Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gopher Aeration Tunnel

Here was a trial to see if a 6-pack cucumber can be transplanted wilt free.

Dug a small 6" diameter hole ~3" deep.  Put the cuke in and carefully covered the peat transplant mix with a thin layer of compost.  The compost layer will help keep the peat from drying out too fast. 

After the compost layer, just added wood chip mulch to fill in the hole.

For a comparison/control, another cucumber from the 6-pack was planted traditionally, just dug a small hole and filled it back in with garden dirt.

Here are the 2 6-pack transplants side by side.  The one on the left was "no-wilt" planted.  Right one was planted normally.

To my surprise and frustration, at first neither of them wilted.  Then after a few days, the "no-wilt" planted one wilted just a little.  The normally transplanted one continued to be perky.
At this point I questioned all my conclusions and thought maybe something else entirely is going on.

 I carefully examined the soil around the "no-wilt" one. The peat mix was slightly dry, but not completely dry.  However, the clay soil beneath was totally saturated.  To much watering.  Also I think there was too much wood chip mulch, it was cutting off access to oxygen.  So I removed much of the mulch, leaving just a thin layer of wood chips.

Then I carefully looked at the soil around the "normal" transplant. The soil was saturated also. As I dug carefully around I found a small gopher tunnel next to the roots! A gopher has dug close to the cuke, but didn't go into the roots.  Some of the roots dangled a little in the tunnel.

 It's hard to see but there is a small tunnel under and off to the side of the roots.
The tunnel had been providing the oxygen to keep the plant from wilting!

I filled in just half the tunnel and tried to leave a small hole next to the roots.
Here are the plants after all this investigation and poking around, about 12:30pm.  Both were doing well.

About 4 hours later, here are the 2 plants again.  The "no-wilt" one isn't wilting.  And now after the gopher tunnel had been mostly filled in, the plant started wilting as I had originally expected it to when transplanting it.

Well maybe gopher tunnels can be used to help aerate transplant roots?

1 comment:

  1. I have over 200 fruit and nut trees planted on my property the past 2 1/2 years. The gophers root up all over the place and especially around wherever I plant (newly disturbed soil). I have yet to have a tree die because of it. And only one tree has been "harmed." A Minnie Royal sweet cherry on Colt that blew over in a windstorm/rain. I noticed it the following morning as I was getting ready to leave. I propped it up, tamped the soil back in around it, hit it with some water though it probably didn't need it to remove any air pockets, single staked it (which I never do to any of my trees) to keep it upright for around 12 weeks, and a year and a half later it is just fine---though it leans a wee bit to one side.

    I have constriction traps and poison bait with a pretty good dispenser system---just in case. But I have yet to have reason to use them. I have four 84 year old citrus trees left on my property, one of which is a parent Washington navel orange on SSO. They are on their last legs. One year I noticed a gopher had literally rooted up the entire area under the canopy like a tiller. I was really worried. But within a few months the tree hadn't ever looked better. So I figure gophers naturally till up and mix the soil. They don't seem to eat the roots...or if they do they must not eat much because I don't see the harm. I even leave certain native weeds around now that they seem to like to eat---funny as hell watching one start to move and then all of a sudden get dragged down into the ground. The native birds and pollinators seem to like the weeds too.