Alwayshungry
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New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

HI everyone, new to this forum. I live in coastal Mendocino County outside of the fog belt on a piece of property with more southern exposure than I could dream of! I have a decent amount of space and am considering abandoning my comfort zone with raised/boxed beds as I design my brand new garden. If I go the traditional till/make rows in ground garden I would love some advice on how to do this (my area is slightly sloped has grass growing and has been grazed on in the past by horses)...do I till and then need to let the ground rest and till again?)

So, next question is how do normal old-school gardeners deal with gophers without the wired protection that is so common in raised beds.

Gosh, and I know there are lots of topics in this one post but if you feel like adding in your comments on deer fence and materials feel Free!

Thanks I'm just so nervous that I will miss my planting window, getting a good garden plan is all I can think about.

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ID jit
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

Last time I started a garden where there was grass, I covered the area with tarps and bricks and killed of the grass, then tilled the hell out of it and then worked in as much organic matter as I could get my hands on, avoiding fresh chicken and horse manures.

I think the smart way is to get a soil test early and follow the recommendations. Maybe gather the sample, after the first till, from the center of the plot and the four corners, mix that and pull the sample you send out from the mix.

I have a 20' x 40' which is basically a giant raised bed: landscape timber frame on the ground and a 3' tall railing with wire mesh all around. Have lawn irrigation stuff mounted at the corners and the center of the two long sides which gets complete watering coverage over the whole thing. The ground this is built on has two slight slopes, down slope on the left and a lesser down slope on the back.

The 3' railing/fence keeps most thing out. The wire mesh is the green coated 1" x 2" rectangular stuff. Don't have a problem with chipmonks which surprises me and have only had 2 deer jump the fence in 6 years or so - both one time events. If a gopher and a woodchuck are the same thing, if they can get past the the buried timbers, a .22 is the solution. I tried the live trap stuff and brought the wood chuck to animal control. Wish I didn't wait the 15 minutes and went back to pick up the trap.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

Another way to garden in the ground is making raised mounds. Probably best to do the till, rest, till thing to give you softer dirt and fewer weeds, but some people might not till at all. Lay your garden area out in paths. Dig the top soil out of the paths, down about six inches or so and pile it into wide mounds in between, maybe 3' wide, adding in whatever organics/ amendments you want. So you will have mounds of deep soft soil to plant in and paths that will be less likely to be muddy and weedy. Lay some burlap down in the paths or old carpet remnants, carpet side down. Don't plant your mounds in rows, plant them all the way across. After this you won't till again, ever.
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jal_ut
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

Till, wait a few days, till again, plant. Gophers? Cat? D-con? Hose and water, drown em out?

I am an old farmer type. I garden on the lot out back. No raised beds, just go plant. I have a six foot wide tiller mounted on a 60 horse power tractor. In the fall the garden all gets tilled in after frost, then in the spring just go plant. I do not fuss around making raised beds, nor covering walkways etc. Keep off the ground if it is wet. Do your weeding when the soil is dry enough to walk on. Hoe or a wheel hoe and hand pull at times. Have a great garden!
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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jal_ut
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

I often hear about "getting soil tests". I confess that in over 60 years of gardening, I have never had a soil test done. Hey, if your soil will grow grass for a pasture, it will grow garden veggies. Nitrogen is the nutrient most often lacking in growing spaces. You can get a bag of ammonium nitrate and sprinkle a little on, or get a bag marked NPK (the big three). In the fall add leaves, compost or manure and till it all in. If you put more on than you take off your land will remain fertile.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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jal_ut
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

Deer problems? Make jerky!
I know for most of you it is likely illegal to kill a deer, but you can get after it with a good Wrist Rocket and a bag of marbles.
When I lived on the lot out on the river, I had problems with raccoons in the corn patch. I took a cable and staked it down to run the length of the garden with a pulley on it and a short chain, I tied a hound dog to the chain so he then had the run of the whole length of the garden. His house was on one end. This was very effective on keeping critters out of the garden. (You can't just let a hound dog run, they need to be restrained, unless of course you are on the track of a lion)
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

Lots of options and everyone has to figure out what works best for them and their situation. One of the deciding factors will be how much land you are talking about in "a decent amount of space." 400 sq ft can be put into raised bed boxes and there are some advantages to doing that: you can raise your ground more and your amendments will stay where you put them. It makes very discrete units, so you can tailor your soil, more acid/ less acid, etc. and it is motivational for working - "I'm just going to go weed out a couple of boxes" seems very manageable. They are easy to fence individually or put hoops in and cover with row cover or plastic for winter warmth. But there is work and expense in building the boxes and I personally wouldn't do it for much more garden space than that, though I have seen that some people have.

Up to say 2000 sq ft can be done as mounded wide rows as I described. I think that are tillers that will throw the dirt into the mounds, which would make building them easier. For a big space there's a fair amount of work involved in building the mounds, but the only expense would be renting a tiller if you don't have one (and what ever soil amendments you might buy, but you would be buying those anyway, even if you didn't make the mounds).

Anything much more than that and you are farming with fields and you aren't going to be doing any of this....
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rainbowgardener
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

oops, duplicate post!
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Taiji
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

For the gopher part I guess it depends on whether or not you want to kill the gophers. I have them at my newer, higher elevation garden. I don't like the poisons; just the idea of having that poison in the ground; then maybe the gopher dies underneath the garden. If the poison is strychnine who wants that in their garden? Besides, the gophers don't always eat the poison grain.

My method is just to set some traditional gopher traps. I hate doing it but if I want produce I have to. Dig near the mound until you find the main tunnel going in both directions; set the traps back into the tunnel(s) going both directions, and block the holes with a stone or clump of earth usually so a little light still gets in. Place the gopher carcass in the same tunnel from which it came and bury. I will never be completely free of gophers, but they can be managed. Everytime I see a new mound, I'm there with the traps. You would be surprised how many mounds only one gopher can make.

Ask your gardening neighbors for some advice too and see what they do. :)

estorms
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

If a gopher is the same as a woodchuck, you need to shoot it. They will find a way into your garden. I liked the idea of putting a hound dog in the garden. We have a six foot tiller on a Kubota tractor. We just till until the grass is gone. If your garden is small, you can dig up the grass and dump it on your compost pile. Till in all the compost you can get; grass,leaves, manure, etc. I till in all the shredded paper from my shredder. Plant your little plants and mulch with newspaper, magazines, whatever you have. (ink is soy based these days so you can use the glossy pages and the funnies.) Wet them and put some grass or something over them so they don't blow away. Next year you will till all that in. Every year it just gets better.

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jal_ut
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

Another thing I do to help keep the critters out of the corn patch is put a radio out in the corn patch tuned to the local radio station. This has been quite effective against deer and raccoons. Yes, I run an extension cord from the shed out to the garden so the radio runs from the electric lines, not batteries.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

ButterflyLady29
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

The degree of the slope is an important part of the equation. Bare earth will wash downhill with every rainstorm. Even mulch washes out if the rain is heavy enough. If you can flatten the garden area you'll have fewer erosion problems.

I don't have gophers here but I have moles which push up hills of soil as they tunnel for grubs. And I have chipmunks and squirrels which bury nuts in my newly planted beds, eat my bulbs, and wreak general havoc all over the garden. I even have voles which make horrible and extensive tunnels which causes part of my hillside to wash out. The only realistic solution is elimination of the troublemakers. One neighbor has mole hunting dogs. I've trapped and shot the squirrels and chipmunks. The only ones I still have trouble with are voles. I don't know if castor bean plants keep the voles out but I'm going to try them this year. I have had limited success with packing their tunnels with coffee grounds but that hasn't been tested over a very long time frame. Planting in pots eliminates any possibility of voles digging out and eating plants.

Taiji
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

I don't know what the OP meant when they said gophers. I think woodchucks are much larger than the little pocket gophers I'm talking about. I would be surprised if my gophers would weigh more than a pound, and that's a big one! I think woodchucks are a larger animal that actually comes out and roams around with eyes that he can see with. (I've never seen a woodchuck that I know of). My gophers only have little eye prototypes and they don't come out unless they just can't avoid it. To avoid drowning maybe?

I'm lucky to not have voles or moles around here. Rock squirrels, ground squirrels and packrats used to be a problem, but I think with our 20 yrs. drought that we've been in, they're just not making it anymore. Don't have any trouble with them climbing the garden fence like they used to.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

Yes, gophers are not at all like woodchucks. Woodchucks/groundhogs are about beaver size or even a little more, gophers are smaller than squirrels. If you were in to shooting things, woodchucks would just stand there and let you shoot them. They waddle off pretty slowly most of the time and spend a lot of their time above ground grazing. Gophers are very fast, would pop back down into their tunnel before you would ever get a chance to shoot them and spend very little time above ground.

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jal_ut
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

Marmot: if you do a Google search you are likely to end up with "mens clothing". Anyway..... around here we call them "Rock Chuck". They are to be found up along our rivers. They burrow under the rocks for a den.

They come out and graze on the fields. In areas where they were plentiful, they would decimate acres of the farmers crop. So it was common practice to spend some time Chuck hunting. to keep the numbers down.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

imafan26
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

I am glad I don't have that problem and the mongoose don't live in my garden either.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

bri80
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

Alwayshungry wrote:If I go the traditional till/make rows in ground garden I would love some advice on how to do this (my area is slightly sloped has grass growing and has been grazed on in the past by horses)...do I till and then need to let the ground rest and till again?)
The only thing that's ever worked for me to kill grass is to dig it out entirely, or do as you're suggesting and till, rest, till, (and if you have time, rest/till AGAIN). And if you go this route, you'll be hand-weeding persistent clumps of grass for a couple years. Any slacking in this regard and it will start to take over areas again.

HandiestHandyman
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

I tried smoke bombs and castor oil pellets, but ultrasonic gopher repellent spikes is what worked for me. When I did the bombs and the pellets, they just popped up in a different area of my yard. When I put the spikes in, they dug right next to them the first day, which was discouraging, but they were gone within a couple weeks. I turned them off a few weeks after that and a new mound showed up a few days later, so I've left them on ever since. The ones I got are solar powered, so there is zero maintenance as long as they get sun during the day.
They make noise that you can hear, but it's not that bad, especially if you stick them deep enough in the ground. We like to eat dinner outside when the weather is nice, so I found some that have an on/off switch so we don't have to listen to them while we're in the yard (most of them have to be disassembled to stop the sound).
Here's a link to the ones I got:
https://www.amazon.com/Zebedee-Repellen ... 90&sr=1-35

imafan26
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

There are a lot of good ideas. I think testing is a good place to start to see what your soil needs. You can always add compost, but you should only add fertilizer and adjust pH as needed.

I don't know your garden skill level, but you should probably start small and expand as you go.

Raised beds are good. Full sun with access on all sides, no more than 4 feet wide so you can reach across without having to step into the garden. I usually don't make any bed longer than 10 ft because I don't want to have to either go through the bed or have a long walk to get around it. Materials can be whatever is cheap and available. You could just mound the dirt for the first bed and put in a border later. I would definitely just start with one bed but plan it out so more can be added later.

If you are going organic it is better to build the bed in the Fall and plant in the Spring. Organic takes a while to mature. Even if you use conventional fertilizer, it is still good to always add organic matter as well.

You don't need a tiller for raised beds since you are going to build it above the existing soil. Maybe the first time if you are incorporating compost and amendments into the native soil the first time, and it is a big area, consider renting a tiller for a day.
Over time if you don't walk in the bed and you keep adding organic matter every cycle, you only need a shovel. If you are doing no til, there is minimal digging but a garden fork or broad fork will come in handy.

Other things to plan for would be compost piles, setting up permanent trellises if you plant to grow vine crops regularly, automate the irrigation system to save you time watering. I would zone your system. I have divided my gardens into sections with in line shut off valves so 1) I can work on one section while others are being watered 2) If I have a leak, I can isolate only one part of the garden instead of having to turn the entire system off. 3) With an automated timer and zones I can separate compensated from non- compensated irrigation sections. I have the ability to change out the heads on my risers so I can use either standard irrigation sprinklers, micro sprinklers, soakers or emitters. Some people like to use PVC systems for their main lines. I hate glue and the rigidity of the PVC system so I use drip systems. They are easier to break but also easier to fix and I can move them out of the way when I have to work in the garden.

I don't have gophers or deer. I do have birds that will eat all the good tomatoes and peppers so barriers are the way to go. I have not been able to keep the snails out of my garden.

I am not a row planter, but a lot of people are. Remember unless you can use a lot of any one thing, stagger the plantings (for succession) and plan things out so you have a continuous harvest and not everything will come in at the same time that don't keep and you cannot possibly eat.

I don't like to work around perennials and annuals in the same bed or have large plants in the main garden. I put large plants like eggplant and tomatoes in containers instead. Plants that keep for more than a year like peppers, herbs, fruit trees, are in containers elsewhere in the yard. Plants that are invasive or hard to dig out are definitely kept in containers. They still try to escape.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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TheWaterbug
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Re: New garden from scratch, gophers, and tilling questions

HandiestHandyman wrote:I tried smoke bombs and castor oil pellets, but ultrasonic gopher repellent spikes is what worked for me. When I did the bombs and the pellets, they just popped up in a different area of my yard. When I put the spikes in, they dug right next to them the first day, which was discouraging, but they were gone within a couple weeks. I turned them off a few weeks after that and a new mound showed up a few days later, so I've left them on ever since. The ones I got are solar powered, so there is zero maintenance as long as they get sun during the day.
They make noise that you can hear, but it's not that bad, especially if you stick them deep enough in the ground. We like to eat dinner outside when the weather is nice, so I found some that have an on/off switch so we don't have to listen to them while we're in the yard (most of them have to be disassembled to stop the sound).
Here's a link to the ones I got:
https://www.amazon.com/Zebedee-Repellen ... 90&sr=1-35
Very interesting! How long have you owned these gizmos?
Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

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