Get to know your pest. Whether plant or animal, their lifecycle, habitat needs, food preferences, behavior, predators/competitors, and bodily/structural limitations will be your keys to discouraging them from wreaking havoc in the garden. Adults can research these profiles on the California Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources website for Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program.
- Gophers:An Effort in Engineering the Perfect ‘Mouse Trap’. Gophers are one of those necessary ecological pests that feel like they are impossible to get rid of. While they do preform a purpose in the environment at large, in a garden they can quite quickly drive you mad. Our following design was assembled through a collective effort from both a 40 student Permaculture Design course and collective brainstorming with agriculture extension pest management professions. The resulting strategies are a balance that we have found both effective as well as ecological safe for school gardens.
Polyculture Maze Design. This checkerboard design leverages what we have learned of gophers to set up a complex underground maze that makes tunneling inhibitive and creates safe planting zones where anchor plants can become established and vulnerable plants are protected.
Interplanting perennials that will grow deep, dense, or fibrous root systems in a leap-frogging pattern along the borders of a garden deters gophers uninterrupted tunneling.
Interplanting perennials with woody roots containing concentrations of aromatic oils like Lavenders, Rosemary, Gopher Spurge and Sour Clover, will also deter gophers as these astringent, bitter tasting roots are less desirable.
Wire baskets with 8-11 gauge wire and >1.5” x 1.5” mesh squares can be used to cradle newly planted anchor plants or vulnerable bulbs and create another underground obstacle to deter tunneling. Gophers have very strong teeth and are able to easily bite through 19-22 gauge chicken wire. And while wire with smaller ¼” mesh squares can prevent gophers from being able to get a good bite in, they also choke root growth. The solution is using a stronger gauge wire (lower numbers = wire strength) with mesh squares small enough to prevent gopher heads and bodies from reaching the root system. We chose baskets used for kitchen or storage projects.
River stones placed around plants to protect new plants from above-ground digging and/or chewing.
PVC pipe sprinklers with raised tubing to containers (prevents punctures from chewing). In areas effected by drought, animals are drawn to water and often resort to nibbling to access it. Utilizing durable materials helps to prevent leaks and continual repairs.
Above ground water stations and predatory bird perches. Creating above ground water stations redirects animals to a simpler solution for quenching their thirst outside of the garden and doubles as a predator trap. Setting water stations near open areas where existing or installed predator bird perches are found, is a great way to utilize natural food chains as biological controls. Be sure to choose a shallow bowl and set it where it will regularly evaporate and refill with water.
Prevent repopulation with profession trapping and removal. Students can be on the lookout for evidence of tunneling and notify the office so a profession pest controler can trap and remove adults before they can repopulate.
Interplanting to mask host plants. According to Jessica Walliser, author of “Plant Partners; Science-Based Companion Planting Strategies for the Vegetable Garden”, utilizing the “In field studies where interplanting is employed, herbivorous insects spend less time on the vegetable crops growing there. This, combined with a greater population of pest-eating beneficial insects supported by such a polyculture, leads to a lower pest population and lower risk of pest damage”.
Introduction and habitat support for a beneficial predator. Praying Mantis nests were release summer 2021. With habitat support and limited use of insecticides, Praying Mantises will repopulate annually. All predators will stay if there is food to consume and move on when there is not.
Using Diatomaceous Earth (DE) as a powdered assassin to kill soft bodied insects when pest presence is detected. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, “Diatomaceous earth is not poisonous; it does not have to be eaten in order to be effective. Diatomaceous earth causes insects to dry out and die by absorbing the oils and fats from the cuticle of the insect's exoskeleton. Its sharp edges are abrasive, speeding up the process. It remains effective as long as it is kept dry and undisturbed.”-
The use of an organic, bee-safe, pet-safe, insecticide spray, Earth’s Ally Insect Control, to deter hard-bodied adult or flying insects.
The use of a thick redwood mulch with fungi inoculum to suppress weed seed spread and growth.
Plant selection such as clover and winter rye which are densely growing, crowding plants such to cover bare soil in walkway.
Plant selection includes allelopathic (growth-inhibiting) plants: sunflowers, lavender, rosemary, sugar cane and winter savory.
Plant lifecycle strategies: Bindweed. Understanding a plant’s (even a weed’s) lifecycle will help you to create a strategy such as, continual killing or pulling new growth so that the over 20-foot-deep roots exhaust their stores and seeds never reform will lead to the elimination of this plant in the garden. This task is one that must be maintained in order to be effective.