Destructive Gophers in the Garden

They’re single-minded, for sure. Gophers are a problem in my city, not just my garden, which makes gardening a significant challenge. In parkways and elsewhere, soil mounds and holes dot our city’s landscape. In recent years, they’ve started tunneling into my front yard as well. Their behavior greatly influence my decisions about how and where to garden. They made a recent attempt to expand their tunnels where one of my purple aeonium plants grows. The plant survived, thankfully, but I’ve lost dozens of rose plants because gophers enjoy eating those particular roots very much. They’ve also made two attempts into my raised row bed gardens but apparently didn’t find anything of sufficient interest to make further tunneling attempts, for now.

Another survivor is my Meyer lemon tree, where a few gopher holes appeared. I kept praying for its survival after it had been attacked and left the tree small and looking rather unwell. I dutifully watered and fed this tree and this year has a few fruits, albeit immature, appeared. That alone felt like a victory because I thought that this plant was near its end. Apparently citrus tree roots are not delicious enough for them as they’ve also ignored my kumquat and blood orange trees. In my garden, at least, gophers have ignored my apple trees, olive trees, dragon trees, tomato plants, lettuces, my other succulents, and pink breath of heaven.

As time goes on, it is clear that my strategy for gopher abatement will continually evolve and require multiple methods at once. It can be several weeks of inactivity, followed by a fresh round of tunneling. Especially in my food garden, a lush lawn is a pipe dream. Many of my plants are above ground in containers (although years ago, they climbed into containers and devoured quite a bit of the cabbage I grew) but the tunneling continues. It can be challenging to have to fend off garden-unfriendly creatures from underground and overhead, eyeing my crops as an endless buffet. The good news in all of this is that there are many crops that I enjoy that these creatures clearly do not. Chicken wire has been helpful for many years, but is also vulnerable. I’m likely to build some type of movable contraption that has parts that are impervious to strikes from its large, powerful claws. As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”


Western Fence Lizard

Not exclusive to fences, I’ve noticed a pair of western fence lizards hanging out on the sunny wall around my thornless blackberry plants. They seem to be enjoying life quite a lot, making note of when I water my plants! It’s their mating season now, though I don’t know if they’re a mating pair. In their position, I couldn’t see if one is a male (per their blue bellies) – next time!

I love having lizards in my garden and hopefully they are helping themselves to a few pesky grasshoppers I’ve seen munching on some leaves. I think these beneficial creatures are rather beautiful!

RIP: Neighborhood Opossum

Within the past 15 minutes, I found a dead opossum on my parkway. It was quite awful, really. I’m not sure if it was male or female, but it was flattened, which leads me to believe it was run over by a car and then the guilty person picked it up and put it on the parkway. I went inside my house and got a large white garbage bag to put it in. I had a shovel ready to use, scooped it up, put it in, and tied up the bag. After a few moments, I chatted with a neighbor, with the bag in one hand. As we were talking, I looked at the bag, which clearly showed blood as the body slid down into the bag. It wasn’t the blood that was so upsetting to me. It was feeling the weight of the dead opossum as I held the bag, at least 5 pounds. Then, with emotion running high, I said to my neighbor, “It’s so awful! I’m carrying a dead body! A dead body!” She was also a bit disturbed by it. It’s really a different experience when compared to disposing of dead insects, at least for me. With another mammal, just acknowledging the heft of the fallen beast made it quite sad and very disturbing. I walked away quickly into my house, with the bag and found myself, surprisingly, saying a prayer for the opossum, and its inglorious end. I then placed it in a garbage bag outside. If it visited my back or front yards, I hope the visit was a good one, at least. RIP neighborhood opossum.

More information on the opossum can be found here:

Tree Squirrel Abatement and Management

This has not been a problem with my garden (my nemesis is the gopher) – and I’ve seen only one tree squirrel so far running along the telephone wire above my back yard, but it has been a significant problem with my friends’ backyards, whose crops have been reduced or completely destroyed by them. With any pest that threatens to destroy your crops, you may have to draw upon more than one method of abatement or management.

Here are some useful sites that describe multiple methods of tree squirrel abatement and management for various parts of the United States. Note that some states have regulations on the killing of tree squirrels. Contact your state officials at their respective department of game (or game and fish, etc.) on the specifics on what is permissible:







South Carolina:


False Black Widow Spider, Male

That is what this appears to be – though I am open to others’ speculations on this creature’s identity! I was cleaning up my back yard this afternoon and saw this rather large spider on my window screen.  Looking more closely, it was nothing I had seen before. And the legs – dark bars, very muscular looking. You must click on the image to truly appreciate the beauty of this beast!

It can be found indoors and outdoors.

The bite of this false black widow (Steatoda grossa) can cause medical effects, but not as severe as from a bite from a true black widow spider. More information on this rather beautiful spider can be found here:


As I was typing my last post, I heard some leaves rustling and I turned around to investigate. On the back wall of my backyard that I share with my neighbor, I saw a pair of raccoons checking out the citrus trees of my neighbors’ backyard! Wow! Wow!

I have seen very often the remnants of their dining experiences in my yard but have never seen them until now. They apparently enjoy tangerines!

The photo is a bit blurry and bit dark since it is the evening, but here they are in all their glory!

It’s very helpful to have a camera within easy reach to capture moments like this!

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