Holes? Oh No -- Voles!!
Question: I know this hasbeen covered on past shows,but what are your suggestions on identifying and driving off thoseburrowingcritters, voles and moles? Thanks,
Question:Dear Mike: On arecent show you talked with a woman from NC about mole controlusingbeneficial nematodesand milky spore disease. We live in
Question: Overthe pastfew months my backyard has suddenly changed from a grassy square to aplacewhere the earth is no longer level, with holes all over. I have 3 dogsand sonever use chemicals outside. What could be doing this to my backyardand whatcan I do of a healthy nature to get rid of the problem?Thanks. You are mybest resource.
Answer: Boy, Sheila's plaintiveplea sure reminds me ofwhen Princess Leia sent that message to Obi Wan, doesn't it? I'm comin'Sheil—just let me find those Daylily droids and my trusty Slug-Saberand I'llsave you from that nasty Darth Diazanon!
Allseriousness aside, our email has been absolutely burning up withsimilarcomplaints. Generally DEER win the '
Molesare mostly blind, strange looking little guys with BIG front claws thateatgrubs and earthworms in lawns. They NEVER eat plants; but theirraisedtunnels can make your lawn look really bumpy.
Volesmake lots of little holes in the ground; they look morelikemice, but with really long weaseley snouts. Voles are a HUGE gardenthreat;they eat plants, and lots of 'em. Their favorites foods are tulip bulbsand theroots of plants like hostas.
So,which do YOUhave: Mole tunnels or vole holes?
IfYou're Troubled by tunnels on top of your turf…
The moles doing thatdigging are eating Japanese beetle andother grubs that ARE devouring your lawn's roots. The fastestway towipe out those grubs is to release beneficial nematodes into your lawnwhen thetemperature hits 55 degrees. These microscopic predators onlyharmpests—like the grubs of Japanese, June and Masked chafer beetles andflealarvae! A kitchen sponge-size package containing ten millionnematodescosts around thirty bucks and treats 600 square feet of lawn. Waterthem in atdusk, and they'll rid your lawn of grubs within a few weeks. Then, withtheirfood all gone, the moles should pack up and leave.
Theorganic supply company GardensAlive! is one of the premier sources for these helpful littlemicroscopicwormies; they're on the web at www.gardensalive.com.For other suppliers, simply search the phrase "Beneficialnematodes".
Forlong-term controlof Japanese beetle grubs, treat your lawn with "Milky Spore" disease.Yes, thisnaturally occurring organism, which has been used against Japanesebeetle grubsfor the past 50 years, IS a 'disease', but a disease that onlyaffects the grubs of Japanese beetles and rose chafers. That's it. Thiscontrolis SO specific it doesn't even harm other kinds of grubs, likethose ofJune beetles. And it's totally safe for you, your family, pets andwildlife.Available at most garden centers, you apply teaspoon-sized amounts in acheckerboard pattern across your lawn and water it in.
Ittakes a few years for MilkySpore to become established in warmer regions, and it can take a fairlylongtime—up to five years—in the Far North of the country. But once it doesbecome established, no grubs will be able to survive in your lawn forthe next15 to 20 years, no matter how many eggs nasty female beetles lay inyour turf.
Now,because it does take solong to establish, it won't do anything to control your grubs (ormoles) thefirst year or so. That's why I recommend releasing nematodes to knockout yourcurrent grub population and applying milky spore for long-term futurecontrol.They won't affect each other—in fact, you could apply both on the sameday.
Castor Oil May Work Against BOTH UndergroundPests
Castor oildefinitely sends molesscurrying to do their tunneling in the neighbor's lawn. And manygardenersreport that it chases nasty voles as well! Most garden centers nowcarryready-made castor oil repellant products in spray able and granularform. Andhere's a special note to our listeners with more exotic pest problems:Thelabels on some of these products say they're effective againstarmadillos andpocket gophers as well!
(Ifyou can't findany such products in your local garden center, Gardens Alive! sells dry,spreadable castor oil under the name "Mole-Med")
Wantto try mixingup your own at home? Just add two tablespoons of castor oil to asprinkling canfilled with a gallon of warm water, add two drops of dishwashingliquid, andsprinkle, stirring constantly, on the infested area.
Whetherhome-madeor store bought, apply when the lawn and weather are dry. If heavyrains hit,repeat a day or two after they end; otherwise, reapply once a monthuntil yousee no new tunnels.
Holes? Oh no--VOLES!!!!
If you havelots of holes in yourlawn, you have VOLES—fast-breeding plant-eating pests that are MUCHworse thangrub and worm eating moles. Castor oil repellants—home made or storebought—maychase the pests over into your neighbor's lawn. So might the garlicbasedsprays that keep mosquitoes out of outdoor areas.
Sorry,but aBritish gardening magazine tested those battery-powered vibratingdevices youstick in the ground, and found that they did not repelundergroundcreatures.
Having outdoor cats on patrol DOESwork; save a mouser from a shelter, give them a warm place to sleep andaccessto the garden, and they'll do endless good deeds for you. Sowill JackRussell terriers and similar breeds of 'ratting' dogs. As will hawksand owlsif you put a roost in the middle of the infested area. Nothingfancy—just across beam six to ten feet off the ground for them to hunt from.
Youcan also catchvoles in mousetraps baited with peanut butter; place the trapsunderneath bigplant leaves; voles don't like to come out in the open.
Andyou canprotect a veggie garden from ANY burrowing creature with a fence sunktwo feetinto the ground. Because voles are SO small, however, you'll need tomake it a smallgauge fence to begin with, or, even better—a six footer of regularanimalfencing whose bottom three feet are reinforced with hardware cloth—nomiserablemammal can get through those small openings!
You Bet YourGarden ©2004 Mike McGrath