu don’t have to hurt or kill them. Here are some non-lethal ways of getting rid of moles and gophers from your cannabis gardens. 

1. Eliminate Their Food Source 

One of the first things you can do is to eliminate their food sources, but this is mostly applicable to moles since eliminating gopher’s food source (plants) would be a bit counterproductive for your cannabis operation, wouldn’t it?

Moles primarily feed on grubs and worms, like earthworms, beetle larvae, etc. So, start by eliminating these insects from your garden unless they are benefiting your cannabis plant. In that case, it is better to let them be and use the following methods to get rid of moles and gophers. 

2. Use Barriers

Perhaps the most effective way of protecting your cannabis plants from moles and gophers is to use barriers. These barriers will not harm your plant or the rodents in any way. Instead, they simply act as a division so the rodent can’t get to your cannabis plant. 

The best type of barrier is a mesh barrier that you can create a perimeter with or set it underground around your garden to keep the rodents out. Chicken wire is a cheap, effective option. Just make sure the barrier runs at least a foot deep and stays a foot above the ground. 

However, if installing an entire perimeter barrier isn’t an option — it is time-consuming and takes a lot of effort — you can install rodent baskets made of mesh. These baskets must be placed around each plant in your garden, and since they are available in multiple sizes, they can protect all kinds of cannabis strains. 

Another option is to install underground barriers made of hardware cloth or mesh wire. Bury them at least 2 feet deep to prevent moles and gophers from tunneling in. This creates a physical barrier that effectively blocks their access to the garden and plant roots. Ensure the barriers extend above ground level to discourage climbing, providing comprehensive protection for your plants.

3. Use Raised Beds

Consider growing your cannabis in raised beds, making it more difficult for moles and gophers to access the plant roots. Construct raised beds using materials such as wood or stone and fill them with high-quality soil. Place a layer of hardware cloth or mesh at the bottom of the raised bed to prevent moles and gophers from burrowing up from underneath, ensuring your cannabis plants remain safe from their destructive activities.

4. Trap and Relocate Them (Without Hurting Them)

You can also trap them without hurting them and relocate them. Make sure you use traps specifically designed for moles and gophers. Set the traps near active tunnels or burrow entrances where mounds or raised ridges are present. Follow the instructions provided with the traps carefully, ensuring they are properly placed and triggered to catch the pests. And use good bait like peanut butter (works wonders) or leafy vegetables. 

Regularly check the traps and remove any captured moles or gophers to maintain their effectiveness. Also, This method is relatively safe and humane but only works in a one-off incident. If moles or gophers regularly pay your garden a visit, live-trapping them may be tedious. 

Lastly, keep your pets and children away from the trap even if they are safe for them. And know your local laws. Some states in the US do not allow relocating of animals, so it’s best to be safe than exposing your cannabis garden to the authorities because of a rodent

5. Grow Companion Plants

Another reliable way to keep moles and gophers out of your cannabis garden is with companion plants, and these plants act in two ways. One, some companion plants irritate them and repel them. Two, some plants distract them and let the rodents feast on themselves instead of your cannabis plants. Talk about taking one for the team!

Enhance your cannabis plant's defense against moles and gophers by strategically planting companion plants. By interplanting these repellent species around your cannabis plants, you can create an unfavorable environment that makes moles and gophers less likely to approach and cause harm.

Some of the best companion plants to repel moles and gophers include garlic, chives, onions, leeks, daffodils, lavender, rosemary, catmint, marigolds, etc. 

Avoid growing the mole plant. It is effective but invasive, and you need to stop it before it starts seeding and invading your garden. Plus, it is poisonous for you and your pets. The same goes for oleander, which is toxic for you and your pets.  

6. Use Sonic Repellents

One more-or-less effective way to repel moles and gophers from cannabis gardens is to use sonic repellents, which use ultrasonic frequencies that irritate them but are inaudible to us. Here, you need to get a sonic repellent designed for rodents (available in gardening stores as well as online stores) and install it underground. Not too deep, just under the surface. 

There’s a downside, though. Sonic repellents will drive the rodents away only temporarily, and they may always come back if they are stubborn enough. Plus, your neighbor may not like it since these rodents may start attacking their plants. Avoid if your neighbor grows cannabis, too. 

7. Use Scented Repellents

Gophers and moles have sensitive noses, so you can repel them with strong smells, too. For this method to work, you need to choose a repellent of your choice and spray it all over your garden, especially down every burrow you see. 

Perhaps the best-scented repellent is castor oil, which creates a pungent odor that moles and gophers hate. This oil is made from castor beans and contains ricinoleic acid, which repels rodents. Mix castor oil, organic soap, and water in a 3:1:3 ratio, mix it, and apply it all over your cannabis garden.

Similarly, you can also use garlic, which contains various sulfur compounds that rodents find repulsive. Blend some cloves of garlic in water and spray it over your garden bed, but be conservative with this solution as it can also repel beneficial insects like earthworms

Another terrific scented repellent is Tabasco sauce mixed with peppermint oil and water. This mixture is easy to make and can easily eliminate not only gophers and moles but a variety of annoying creatures from your cannabis garden. Simply dip some cotton balls in this mixture and spread them around in your garden. 

Some other repellents include mothballs, pet waste, pine, chili powder, peppermint oil, garlic, etc. 

Do note that this method is often a hit or a miss since it is difficult to spray enough of it. Plus, considering we are growing cannabis plants, you don’t want to spray too much of it so that it affects your plant or tempers with its flavor or aroma profiles.

8. Ask Your Pets for Help

Your pets are your best friends, so why not let them help you deal with moles and gophers in your garden? You’d be surprised at how good they can be. Just let them stroll about in your garden and they will do the job for you.

Dogs love sniffing around and are very protective of their territory (read: your home), and can sniff out unwanted rodents and scare them away. Do note that larger dog breeds can trample your plants, so be careful. On the other hand, cats are agile predators that love hunting. 

9. Invite Some Owls to Your Garden

Similarly, you can enlist an owl to repel gophers and moles from your garden. Owls are gophers and moles’ natural predators and are quite efficient at hunting them down. Plus, owls are cute! 

To attract owls to your garden, you need to start by building a nest for them. You can even purchase a nest box from your local pet store and install it on a tree near your cannabis plant. Fill the box with strays and wait for owls to call it their home. 

You may have to take some more measures, depending on your region and the nature of owls. So, this may take a little effort and works best as a preventative measure, not an immediate solution. Plus, this can be a lot of work, and definitely not for people who don’t like animals. 

10. “Loud Noises” - Michael Scott

This might sound weird, but one terrific (yet annoying) way to get rid of gophers and moles in your garden is to use loud noises. No, you don’t have to set up a guitar amp and play Metallica on full volume. These creatures are sensitive to sound, so even something as simple as a wind chime can do the trick. 

Basically, you need to add anything that creates a sound that would annoy them, like a bell, a small speaker, or something similar. But remember, this is a hit-or-miss method that may or may not work, depending on how stubborn or deaf the rodents are. 

11. Contact the Experts

Sometimes, depending on where you live, rodents like moles and gophers may be almost impossible to get rid of entirely. This may occur if your soil is rich, a lot of them live close by, or your garden falls in their natural path. In such a case, no matter how many different methods you may try, they will always find their way into your garden.

In that case, or if you have too many moles or gophers circling your cannabis plant, you should contact expert rodent control services. Rodent control service providers know all about your local ecosystem and the best way to get rid of moles and gophers from your cannabis garden. 

Yes, this is an expensive option, but it is worth it in the long run. 

12. Grow Cannabis Indoors

If contacting the experts is not an option and moles or gophers keep killing your cannabis plant, you can even consider growing cannabis indoors. Yes, this will require some work and effort (and a little investment), but it can help you grow cannabis unlike ever before.

Indoor cannabis cultivation offers the ultimate control over the operation, allowing you to fine-tune the process as per your goals. The result is often a much healthier cannabis plant with a bigger yield. Plus, you don’t have to worry about most pests, rodents, or other environmental stressors, not just moles and gophers. 

If you want to grow cannabis indoors, a good starting point is using basic grow lights, an oscillating fan, and a basic hydroponic setup. You can even grow cannabis in a bucket with the space bucket method, and if you want to go all in, you can go for an extensive hydroponic setup like aeroponics, DWC, or aquaponics. Whichever method you choose, you won’t be disappointed. 

What You Should Avoid When Dealing With Gophers and Moles 

What You Should Avoid When Dealing With Gophers and Moles 

We recommended several methods that can help you deal with gophers and moles in your cannabis gardens, but there are some methods that you must avoid as they are ineffective and dangerous. Here are the methods that you should avoid. 

1. Poison Baits 

Poison bait used to be quite common in the good ol’ days to deal with any creature that trespasses in gardens, but that’s passe. Poison baits kill gophers and rodents, but you need not kill them to get them out of your garden. They are only doing what they like. Instead, it is a good idea to deter them or trap and relocate them — it is more humane. 

Additionally, poison baits don’t discriminate and can harm other animals, like dogs, just as much as they can harm rodents if ingested. So, they are not safe to have around homes that house pets or have regular visitors like birds. It’s not worth the risk

2. Flame 

Many people also recommend using flames to scare away rodents. Here, natural gas, butane, or propane are ignited in the burrows. However, you must avoid this method at all costs. First, it can do irreparable damage to your cannabis plants. Second, handling flame is dangerous and can backfire (pun intended) quickly. 

3. Smoke Bombs

Similarly, you should avoid smoke bombs or fumigants. They may seem like a quick fix but are often ineffective. Plus, the smoke can harm other animals and burrow rodents that are just hanging around your garden without disturbing your cannabis plants. 

4. Flooding the Soil

Gophers and moles hate water, so many gardeners recommended flooding the garden to drive them out. However, this is not recommended as it can make the situation a lot worse. Excess water will soften the soil, making it easier for such rodents to dig even more runways. 

Plus, it may force gophers to dig further tunnels to escape from the water, which may end up under your patio or other parts of the home, which can suffer from water damage. 

Lastly, excess water can cause significant problems for your cannabis plant. Overwatering is a serious problem that must be avoided at all costs as it can not only stress out your plant and stunt its growth, but it can also lead to various issues like root rot that are difficult to fix and potentially life-threatening for the cannabis plant. 

Summary: How to Deal with Gophers and Moles in Your Cannabis Garden?

In conclusion, dealing with gophers and moles can be a frustrating experience that can consume a lot of your time. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. With the right techniques, the entire process is as easy as training your dog to shake your hand! 

We have discussed several methods above that are effective, starting with barriers, traps, companion plants, predators, and various other home remedies. Some of these guarantee success, while others may or may not work. But feel free to try them — you never know which one works best for the rodent in your garden. 

Additionally, avoid any methods that put your plant, pets, children, or these rodents at risk. Remember, these rodents are a part of the ecosystem and don’t deserve to be hunted down with poison traps or fire. Instead, it’s best to let nature do its work while using humane techniques that offer better success rates. 

So, with a little patience and persistence, you can now get rid of gophers and moles from your cannabis garden with ease, so only you get to enjoy your cannabis plant, not them. 


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