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Tomato plants/roots (?) being eaten by gophers........help please, what to do?

They've done this before. They ate all my rose plant roots. But then were gone.
Apparently, they're back. What to do?

I have 5 large tomato plants that are now dying plants.
Turning yellow, leaves are dead and/or dying off/withering.
When this happened with the roses, I couldn't figure out what the problem was.
Until I lifted the tops of the dying rose plants and they came straight up and out of the dirt, roots gone.
I found evidence of gopher activity. Two "patio tomato plants" I planted together under the same tomato basket, now, one is completely gone, whole plant gone, all tomatoes gone. We realized all this when we returned from our recent vacation. If I look closely at where it was, I see a tiny bit of dirt scuffed up where it used to be. Like it'd been being dug from underneath.

I can only figure this is what's happening to the other 5 plants that are looking bleak. Any suggestions as to what to do? I can't find the gophers. I can only water and feed with Miracle Grow as usual. Do they make a MiracleBeGone for gophers?
Any suggestions are appreciated, thank you.

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  1. Gophers/moles/voles are evil. So are squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits. In the garden. I don't think there's anything you can do this year. I've read of people lining their garden bed with chicken wire to keep the tunnelers out. High fencing to keep the others out. I feel your pain. A few years ago I planted some coleus in pots to sit by thefront door. Put drip system on them and left town for a week or so. Came back and even alot of the dirt had been thrown out of the pots. There was one small, sad stalk. No sign of anything else. I don't plant coleus anymore. Good luck.

    1. There are some repellents that may work, which contain irritants (like cayenne pepper) and/or scary-smelling stuff (like dried blood). Here's one that professes to drive anything away, even armadillos! I didn't realize armadillos were garden pests. Live and learn.


      And this is specifically for burrowers, but you have to find the burrow:


      1. thanks both of you. if my eyes aren't lying, there could be, well, let me ask you this. how big is rabbit poo? sorry to get gross. we live where rabbits are everywhere but our dogs will kill 'em quicker than turnips if they get in the yard and the dogs hear everything, even burrowers. the garden is green chicken wired and fenced off, but the burrowers are underground. I hate to say this but next year it may just be one of the WallyWorld kiddie swimming pools with compost and peat moss in there and still fenced around the sides.
        just a bummer because I have heirloom toms in there, that I've been waiting for [set aside the cost of this fiasco]. I detest market tomatoes, it's a shame, thanks for helping me.

        3 Replies
        1. re: iL Divo


          Scroll down to figure 4. But I honestly believe it's a burrower. The above ground animals will usually go for the foliage first. I think your idea of a kiddie pool is a great idea. Have you ever read "Square Foot Gardening"? It's a classic and totally unique ideas. If you did raised beds, you could line the bottom with whatever. Google that and it will give you the general idea. Again, good luck.

          1. re: c oliver

            you're probably right. our dogs have literally stood still as if dead cocked head and stared at the planter beds, then pounced in there before there was chicken wire put in place. we've scolded of course, as they tromple over the fledgling baby plants and klll them with their weight. I got the idea in Columbus Ohio as I walked around the city on my way back from Old German Village there. It was placed in a church and the signs around the pool read, "children's project". Now I know rabbits could still get in there too so I'd have to think of that. Our beds are raised 2 cinder blocks high but we never thought of lining them with anything as that's where we planned on putting strawberries and roses with the strawberries growing being shaded by the roses. I haven't heard of the square foot gardening but will look it up as well as I'll read that link you provided. thanks again

            1. re: c oliver

              My strawberries were all eaten by gophers and some tunnels left in the large kiddie pool we used last year. This year I am taking an old table, drilling holes through the top for water release and doing the garden in pots safely away from the vermin. Kiddie pool was easy for gophers to get in and out of.....

          2. If it's any consolation, some years, the gophers/moles/voles leave us alone. Other years, not so much.

            1 Reply
            1. An ideal way to fight off burrowers is to dig a 12" deep X 6" wide trench around the perimeter of the patch you want to protect. Unroll the chicken wire and curve the bottom of the wire *away* from the patch leaving the rest straight up like a fence. You might want to anchor the bottom with earth staples (I've used the clipped off bended ends of wire clothes hangers.). Fill in the trench with soil. You will need a fairly tall length of chicken wire in order to have enough to bury. This works very well... the little beasties can't burrow through the bent wire.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Gio

                that does make sense for probably next year, we'd have to clear out what's in there and although not something I care to think about, the idea of losing all this precious stuff is worse

              2. Back in the '80's my ex searched out the ground hog burrow entrances nearest his garden (there were 2) and planted leftover seedlings and stunted transplants around them. Sort of like a decoy crop. Seemed to have worked. Could have helped that some of the transplants were a little illegal, but I always thought that causing the munchies in ground hogs was a little counter productive.

                5 Replies
                1. re: morwen

                  Ummmm, I'm a cop and you're arrested!
                  Sorry, couldn't resist..... :)))

                  That's pretty funny tho must admit.

                  1. re: iL Divo

                    Hah. The ironic and somewhat satisfying thing is that after repeatedly pleading for him to stop and moving out because I wasn't going to risk losing my son (among other reasons), shortly after the divorce came through he was well and thoroughly busted.

                    1. re: morwen

                      I was kidding Morwen, simply being silly

                      1. re: iL Divo

                        I knew that! Was just enjoying some schadenfreude ;-)

                2. I feel your pain. We have a large gathering of moles and it is driving us to drink...we really didn't need the push! I have run over one or two with the lawnmower and as emotional and empathetic that I am, I felt no pain.
                  Moles are not as cute as they are portrayed in children's storybooks and they are pests and persistent ones at that. We went on google earth to look at our house from above and had to almost vomit at the site of our whole lawn spotted in a perfect pattern of holes that were undetectable at ground level. Honestly, it grosses everyone out who sees it. They have ruined my peonies and I have had it.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: itryalot

                    Moles are not eating your plants. Remember the saying: "M"oles eat "M"eat, "V"oles eat "V"egetables. Moles burrow in the soil to eat grubs and worms. Voles burrow to eat your plants from the bottom up. What also comes to mind on root damage ot tomatoes are nematodes. When you bought your tomato plants did the stake indicate that they were nematode resistant? (most new varieties are.)


                      1. re: iL Divo

                        Actually that is Siobann. (Off the record When DW wanted to purchase one of her favorite little darlings for her retirement dream, the people made us a deal, the nice one was really cheap if we took the cranky mother (Siobann) with her). Anyway, the daughter, Maeve, the sweetest alpaca that ever lived, I think continued to nurse for three years, and Siobann today will still think about spitting at you if go near her now 4 or 5 year old baby. Siobann is now 13.

                        1. re: junescook

                          My husband calls the one I visit a lot "my boyfriend". Gizmo is the cutest alpaca that belongs to a friend and for some reason, although he's very shy, very skittish, he loves me and gives the sweetest kisses. could it be he likes my flavored mocha or strawberry tangerine lipstick? I think so but I'll take the kisses, lipstick or not.....................

                      2. re: junescook

                        gad, you're brill! thank you for that link. just read it and will go outside and pull up a tomato plant or two and see if there is anything that looks like "that". I got my plants from "Home Depository", "Lowe's" and "You Do It". I'd think reputable sellers, but not sure and I'd not known to check any stake. Thing is, these things aren't inexpensive to tackle, getting little plants to be big plants and make yummy vegetables. And now, they're croaking, it's just so annoying....................

                        Hey itryalot, how does one see their house from above on google earth? is it the hybrid or the satellite or another part of the page???

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          iL Divo,

                          When you buy tomatoes, you will see the letters VFN or VFNT next to the variety, These indicate that this particular variety has been bred to be resistant to Verticillium, Fusarium, root Nematodes, and Tobacco mosaic diseases respectively.

                          If you download Google Earth, there is a space "fly to". You just type your address into that box, and the program will gradually zoom to your address. Using your mouse you can get down to about 600 feet. The image of my house is from 2006.

                          What I find handier and what can do the same and more, is this interactive weather site from the Weather Channel. Set it up for your area and it will always give you radar images of your area. Also you can then where it says map a US address, put in you own address, and see the same image by clicking on satellite. It's handier and multifunctional.


                          1. re: junescook

                            just tried it thanks.
                            you mean those little plastic tags on the plant? I'll check them.
                            last night I went to pull up on one of the ones that is no doubt dead-ish.
                            it didn't pull out with ease so told me that they may still have roots.
                            so I'm supposed to pull up the plant and see if it looks like that pix on the website?
                            ok, will do, if it does, that means that it's gonna croak a hundred percent right?so no replanting it, for what right?

                            1. re: iL Divo

                              In our local extension office here in CT, we've been seeing a number of cases of septoria leaf spot in which the leaves wither from the bottom up:


                              Here is also a bulletin from Iowa that covers about everything:


                              1. re: junescook

                                California here. Not that that matters maybe, don't know. Just pulled up an Early Girl and all the stem plastic pick says is Y5601-181 and underneath that it says V 057025. I'll be taking this back to one of the places I got it, gotta find the receipt first so I know where to go. Way too late for tomatoes to start again but maybe I can exchange it for a proper vegetable that it's not too late for. I pulled up this plant, should have started this post saying that, from the roots and there are roots and they don't appear to have either of these dilemmas, as previously mentioned, according to the pix. I'm simply stumped.

                                june, the first link doesn't work for me, maybe it's an inside link only for your company?

                                1. re: iL Divo

                                  Early Girl is only VFF, which means not resistant to nematodes. A lot of places do not show resistances. One place to look up resistance patterns for a variety is Totally Tomatoes (http://www.totallytomato.com/sp.asp?c=69) as they do display resistances and carry very many varieties.

                                  1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                    I ordered 30 different tomato seeds from them a few years ago.
                                    I planted the seeds in good rich soil in cute little tiny 2" pots inside and watered them as they said to. I also used tiny Popsicle sticks to name them all, after all, they were all different. NOT one of them came up. A few sprouted a tiny bit of green but nothing beyond that. Talk about furious. I called them and they simply said, "you must have done something wrong."

                                    Don't know what happened to them, but from their lack of customer service, I won't buy from them again, duh................
                                    that said, I'll look into the link you provided, thank you for info.

                                    Just watering my very dead and dying tomatoes, why do I even bother, I looked at the underneath of a lovely leaf, it had a small worm, not tomato horned thing, just a small worm sucking away...............maybe that has something to do with it. The spray some have said to use apparently only works if you spray the bug directly, well how does a person stand all day long waiting to see one actually land and then spray it? ho hum :(

                                    1. re: iL Divo

                                      Totally Tomatoes was very different when they were owned by a company that went bankrupt and were in one of the Carolinas. This company had a slew of problems and deserved to go broke. They are now owned by by the people that own Jung Seed and Vermont Bean Seed and are in Wisconsin.

                                      In any case the link I provided was because this site carries a lot of tomato varieties and labels them for resistance factors so you have a good chance of checking individual varieties. Unfortunately, too many seed companies and plant sources do not provide the resistance information or carry a very limited range of varieties and so are not useful as a reference source.

                                      1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                        I don't know who was the owner when I bought.
                                        Was told so highly to get my heirlooms there.

                                        thanks again EK

                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                          <i replanted it, the one early girl <i pulled up.
                                          i used vitamin b and fish emolsion to get it in the new place in the ground but know it won´t come back just a fruitless, no pun intended, attempt

                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                            You may want to try Tomatob.com- he has a good rep.

                      3. re: itryalot

                        Oh itry, I feel your pain too. sheesh, the little devils. I still won't and don't know what plagues me, but am sure it's a done deal now that I returned home last night, watered early this morning and think it's only a short while before I lose all my toms. Oh well, I'd say maybe next year I'll become more brilliant and put them all in pots, but the planted tomatoes I do have in pots are not doing well at all either. Not flowering, not doing much at all and very few flowers on them which indicate I won't be getting much from them either. Sad

                      4. A long time ago, a landscaper told me the best way to get rid of moles and voles (besides getting rid of the grubs that they like to feed on, which takes awhile) is to put a piece of Bazooka bubble gum in each of their holes. He claimed after they ate it their insides got gummed up and they died. I know it sounds weird but when we do it, we'll be the only people on the block without problems. It's cheap enough to give it a try anyway!

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: coll

                          wow and I know where to buy Bazooka at Albertsons market too.
                          great idea.
                          so coming home today from work, went in back yard to look at my pitiful tomato plants.
                          same big honkin lizard in there that I've seen several times. I keep thinking I'm seeing a snake.
                          could he be eaten my veggies? also, when I watered the [not grown at all string beans] I really annoying pretty green colored grass hopper was just chomping away. I think the poo in the dirt in there is maybe from the lizard, ya think?

                          oh and the roma's are VF if that helps with anything, they're big time dyin

                            1. re: iL Divo

                              I looked it up and lots of people also swear by Juicy Fruit. They say you don't even have to unwrap it, although we do.

                              1. re: coll

                                Juicy fruit abd/or Bazooka?
                                For the varments not the grasshoppers...
                                Should I only use that spray stuff if I see the actual little
                                light green grasshopper?

                                1. re: iL Divo

                                  Gee I've never had grasshopper problems, to me they would be cute (at least for a while).

                                  1. re: coll

                                    They're the size of a childs pinky finger (tip) last third, small. Not cute only because every time I water, they are jumping from plant to plant. One of the worst tomato seasons ever. I do wonder why I bother

                                  2. re: iL Divo

                                    The little light green grasshoppers actually are katydids, the ones who supposedly foretell the coming of frost by counting X many weeks from the time you first hear them saying their names.


                                    1. re: junescook

                                      Grasshoppers and katydids are the antichrist, I must tell you. get rid of them or you;ll never be free of the hateful things again. Only bug I ever saw that could eat a fan palm leaf,, you know how sturdy those things are, all you can do is tear them along the fibers- well, I saw grasshoppers eating one once. I really, really hate grasshoppers.

                            2. My dilemma might finally have been solved last night.

                              Husband and son and I were on the patio in the back yard eating a dusk dinner. There is a block wall in the far back of our yard. It's tiered so going from tallest to lower on the down side, we live in the mountains and our residential street is on a hill. On the block wall are 6 large hanging Malibu lights, that do a bang up job [along with all our other Malibu lights out there] lighting things/the yard up. We call our back yard "the airport" because from above we're convinced that many a plane has thought of landing there due to the over abundance of "all in a row" and many rows at that of lights. They line every part we're trying to accentuate. So as I'm eating, I'm also looking at the plants that are underneath that block wall that those hanging lights light up or eluminate at night. I watched, just caught it at the right time, the worlds largest desert rat run across the wall and down the wall into my tomatoes/green beans/strawberrys/hot peppers/oregano/chive/shallot/basil[s]/rose/bell pepper garden. My husband didn't see it but our son did and said "that thing's huge". I walked over there but too dark to see where he was hiding. No doubt he's the varment [or one of them amoung many] that's been dining on my hard work. Son said, "set traps mom". So...................................we have traps, what do I put in them? Now the "size" ahem...of the "poo" I've viewed in there makes sense.

                              If you know what I should put in the traps, please tell me. I also think that's what the Siberians have been trying to get to in the garden, the rats, not the strawberries.

                              17 Replies
                              1. re: iL Divo

                                I know peanut butter works great on mice.

                                1. re: coll

                                  that's what our son said, "peanut butter or cheese"
                                  I'll try both........
                                  question is, how do I prevent this from happening next season?
                                  do I completely use screen shading all the way up the walls and on the sides and front so they can't get in? or do their teeth make short guess work of the shading material?
                                  I guess we could use really small chicken wire so they can't fit through.

                                  just now watering the front patio, which is sizeable [and I have many plants out there in terra cottas too] I noticed poo rements on the stucco'd block walls lining the front porch. wondering where that came from, it was small though unlike in the garden in the back yard where it's larger, there they were. many gosh darn stupid little light green grasshoppers chomping away on my new growth of buds and leaves on the existing tomato plants out there, completely leaving alone the aphids or bugs like I thought they were supposed to devour. dang.............

                                  I have that plant spray for bugs and did use it as it says you have to hit the bug, not the plants per say........

                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                    When you have problems, you have to have the traps out pretty much permanently. Most people I know use the big metal ones so you don't have to see dead creatures laying around your yard. Just hide them out of sight somewhere. I'm sure they have lots of friends and relations waiting to take over their territory after they're gone, so don't take the traps away once you kill any. When you see droppings everywhere, you have no choice. Fencing isn't going to do it, they can dig under it anyway.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      my girlfriend in chicago just told me to inject hotdogs with anti freeze. sounds good to me. put them on top of that block wall or even in the garden in case it decides not to scrawl the wall and goes straight in.
                                      so I gotta find really big metal ones then, ok, thanks for help, anything is helpful as I know nothing..........

                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                        The boxes are not that big, maybe a little bigger than a rat. Look around your local restaurants and you're bound to see a few. They sell them at every hardware store, Home Depot, Agway etc

                                        1. re: coll

                                          ok thanks, thought they'd be huge ole things.
                                          so no comment on the anti freeze then yet.
                                          I'd never heard of that.
                                          husband is skeptical

                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                            I'm sure anitfreeze would kill them too, definitely kills dogs that drink it, and little kids. It wouldn't be my first choice though. I think it's a really long painful death (like a week while your kidneys shut down) and I don't wish that on anyone, not even a rat.

                                            1. re: iL Divo

                                              I agree with coll. Don't use antifreeze! It will kill any other animal that's enticed by easy meat, including humans. Don't even use it in the traps. Peanut butter is the better bait, or peanut butter and sweet fruit like banana.

                                              1. re: morwen

                                                dang, ok, you two are right............
                                                I'll figure something out, peanut butter or/and bananas

                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                  OK this is so weird, but when I came home last night there was a big pamphlet from the county in my door, apparently someone in the neighborhood saw a rat and was horrified. They recommend rat poison, which is an anti-coagulant that works within 24 hours (I think it comes with the metal box I mentioned above? or you can get it at the same time) Also, they eat things on the ground, like fallen fruits, nuts and vegetables, but also bird seed, grass seed and pet food so don't keep any outside. They like dog doo too, don't know if you have a dog but that's a new one to me. They also said wherever you see droppings you should spray with bleach until very wet so they won't aerosolize, leave for a half hour and pick up with a mop or dust pan while wearing a face mask and rubber gloves due to Hanta virus. Also spray area of dead rats with commercial insecticide due to departing ticks and fleas that have additional diseases that transmit to humans. Any food that was touched by rodents dispose of similarly. There's lots more but don't want to alarm you too much, I'm sure this is all overkill, I felt like I should pass along.

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    Good info.
                                                    I've found that only certain things are eaten while others lay untouched.
                                                    We have Siberians, so yes to the dog question.
                                                    If the rats eat theIr p00 they aren't very hngry because pick it up everyday.
                                                    My husband won't do the antifreeze anyway cause he's scared (the dogs could get to a dying rat) and at very least, gum it out of thrill of chase. He also about died years ago when we'd just gotten our rescued dogs. Found our new boy Siberian literally standing over a bowl of antifreeze. Panicked and looked for signs that he'd drunk any, drips around bowl, wet face, breath smell, nothing. That was a lucky day but it took years off his life.

                                                    We're back to trap ideas. Killed (with plant spray) 4 very happy fat light green grasshoppers yesterday while watering tomatoes on front porch. Front porch has light stuccoed walks which had black specks on them, looking closer I was eyeball to eyeball with the pesky grasshoppers chomping on the young buds. Gosh this isn't my tomato year.

                                                    1. re: iL Divo

                                                      I think your rats are not hungry at all, since they're actually being picky. My gopher Bill is still around, luckily all he eats is grass. I guess there are rats around here somewhere too, hopefully they don't come into the garage in the winter.

                                                      1. re: coll

                                                        oh yea, very picky, not hungry, hum, well never thought of that.
                                                        I think the traps are the only way, cause the other is too scary.
                                                        those dang light green grasshoppers are so hard to see, I know our son will only wate while we're gone, he won't know to look for those pecks.......
                                                        next year........................it'll be my year [I hope].
                                                        I plan on getting a WallyWorld kiddie pool, planting my tomatoes in there and screening in the entire thing. *I'll pull up the screening while picking only, other than that, they'll always be covered so no grasshoppers. I think it'd actually be smart to put traps around the pool too just in case, won't waste my Canadian peanut butter in them, just old yucky wallyworld pb.........:)

                                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                                          If it works, maybe you could sell it on eBay!

                                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                                            Oh, good, I posted too soon, you already nixed the antifreeze idea. Thank goodness. Tell your friend about that- it's not a good idea to be spreading aroound.

                                                            You should still check out Arbico for the stupid, pestilential grasshoppers- they're juveniles, and they'll get much bigger.

                                            2. re: iL Divo

                                              You will kill anything that eats those hot dogs, and it's a cruel, slow, agonizing death through kidney failure- and especially tragic if a dog or cat gets a hold of one, or God forbid, a visiting toddler. No idea if the antifreeze stays in the rat's system so the next predator will die the same horrible death. I dont' think you want to do that.
                                              Check out www.arbico.com. They are experts in specific biological controls. Please don't use the antifreeze.

                                    2. Every plant in my yard is surrounded by gopher baskets. I make them out of gopher wire which is more heavy duty than chicken wire. I have tried everything and they work the best . I have a large city of gophers living underneath my property.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: emglow101

                                        How do you know you're getting gopher wire instead of chicken wire?

                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                          The spacing in the wire is 3/4" across the hexagon and is 20 gauge. Look for gopher wire.

                                      2. Those little ground squirrels are just hell on gardens here. In our workplace community garden, they went to great lengths to keep the critters from being able to access the garden, but three or four years into it, the little buggers have tunneled in, but I have to say that I would share my stuff with the little shits, they're so damn cute. last fall, I saw a broccoli plant wiggling, and at closer observation, there was a ground squirrel with its tiny arm around the broccoli stalk, looking at me, I just walked away smiling.
                                        But a garden friend of mine said she actually watched her plants being sucked down into the below, a la Bugs Bunny, and she's a reliable person, so WTH?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                          Time to start playing Elmer Fudd!

                                          1. re: coll

                                            Most of my garden friends are animal lovers, but it does cost a lot more to keep them out than kill them. I could never kill aground squirrel. I've brought my at-work golf cart to screeching halts because a baby ground squirrel didn't know what to do. I think I'd risk hurting a coworker by slamming on the brakes over killing a squirrel or ground squirrel.

                                            1. re: EWSflash

                                              Get the gopher wire. You can still enjoy them burrowing without ruining your garden. No poison or traps. The cat will stare at the gopher holes for hours on end. You can't win.

                                        2. This year I decided to grow my tomatoes in a bag of soil. In the UK you can buy Growbags at the garden centers so I thought I could try to make my own.

                                          I bought a bag of potting soil, laid it flat on some grass in my yard, made a slit lengthways along the flattened bag and put 4 small tomato plants into it along the line of the slit. I pushed bamboo canes into the grass through the bag so provide drainage and support.

                                          As the plants grew I carried on tying them to the canes. This is my best year for tomatoes, these little Home Depot plants are producing plenty of delicious tomatoes, the soil doesn't dry out because it's in plastic in the bag and I haven't seen a leaf miner or any other pests.
                                          Next year I'll do peppers and squash the same way. When my tomatoes are done I can empty the soil straight into my flower beds.