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Don’t Panic, It’s Organic: A raised bed question and Malibu gophers

Andy Lopez, Contributing Columnist/Invisible Gardener
4:06 pm PDT April 28, 2014

Reader question:

Hi Andy,

Thanks for your very informative article on vegetable beds in the Surfside News. My husband and I are buying a house, so it came at a great time. I have a few questions on making raised beds in our backyard.

Do you recommend using pine for the raised beds? We have an old tree that we’re hoping to mill. Is it best to leave it untreated? How long do you think before the wood rots and needs to be replaced?

Also, do you have any recommendations on dimensions? I’m not sure what we’ll grow — that will probably evolve over time. I’m thinking we’ll have two or three beds for various plants and herbs.

One more question regarding gophers: Do you have any non-lethal recommendations for getting rid of them?

Many thanks,


Mia, good questions!

1. You can make raised beds out of all most anything that you want to use, from bricks to pine to rocks. Even old pine tree logs can be put together to hold in the soil and would look great, too. The logs could last quite five years at least before you will have to replace them. While you do not need to treat them, I would treat them anyway with Orange TKO. The Orange oil will soak into the wood and basically make the wood last for a few years longer. OTKO is the only citrus oil on the market I would recommend since it does not have any bad additives in it and is 100 percent organic and pure. Google it.

2. Sorry if I did not mention the size of bed in my column. That is really up to you and what you plan on making it out of. So, off hand, using the pine logs would pretty much tell you what size your beds will be. Have fun with sizes and shapes. Just remember to dig down and prep the soil below ground and gopher proof it.

3. Ah, gophers. Malibu is basically one big gopher mount and one big ant mound.

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, Rat poisons were linked to disease and death in the local wildlife. That too applies to gopher poisons, as it also affects not only our local wildlife but our pet friends and our ocean citizens as well. The sad thing is that we do not need to use any poisons at all in controlling gophers on our property.

So here is a trick I will pass onto you:

Aside from making a moat around your property and filling it with water and alligators, you can make a natural barrier around your property by planting paper white narcissus. The plant is fatally toxic to gophers but they are weirdly attracted to it. Wait until the bulb companies have their bulb sale and buy a few thousand bulbs and plant one next to the other, all the way around. Every year you will have more and more bulbs surrounding your property and less and less gophers on your property. Some gophers will eat a bulb or two and go off and die, so those bulbs will have to be replaced as it leaves a door for the gophers to enter, so be sure the bulbs are right next to each other. They require little watering — a drip line at a half gallon per hour will do fine, and a drip head every two feet will work fine as well. Mulch well. Do not plant if you have children or dogs that may eat it, since it is also toxic to mammals.

Email your gardening questions to Andy Lopez at and he will answer them in his next column.