Humane Pest Control or Compassionate Conversation?
I was at a client’s home recently in Sherman Oaks, California. They told me about the gopher who had been eating the roots of their plants and creating little sink holes all over their yard. During our site visit, I noted the telltale signs of a landscape out of balance. I knew it would be my job to teach them how to fix their gopher problem by re-balancing their landscape. While we talked, the gopher responsible came out of a hole at the base of an umbrella plant. He looked directly at us while proceeding to remove three umbrella plant stalks and carry them backwards into his hole. I pointed this out to my client, and we laughed at his audacity.
Being that I’m a student of inter-species communication and believe that animals are sentient, I spoke to the wide-eyed little performance artist. I said, “I know you need to survive here just as much as the people who live in that house there, and so don’t worry, I’m going to include you in a solution that works for everyone here.”
Two months later, my client reported,
“we have noticed less gophers since your visit.” The story of an Australian farmer came to mind. He’d been losing his crops to kangaroos. One day he decided to talk to them. He walked out into his field and addressed the kangaroos as if they were hiding among the plants. He said something to the effect of, “I know you need to eat, and I’m also trying to feed myself as well as other humans. So I’ll tell you what, if you’ll agree to just eat ten feet into the perimeter of my fields, I can get by on the interior crops. Is it a deal?” Directly afterward, the kangaroos stopped eating past the ten foot perimeter of all his crops. And they never went farther than ten feet in after that.
I always recommend speaking directly to the plants and animals under your stewardship.
How To Address Gophers and Squirrels with Humane Pest Control
But there are also physical methods to get pests to honor your vision for your property. As I mentioned above, an imbalanced landscape is the norm nowadays. A lot of the time it’s the profit-hungry developer who slaps the wrong plants into the landscape in order to quickly sell a property. The tree right next to the foundation is just one thing I’ve seen them do. Uneducated maintenance workers degrade plants and soil over time by pruning incorrectly, removing organics, and adding chemicals. Many designers use the same list of ornamental plants over and over, creating a regional habitat desert.
Post post-modern landscapes are in sad shape. But you can begin to take back the reigns. Not by seeking control of animals like gophers but by using plants they don’t like to deter them. There are many additional strategies to address rodent pests who’ve gone rogue with no one to check their activity in an unbalanced landscape. But in this article, we’re going to use the permaculture principle of growth by chunking. This principle allows you to start small with a single action and later expand your activities from there.
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Humane Pest Control Through Plants
Here is a list of plants some of the most annoying – and damaging – rodents just don’t like and will therefore not dig up. Having these plants in your yard will help protect your other plants to some degree. As the root systems co-mingle underground, the pests are less likely to want to weed through the plants they don’t like to get to the ones they do.
- Narcissus sp. (Daffodil species) – plant these bulbs in graceful lines at the base of a line of smaller shrubs or mixed in with other perennials
- Allium sp. (Onion and garlic species) – this multi-purpose genus of plants offers edible varieties as well as feeding pollinators like honeybees and butterflies
- Lavendula sp. (Lavender species) – fragrant silver-toned evergreen perennials with pollinator-attracting flowers
- Rosmarinus sp. (Rosemary species) – often seen in large shrub form, there are varieties that grow as ground-covers
- Salvia sp. (Sage species) – wonderfully fragrant with blue and purple flowers, this genus offers culinary varieties and heady beacons of pollen to attract bees and butterflies
- Nepeta sp. (Catmint species) – beautiful silvery-toned evergreen foliage and fragrant flowers offer more than a single benefit
- Fritillaria sp. (Fritillary species) – tiny upside-down teacup flowers from this bulbous perennial
- Pelargonium sp. (Geranium species) – wide range of foliage and flower types
- Mentha sp. (Mint species) – lovely fragrance and pretty foliage, plant mint varieties in areas with good borders
If you consider the landscape as a whole system, and maybe even speak directly to its elements, you won’t have to resort to toxic chemicals that further degrade your soil and weaken your plants over time.
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