The Q&A Archives: Aesculus & Gopher

Question: I recently bought an aesculus xcarnea from one of the local nurseries you supply. It has been about one month since I planted it. It has already lost all of its leaves. It is also on a slope which faces the west. The problem is that within the last few weeks I (along with many of my neighbors) have had a surge in gophers. The gopher has definitely burrowed above the planting hole and a couple of feet to the right of it. I have put in gopher bait and tried to gas the darn thing, but I'm not sure it has worked. I asked Henrich at San Gabriel Nursery, but he didn't really tell me anything.

Question: How can I tell if my tree is still okay?

Answer: I suspect your new plant is suffering transplant shock along with root damage from the gopher tunnels. Gas bombs are just one of dozens of reported remedies for getting rid of gophers. Nothing really works except trapping the creatures. Gophers and moles feed on grubs and other insects in the soil. As long as you have healthy soil teaming with beneficial insects and their larvae, you'll have the potential for attracting gophers. To get rid of gophers, invest in a scissors-type gopher trap, and set it carefully - as often as necessary to catch and kill the entire population. Once you've gotten rid of the gophers, encourage your neighbors to do the same. If it's any consolation, gophers in your yard are a compliment to your skills as a gardener. They prefer rich, moist, organic soil teeming with insects!

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