Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Vole in the Garden: Control Methods


When I was building and preparing my garden beds about eight years ago, little did I know that I would encounter one of the smallest, and yet, most threatening, creatures to a garden--the vole. Since my house was part of new construction, it would be a few years before the voles moved back in after their exit from the disruption of the building process. It was not long before they began by burrowing small holes here and there. Then, I noticed leaning plants with root damage. Spring tulips were devoured. The roots of shrubs, small trees, and perennials were nibbled until there was no hope for the survival of these plants.




For a couple of years, they feasted on my garden as if I had offered it to them as a gift. It was a very difficult time as I lost plant after plant, shrub after shrub, small tree after small tree. In one winter, they ate over 300 tulip bulbs I planted around the garden beds. Many times as I thought I had found the last dying plant with roots nibbled to the stem, I would find another and another and another. My carefully planted garden was disappearing almost as fast as I had created it. There was a time I felt so exhausted, I thought it would be best to return all my garden beds to lawn and give up.


Before I gave up, I decided to find out as much as I could about their behavior and deterrents to try to control them. I spent a lot of time researching their behavior and methods of controlling them. For the last few years, I have been able to keep them at bay. I still may find a nibbled hosta or some vole holes, but, for the most part, I feel I have them under control...cross my fingers in hope. Although I have some experience deterring these persistent creatures, I would not say I am an expert. I am still learning and experimenting and would love to hear about any other methods gardeners have tried with success.

I do not have any photographs of the damage voles caused in my garden, but Clare at Curbstone Valley Farm has some very good photographs of the damage they have caused in her garden. Her photographs illustrate the exact kind of damage I experience in my garden as well.

About the Vole

The vole is a small rodent that resembles a mouse. It is sometimes referred to as a field mouse or meadow mouse.


Young voles reach maturity at one month of age and can have up to 10 litters a year with five to 10 in each litter. They can multiply very quickly if they find an area that can provide enough food.

To avoid predators, voles limit their time above ground by burrowing near the base of a plant and feasting on the roots until there is nothing left. Voles can live from two to 16 months.

Pine voles or woodland voles nest underground and meadow voles nest above ground.

Environmental Benefits

Although voles can be pests, they do have a role in nature. Their habits and behaviors ensure that nutrients are spread and integrated into the upper layers of soil. Mycorrhizal fungi, a soil nutrient, is dispersed by the vole.

Voles are a food source for many predatory birds, snakes, foxes, and cats.

Habits and Behaviors

Voles eat grasses, seeds, roots, leaves, bark, bulbs, tubers, nuts, berries, and fungi. They dig runways near the surface of the ground, and create deep underground burrows. They sometimes use the existing runways created by moles. These runways and burrows protect them from predators.


Vole predators include: hawks, owls, kestrels, cats, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, snakes, badgers, weasels, skunks, minks, and humans.

Voles are primarily nocturnal, but they do sometimes come out during the day.

Vole Deterrents and Controls

Narcissi


Narcissi (daffodils) are poisonous to voles, and they will not eat them. By planting them throughout the planting beds, the garden becomes less attractive to voles.

Sharp Gravel or Stone




Use sharp gravel around plants and bulbs because voles do not like digging around sharp edges. Sharp granite chips (chicken grit), crushed oyster shells, and VoleBloc from Permatill work to deter voles indefinitely when placed around the base and roots of plants.

For existing plants, dig the sharp gravel product down to a depth of 10 to 12 inches and about 3 inches wide around the plant.

For new plants, pour two inches of the sharp gravel product on the bottom of the planting hole, and surround the plant root with a 3 to 4 inch wide channel of the sharp gravel to the top of the soil surface. Backfill with soil.

Plant bulbs surrounded by sharp gravel, and then backfill with soil.

Wire Mesh

When planting bulbs, encase them in a wire mesh cage. Make sure the holes of the wire mesh are small enough to prevent voles from fitting through to the bulbs. This method is the only way I can grow tulips in my garden without the voles eating them all. I created a raised bed encased in wire mesh on the bottom and sides where I plant the tulips every year.

When planting new plants, encase the root ball in wire mesh before planting. Make sure that the holes of the wire mesh are small enough to prevent voles from fitting through but are large enough to allow roots to spread out of the mesh. This is not recommended for trees.

Castor Oil Pellets, Granules, or Spray




The castor bean plant is poisonous to animals and humans and is avoided by voles. The pellets or granules smell, taste, and feel bad to the voles. Most castor oil granules last up to three months, and then must be reapplied. Spread around areas where vole activity has been seen. Pour some in vole holes.  Sprinkle around the base of plants and work in the soil around plants to protect them from vole damage.

I have used several of these products by various manufacturers. They all perform similarly.

Some of the castor oil products come in a convenient spray bottle that can be sprayed over a wide area. This works very well when sprayed in the vole holes and tunnels and over the affected area.

Capsaicin

Capsaicin is the main ingredient in chili peppers that causes irritation. Hot chili powder or cayenne pepper powder can be used to deter voles because it is unpleasant to them. On a calm day, spread around areas where vole activity has been seen. Pour some in vole holes and tunnels, and work in the soil around plants to protect them. This must be reapplied frequently and after rain.

Predator Urine

Many products mimic the odor of predator urine to deter voles. Voles will flee an area that smells of predator urine. I tried one of these products, and it worked very well. However, these products can be very expensive. Therefore, I tried using a homemade version. This does have a gross factor, so it is not for everyone but the desperate. I use natural clumping cat litter made from corn, wheat, or walnut shells. From time to time, I use these urine clumps as vole deterrents by placing them in vole holes. My cats are not on any medications and eat an all natural diet, so these clumps simply decompose over time. I would not recommend using the homemade version around your vegetable or herb garden or any edible plants.


Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) Rodenticides

Vitamin D3 rodenticides are mostly safe and will control voles without harming their predators or the environment. Follow the dosage instructions on the package. Place the rodenticide in the vole hole. Sometimes it is helpful to mix the pellets with apple juice and peanut butter to make them more attractive to the voles.

Try to only use rodenticides in desperate cases because voles are a beneficial component to the environment, spreading nutrients throughout the soil and feeding many predators. Rodenticides with cholecalciferol usually have small enough doses as to not injure cats, dogs, or other animals. However, there have been cases of cholecalciferol poisoning in cats and small dogs, so be very mindful of this as you use these products.

When using these rodenticides, be sure to follow the instructions carefully.

Vole Traps

There are many traps on the market for trapping voles. The key thing to remember is to place the traps near or inside the vole hole and cover the trap with a clay or heavy planter or some other type of covering. The vole needs to feel it is not exposed to predators as it enters the trap.

Clean and Clear Plant Debris From Garden Beds in the Fall

I used to do my garden cleaning in the spring, leaving the fall leaves and plant debris to act as a mulch to shelter garden plants through the winter. This is exactly the type of shelter voles prefer as they tunnel through the leaves and debris to the base of plants and plant roots. I have seen less vole activity since I have begun my garden cleaning in the fall.

Attract Birds of Prey

Cooper's Hawk - National Digital Library

If you do not have many trees in your yard for birds of prey to use as perches, erect perching poles about 10 to 15 feet high near the areas where you have vole activity. Add nest boxes for owls and hawks to attract them to your garden.

Domestic Cats


Domestic cats are very helpful in hunting and catching voles. My cats have found a few over the years throughout the yard and garden.

Jack Russell Terrier Dogs

These are excellent vole hunters. They are known as 'ratting' dogs and will keep the vole population in check. Be mindful that although these are excellent vole catchers, they can wreak havoc in the garden with their digging behavior.

Snakes

Many large snakes prey on voles and, if left alone, can be very efficient in ridding your garden of voles. Black rat snakes, prairie kingsnakes, large garter snakes, and bull snakes are just a few of the snakes that prey on voles. These snakes are not poisonous and will usually dash away if disturbed.

Walk Around the Garden Once a Month




I have noticed if I walk around the garden at least once a month looking for vole holes and damage, I can usually curtail any serious damage before it becomes a real problem. Voles use snow as a shelter to tunnel through to plants. Check the garden after snow melts to see if there is any vole damage.

Some things I have learned:

- Rosemary deters voles. I once planted a few tulip bulbs around a rosemary plant. The voles ate all the bulbs in the garden bed except the ones near the rosemary plant.


- Each year is different. Some years the vole populations are larger and cause more damage than other years.

- In my experience, hostas and tulip bulbs are vole favorites. I must take measures to protect all of these in my garden. 


- I have a lot of large perennial beds, and these are favored by voles because so many plants are in close proximity and the mulch and soil is usually softer and easier for tunneling than the hard clay soil of the lawn. If I had known that voles would be a problem when I planned my garden beds, I would have created smaller beds with lawn in between.

- Avoid placing bird feeders over mulched areas or near stepping stones and walls

Bird feeder waste attracts voles. If the bird feeder is over mulch, the voles will tunnel under the mulch to get to the bird seed. They will also nibble on nearby plants and bulbs. They will also tunnel under stepping stones or next to walls perhaps even creating burrows.


I had a bird feeder in a mulched area and lost several plants over a season because the voles created some burrows near the bird feeder area and chewed the roots from these plants. I stopped feeding the birds for several years until I began again this year. I am experimenting with placing the bird feeder in a tree over a grassy area. I have had some vole activity, but I think I was able to deter them before there was any damage. I filled the holes with the sharp gravel and castor oil granules. I also spread some cayenne pepper powder around the area.

- Voles like to burrow next to houses or walls or under porches because of the refuge from predators these areas provide. Dig down a few inches all around these areas and fill with the sharp gravel to prevent them from using these areas for burrowing.

Voles were burrowing under my porch and sidewalk and were, therefore, closer to many of my plants in the adjacent planting beds. It was a lot of work, but my husband and I dug around all these areas and filled them with sharp gravel. We have not seen any vole activity in these areas since we added the sharp gravel.

What methods do you use to control voles in your garden?


I am joining Beth at Plant Postings for Lessons Learned. Beth hosts this meme on the first of the month prior to the seasonal solstice or equinox. Garden bloggers share lessons learned in the garden.

© copyright 2012 Michelle A. Potter

82 comments:

  1. To okropne, że poniosłaś tyle szkód przez nornice i cały czas musisz z nimi walczyć. Życzę ostatecznego zwycięstwa.Ja nie mam takich problemów. Pozdrawiam. *** It's terrible that so much of damage encountered in voles and all the time you have to fight them. I wish the final victory. I have no such problems. Yours.

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    1. Things have been going well for a while. I hope it continues...

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  2. Thank you for the information and the photos of your lovely garden. We have moles. Are they the same as voles? I would cry if something ate all my tulips.

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    1. I did cry...it was very upsetting. Moles eat worms and grubs and may upset the roots of plants with their digging, but they don't eat plants.

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  3. michelle, thank you so much for this very useful post! voles are a big problem in my garden, too...so frustrating! several of your suggestions are new to me -- im glad to have a few more ideas to try.

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    1. I am so glad you found something useful. Good luck!

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  4. I don't think I've ever had issues with voles. They may not be native to our area. Gophers usually plague gardeners around here. But thankfully we have birds of prey that nest just behind our property, barn owls that hunt over our garden at night and the neighbors' garden kitties all keeping the pest population very low.

    Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

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    1. It is good you have a lot of birds of prey. Sometimes other cats visit the yard which helps.

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  5. A very informative post! I have LOTS of voles. And, like you, I have lost many, many plants to their feasting. We use mesh and gravel whenever we plant. I have even lost Camellias, and a young dogwood tree to them as well as perennials, hosta, ferns...I agree that they don't like rosemary. They haven't touched any of mine. I have to be careful using castor beans since I have dogs that eat everything! Great suggestion about placement of the bird feeders!

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    1. I mostly use gravel when planting anything new in the garden. So far, it has worked well.

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  6. Great post. Voles are the primary pest in my garden since getting the deer fence. Good information about not locating a bird feeder over mulch or near a stone wall - mine is near both. Voles are most active in the raised bed with the stacked stone wall, but I thought that was because the soil there is the loosest. I have tried halfheartedly to get rid of them, but they tend to avoid my traps. We do have hawks in the yard regularly and the occasional owl, plus the neighbors' cats. My general strategy is to keep layers of mulch thin - 1 inch or less, and hope that the predators find the voles!

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    1. We mulch, but not heavily for the same reason. I edged all the stone walls and beds with the gravel (chicken grit)...that seems to keep them out of the veggie garden.

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  7. Great information! I have seen a few voles here and there, but my cats thankfully are the only method of control I now need. As my cats mature, though, I may need to figure out other methods. I like the idea of planting daffodils and rosemary!

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    1. My cats have gotten some voles, but they are not really outdoor cats. I hope the neighbors' cats will do the rest...

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  8. Great article and lovely shots of your garden! We have snakes and owls here, and the cats help out a lot too, especially Prissy. But for things that really need protection like tulips and crocus and lespedeza and Baptisia, I either use wire mesh cages or more commonly 2-3 gallon plastic pots with the bottom cut out, and mulch with sharp gravel. The plastic pots have worked well for several years. The voles won't chew through plastic the way mice do.

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    1. That is a great idea to use the bottomless plastic pots. I may try that.

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  9. What an informative post. I learned a lot. I think I have them especially visible under the bird feeders with their tunneling. Last winter we had a lot of tunnels through the grass and thought it was moles. I put down milky spore to kill the Japanese beetle grubs and the mole tunnels disappeared. I haven't seen any plant damage yet but I'll be on the watch for it. We do have lots of hawks that monitor our birdfeeders and we hear the owls all the time. I hope they are helping keep the voles in check.

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    1. I have moles as well, but they have not caused any damage yet. I have had the voles use the mole tunnels, so I crush them when I see them.

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  10. Thanks for joining in the meme! So much great information here about deterring voles! We have some in our garden, but not terrible damage. But I think they may have contributed (along with the rabbits) to the demise of my Tulips. Now I plant Daffodils instead of Tulips. And I plant lava rocks with bulbs and new perennials. This is very helpful!

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    1. I have been thinking of using lava rocks in some beds. It is good to know that it works.

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  11. Thank you for writing this wonderful post. there's so much great information here. My new garden is full of voles and this is the first time for me dealing with them so I'm always on the lookout for what others are doing in this situation.

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    1. This was the first time I had encountered them as well, so it was a real shock at first. I hope some of this helps.

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  12. Thanks for the link, we certainly had more than our fair share of vole activity last year. I agree, they don't eat the rosemary, or the Narcissus that we have planted in the orchard (that's close to the sum total of ornamentals as we removed the wildflower ground cover). Even though they don't eat the rosemary, they do, in our gardens at least, use it for refuge, so not planting it too close together is probably prudent. So far our populations seem lower this year, but I really need to get out and cut down the ground cover out there again before they move back in! It's hard to keep up with the weeds this time of year!

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    1. Some of your vole problems remind me so much of the struggles I have had. I am glad to hear that the vole population is down this year.

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  13. That is a very informative post. They look a lot like hamster. One of my son's pet hamster was able to slip out of the cage and escaped. Is it possible it could ruin my plants, too?

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    1. They do look a lot like a hamster. I am not familiar with the habits of hamsters. I hope it does not cause any problems in your garden.

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  14. A very well written and important post you have today. Voles are a nuisance and are hard to remove. They are one of the questions most asked, next to ants, to us as Master Gardeners. I was reading along and was wondering if you would hit the small burrowing dog breeds. I once had a dog, a large mutt, that was a master of catching and killing the voles. I think he enjoyed the hunt immensely.

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    1. Thanks, Donna.It is nice to hear that other dog breeds are helpful in hunting voles.

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  15. What very pretty pictures and a lovely blog. I will certainly pop by again. I am your newest member. Feel free to visit me in the orchard. Thank you for such informative information. Happy gardening.

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. I am glad you enjoyed your visit.

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  16. Wonderful posting with some great information. Thank heavens we do not have the pesky voles here but we do have to deal with moles on occasion. As long as we keep treating the yard for the grubs the moles stay away. Your pictures are so beautiful in this posting, Have a great week!

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    1. Thanks, Lona. I have moles but they are not a big problem.

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  17. Great useful information in this post - thanks so much. I'm seeing lots of winter damage from animals this spring, including some burrowing animals which may be voles. I'll try some of your suggestions and see if I can keep the damage under control.

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    1. I hope this helps. For some reason, I notice the most activity in winter and early spring.

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  18. My garden is to small I think to be actractive to voles. Inspiring post.
    gr. Marijke

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    1. I think I have problems with voles because we live next to a wooded area.

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  19. A great post thank you, lots of new things to try. I had not thought of using the gravel and will give that a try next season. I had a bad problem this past spring with them.

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    1. Thanks, Christine. I hope some of this helps.

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  20. We have moles in Michigan- drives my dog crazy- not sure who causes more damage the moles or the dog digging after the moles

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  21. Such an informative post! I learn a lot about voles today! Thank god that my area have no voles!
    I use glu to catch mice in my house!

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    1. I am glad for you that you don't have issues with voles.

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  22. Now you've got me thinking - perhaps all those plants that never re-appear where I expect them to have been got at. The next door neighbours cat sits for hours watching and waiting at certain spots in the garden and I was hoping he was doing a good job of keeping the population down.

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    1. He may be helping, but there are probably some that escape.

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  23. Michelle, this is such an excellent post! I am going to bookmark it to keep it as a reference. I think I would have cried to see the damage you've had from these little creatures. Good for you, though, for not giving up, but being determined to find a way to outsmart them. When I first became an MG and had to man our volunteer helpline for the first time, my very first question was about voles. It's still one of the most frequently asked questions we receive. Yours is such a comprehensive list of ideas, which is great because not every idea is suitable for everyone. Some of the ideas, like mousetraps, that we use in our MG test garden don't work for me, for example, because of my cats that like to roam outdoors. I've been lucky so far not to have too much damage from voles, thanks to my roving cats and our dog--even Golden Retrievers are pretty good at digging out these little pests:)

    I like the rosemary idea, which is a new one to me--so simple!

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    1. Thanks, Rose. It is a common question for us MG's as well. I had never even heard of a vole until I moved here. I am glad you found some useful tips. I agree with you that some things work for some people and some things don't.

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  24. We do have moles and mole-rats and have perhaps lost the odd plant to them. But they are not problem animals for us. No pristine lawn to grumble about umpty-tumps on ;~)

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    1. That is an advantage. I am glad you don't have problems with them.

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  25. Great info! I have a large patch of tulips that I planted last fall, but none of them are coming up. I am so hoping that the tulips are just late and I don't have a vole issue! Such a hard pest to get rid of!

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    1. I hope the voles did not get your tulips. It is always so disappointing.

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  26. We don't have voles but we do have field mice that cause similar damage. Might try some of your suggestions.

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    1. I hope something helps. It can be so frustrating once they find your garden.

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  27. Great post! Until today I thought voles were like moles ..

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    1. I was not familiar with them either until I had a problem. Moles do run tunnels in my yard but they are not a huge problem.

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  28. What a remarkably well-researched and informative post. I can only imagine it would be invalubale for any gardener coping with this problem. It's also a great lesson in not giving up. Losing 300 bulbs would indeed seem such a devastating blow to any gardener and an excuse to just give up on growing Tulips. Determination and persistence are definitely a gardener's best friend.

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    1. Thanks, Bernie. I am glad I did not give up. I really was ready to throw in the towel at one point...guess it is part of the the life learning process.

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  29. Amazingly written article! Sorry about the damage, and I hope the garden grows well and recovers from the damage. Those tulips are superb!

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    1. Thanks, Asha Ram. I hope your good wishes come true for my garden. For the last few years, I have been able to keep ahead of the voles. I hope that continues.

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  30. You have provided the best, most comprehensive vole-control information I have ever read. I, too, have vole problems and found purchased repellents useless. I dug soil out of two raised beds to line the beds with hardware cloth just so I can grow chives and strawberries. I don't plant tulips because of deer and voles but have tons of narcissi, which both tend to avoid. Last fall I planted two types of Crocus tommasinianus, which apparently are vole-resistant, to replace the many other crocus that have become vole meals. So far, they are blooming and untouched. I will try your sharp gravel suggestions when replacing some of the shrubs previously lost, partially due to vole damage. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you, Joene. I like your tip about the crocus. The voles tend to eat many of my crocus, but I will try this variety. It will be nice to see more color from bulbs in the garden.

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  31. Wow, what a helpful post. I've bookmarked it for future reference since I do find voles in my garden. I had no idea about voles & birdfeeders...if it weren't so dark outside I'd run out right now and take down my feeder, over the mulch, right now.

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    1. I am glad this was helpful, Debbie. I had a time with them near the bird feeder when I hung it over the mulched area. They devoured practically everything in site. My guess is that when it is hanging over grass, it is harder for them to tunnel through and hide. They do tunnel under the grass, but at least I can see that and try to take measures to stop them. Under the mulch, I can't see them. Good luck!

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  32. My voles up N here don't seem to mind the castor oil or daffs...the deer take the hosta and tulips so there is a pecking order...I think the snakes have deterred them a bit but when we have less snow we see fewer voles and damage...I will have to check out the sharp gravel. No bird feeders and I have cleaned up in the fall and only found more damage so I leave plants for the birds and other critters...it is hard to predict these creatures.....lots of great advice here!

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    1. For me, the castor oil pellets work but mostly above ground. I would not use it as my only defense. It is hard to predict their behavior...it is an ongoing challenge.

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  33. Your lessons learned post is really amazing. I've never come up against anything this damaging. Your distress must have been so disturbing. Thank goodness you persevered and learned how to have a beautiful garden and keep the voles in check. Good for you! So glad you shared...I'll remember all your tips when I'm trying to outsmart the rabbits.

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    1. Thanks, Cat. I am glad I stuck with it because now I can enjoy my garden. I would miss it if I had given up. Some of these tips do work for rabbits, too. They don't like cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce....but they must be reapplied.

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  34. To prevent these voles in damaging your plants, you have to remove or reduce vegetative corners in your garden to easily spot up these pests. Then, that's the time to build exclusions and traps. The most important thing to accomplish before any method is to monitor their population.

    As a fanatic of butterfly gardening, these pests decrease my chances to see my desired butterflies.

    David Wofford
    Just click here for plants that attract butterflies

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    1. Some good tips here, David. I, too, would like to continue to see butterflies in my garden.

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  35. That was very interesting, and it's something I didn't know. It's amazing how something so small can cause so much damage in your garden. Thank goodness for the daffodils and the cats and the terrier dogs. Your garden is so beautiful, and I am looking forward to seeing more pictures of it. Have a lovely day.
    ~Sheri at Red Rose Alley

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    1. Thanks, Sheri. It is always interesting to me how some people have a time with these creatures and some don't. My mother does not have a problem with voles. Perhaps she has enough of the birds of prey to keep them in check. Thanks for stopping by.

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  36. Bunnies have nothing on voles. You have amazing tenacity - to preserver in light of the fact that they tore through everything near and dear. Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Shyrlene. It was a challenge...and one I am glad I stuck with. The bunnies nibble through my garden as well, but there don't seem to be as many of them.

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  37. Your blog is really amazing with all the bits and pieces of information I can share with my friends and followers. Thanks and more power!

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  38. I've lost shrubs and trees to voles but the best deterrent I have is one of my dogs. She's the basset/beagle/lab mix, Lucy, I use as my profile pix. She's an excellent hunter who has also caught moles. However, she does a lot less damage to the lawn/garden on her vole hunts than her mole hunts. We regularly find dead voles in the yard.

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  39. I share your problems, Michelle. I had heard of Permatil but settled on lava rock as a substitute. It is very rough and scratchy, available at a local rock supplier and I put it in my daylily planting holes with success, but last year I put a lot in my vegetable planting holes and bean trenches, with great benefit. I have a post on additional measures I use in growing pole beans.

    http://weedingonthewildside.blogspot.com/2011/10/fall-splendor-to-celebrate-some.html

    Very informative post.

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  40. Depending on the size of your garden and the time you have to put into it, the best way to control these pests is to kill them. I set mouse traps at the entrance to all holes baited with peanut butter. You have to keep on it on a daily basis, but it works. If you are uncertain about a hole, refill it and check for new holes a few hours later or the next day and then set your traps. The moles/voles will keep coming, but this keeps the population in check.

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  41. What a great journal about your vole conflict! I planted about 100 tulips in one bed about 12 years ago. My home was also in a new development near a river in NE Georgia. As directed by an elderly lifelong GA native, I planted the bulbs 12" deep rather than the usuall suggested depth. Over the years they multiplied very well. I ended up with about 500+ blooms a year and it was beautiful!. Two years ago the voles took out about 95% in one spring and last year I think they got the rest. I did add permatil last year in my iris beds. It is very expensive if used as directed. I like your idea of using wire but I know chicken wire would allow the voles to pass thru. I am thinking about a combo of wire and permatil but am wondering what kind (size) of wire you used. I think the holes in Hardware cloth may be too small for the tulips to poke thru. I did find YARDGARD 3 ft. x 25 ft. 19-Gauge Galvanized Hardware Cloth at home depot for $46 a roll. It has 1/2 inch holes. This is what I am thinking: Dig out the bed, it is circular surounded by large stones/boulders with dafs in the crevices)cover the bottom and sides with the YARDGARD I think I will need 2 rolls to cover the area, refill with soil, plant bulbs, and top with permatil. The cost of this process will exceed the cost of my bulbs but the loss of joy is worth it. I get emotionally attatched to some of my plantings. My sister gave me many of my old tulips and she passed away 4 years ago. I love the color the bulbs add to an otherwise drab spring garden. What do you thing of my plan? Thanks again for your help and suggestions. I had thought about wire but was not sure how to use it until I read your blog. Happy Gardening! Dionne

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  42. I am so sorry, Dionne, you lost all of your bulbs. I know how heartbreaking that is to lose everything, or almost everything, after you have put so much hard work into it. The wire cages can be a bit tricky because when the shoots emerge from the bulbs, they can sometimes fold against the top of the wire cage and never find the small openings. In my bed where I plant my tulips, I put wire mesh (1/4 inch) all around the bottom and sides, but left the top open. When I plant the bulbs, I place some of the granite chips or Permatil around the bulb. This has worked for three years without any losses. If you were to use a wire cage, you might need to dig down to the top of the cage in spring to ensure the shoots are coming through the openings. I think 1/2 inch holes would work fine, but be sure to place the bulbs away from the edges of the cage so that they cannot take any nibbles. Surrounding the bed with daffodils is a great idea since they will not touch those. I think you have a great plan, and I completely understand the love of a garden. My garden is one of my greatest passions. Good luck to you, and let me know how it all works out. Your well thought out plan should be the answer to enjoying those lovely spring tulips. Happy gardening!

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  43. Hello! I do realize this is an older post but as it is spring again, relevant!
    WE lost our entire veggie garden, many many bulbs, perennials, and even annuals to voles last year! I have researched and researched and have tried traps and dry grits. Neither of those seemed to even put a dent in the population. My husband wants to give up. But, we have rallied and have lined the bottom of several raised beds with hardware cloth and made underground cages for other beds. This is tedious and expensive. I just now came in from exposing holes and pouring crushed oyster shell.
    I appreciate your post and information also. You have all of it in one place! So, do you think exposing the holes, raking off leaves and plant litter, and exposing the openings to tunnels, then pouring the oyster shell will deter them any/// ? thanks!!

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  45. I found your blog very useful! Keep up the good work!
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  46. Dr. William Miller’s group at Cornell University set up feeding trials with thirty common garden bulb species to quantify the prairie vole’s preference thereof. Tulips topped the list as the colony’s favorite
     The voles showed the least interest in daffodil (Narcissus), grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum), Italian arum (Arum italicum), ornamental onions (several Allium species) and snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis). These bulbs were evidently high in the sort of secondary metabolites that, among other things, cause plant tissue to taste bad. There were even preferences shown as to different cultivars within each species – they were wild about tulip ‘Apeldoorn’ yet ate half as much of the species Tulipa turkestanica. Note to the vole-ridden...the daffodil ‘Ice Follies’ registered barely a nibble.

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'I see trees of green, red roses, too
I see 'em bloom for me and for you
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