Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Do I have Moles or Voles?

Underground Varmints
Do I have Moles or Voles?
You probably have both.  Moles leave large cones of fresh loose soil (mole hills) in lawns, gardens and beside foundations when they run up against your house.  Voles leave large visible holes in the ground without a collar of soil and are quite happy to use abandoned mole runs for their homes.  Molehills are mounds in the ground.

Fresh mole hill in a section of the the lawn that always stays moist.

Old Mole hill runs encourage Voles.Old mole hill being kept open by Voles under a tree where the soil stays rather dry most of the year.

Who eats what?

Moles eat protein; they are looking for tasty grubs, insects and earthworms and are attracted to newly irrigated ground. Moles actually are rather nice to loosen hard ground if you don't mind the tunneling and they do like to eat slug and snail eggs (Humm... a benefit here).   Voles on the other hand, are rodents - pure and simple, they are after your plants and absolutely love raised beds with nice fluffy soil.  To decrease the vole population, outside of a Terrier (dog) or Feline (cat), you might try apple-baited mousetraps in mole runs.  The only peaceful, non-lethal way to protect your plants is by putting bulbs into wire cages to keep the moles from tunneling right through the bulbs and the voles following to feast on what they can.

Winter Mulching to Outwit Rodents
Moles have huge claws.

Did you have bulbs disappear this year from your garden and did you perhaps mulch the garden before it was well frozen last year?

To keep voles and mice from enjoying a buffet dinner over winter, we need to wait until the soil is well frozen before mulching or the rodents will simply dive under the fluffy mulch and into your soft soil; making a nest in a fully stocked pantry.  Let them find another home first then spread mulch over your bulbs in cold climates.

Milder areas, USDA Zone 7 or above (find your zone) do not need winter mulch to protect Orientals or OT lilies.  Actually, too deep of a mulch (beyond what is needed for winter weed control) will keep your soil much too soggy during a rainy winter and you risk bulbs rotting over winter.

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