Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Instructions for a Gopher/Mole/Vole Proof Raised Bed

- by Linday Del Carlo, Renee's Garden Trial Garden Mgr.

1. Choose the site where you want your raised bed to be located. The site should have at lease 6 hours of sunlight. Measure the area where the bed will be and mark it with stakes. The bed can be as long as you want, but make sure not to make it too wide. The bed width shouldn’t be more than 4 feet. It should be just wide enough to reach into the middle without difficulty. You never want to have to step into the bed. The bed that we are making here is going to be 7 ft.x 4 ft.

2. Next, buy the materials for the bed. We are using:
-6x6 redwood/cedar/rot resistant lumber
-24 inch long x 5/8 inch wide steel stakes to hold the bed into place
- Galvanized steel 1/2 inch hardware cloth to line the bottom of the bed. You can buy hardware cloth in 3 ft. wide rolls. Do not use “chicken or gopher wire” – it will not work.
-Heavy duty staples to fasten the hardware cloth to the sides of the bed.
Tools needed: a shovel, drill, mallet, hammer, and wire cutters.

3.  Set the lumber on level ground matching up the corners to make the border of the bed.   Then drill the holes all the way through the lumber to set the steel stakes through into the ground.  The stakes will secure the lumber to the ground.  With the mallet, pound the stakes through the wood and into the ground until the top of the post is flush with the wood. 

4.  Now that the lumber is in place, remove soil to a depth of at least 18 inches so we can line the bed with galvanized hardware cloth.  The hardware cloth needs to be set deep enough to be able to dig in the bed without damaging it.  The hardware cloth will prevent critters from entering the bed and eating the plants.
5.  You will need to cut 2 lengths of hardware cloth so that they can be joined in the center to form one large sheet that will stretch from the bottom of the bed up to the sides.  The length of the hardware cloth needs to include enough for the length  and depth of the bed. Overlap the 2 pieces by a few inches in the center ,  then  sew the strips together to make a secure seam (use thin, flexible wire to do this and make a tight seam).  Then lay the hardware cloth into the bottom of the bed and form it to the bottom and sides.  
    Once the hardware cloth is in place, fasten it to the lumber with heavy duty staples every 3 inches.  This will prevent hardware cloth from moving and creating gaps for critters to enter. If the hardware cloth is  still too shallow to reach up the sides because your bed is deep, cut  extra strips that overlap at least several inches and "sew" up a seam with thin flexible wire so gophers can't slip between the pieces.

6. Now the hardware cloth is fastened, and the bed is ready to be refilled with the soil that had been previously taken out.   When refilling the bed with soil, also take this opportunity to amend it with compost at the same time.  
7. The new bed is ready to plant.  The lumber that we used is thick enough to last for many years without decomposing.  It is protected underneath with hardware cloth which will prevent gophers/moles/voles from getting in.  We have added compost to enrich the soil for the plants.  While it is true that an occasional invader will jump into the bed from outside, it is easy to trap them when inside, as they have no way to escape!


Jenn's Cooking Garden! said...

What a great idea! I think the gophers found us last summer! Not this year they wont. Cant wait to try this method!

Appalachian Mercantile said...

I surely needed this! We live in the woods and we have more moles than grass! :) I bought some of those metal windmills that you sink in the ground 6', but the jury is still out on them.....

Raymond and Busby said...

Great article! Thanks Lindsey! I built mine too shallow and the gophers got to my Borage last year.

Renee Shepherd said...

It's maddening to invest so much in your garden only to find that the gophers have made it their personal cafeteria! There are many mole and gopher gadgets out there that claim to chase them away... but "fencing them out" is the only foolproof method we have ever found that truly works!

Anne E said...

Thanks so much for the information and photos. Just 48 hours late for me! I've battled the gophers for 20 years. Tubes do help until I forget to check for dead batteries. I just built 6 new beds 10"x 2" redwood with 4" x 4" posts in the corners and the middle of the 20' beds. Cedar is so hard to get here. First beds were the same build &have lasted 20years so far. I lined new beds with 19G 1/2" galvenized hardware cloth. But I didn't dig down 18". Is that a big mistake? They aren't planted yet but filled with soil and compost.

Renee Shepherd said...

Hi Anne- Sounds like you've done a great job in preparing your garden beds. While 18 in. deep is ideal, it will be fine to go down 12in. as well - needs to be deep enough to allow for turning/digging without piercing the wire. We do use redwood for our beds as well, as it is plentiful here in CA. If you have any questions, you can email Lindsay at trailmanager@reneesgarden.com

Lou Altamura said...

Wow! That is one hardcore garden bed.

Anonymous said...


I would love to talk to you about an issue that I feel is a hot topic in environmental news and something that most families are intrigued to read about. I have written an article that I think your readers would be interested in seeing on your blog.

As I'm sure you know that in the last 100 years, our agricultural habits have left us with about a quarter of the crop diversity we once had?

I'm looking to promote that idea that by encouraging grocery shoppers to branch out from their usual selections and to join the local food movement, they can help to conserve this forgotten species, provide a healthy food choice for their families and create a more sustainable agricultural system.

Kori Bubnack

The Happy Hippy said...

Fantastic idea - thank you so much. We don't have gophers but we have other things that eat our root veggies.

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