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Voles!!

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Voles ... now what?

Post  jillschmill on 4/20/2010, 9:34 pm

About a month ago I realized that voles have invaded our yard. A few weeks ago the lovely guy who takes care of critters came and put a handful of vole traps around my yard, including one right next to my SFG box. This Saturday I planted my garden, just like last year. And already, I have found my plants and soil in certain squares pushed up an inch or so, with a crevice breaking through the soil, like a mini-earthquake had happened under the square. No holes, just pushed up earth. I recognize the marks of the little critters!! GRRRRR!!!

NOW WHAT??!! Did I just WASTE my time and effort? Is my garden doomed??

Online I've found out that you need to create a physical barrier about 6 inches deep that has holes no bigger than 1/4" in diameter, if it all, to protect it. Does anyone have any product ideas of what I could put around my SFG to save it?

Thanks for any ideas!

(And yes, the lovely guy who takes care of critters will be getting a call tomorrow morning, too, but I'm pretty sure he can't protect my garden.)

Jill

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Re: Voles!!

Post  Shoda on 4/20/2010, 11:21 pm

I am so sorry! I didn't even know there were voles. I looked them up after reading your post and they sound nasty.

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plywood

Post  SirTravers on 4/20/2010, 11:40 pm

I don't know if the lil buggars are as aggressive as prairie dogs, but I see most folks where I live using concrete or plywood under their raised beds to keep the prairie dogs out. I figure it's worth the effort to put the mix on a tarp and add a plywood base to your beds if you can.

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Re: Voles!!

Post  jillschmill on 4/21/2010, 1:18 pm

If only I had figured this out a week ago! I planted everything on Saturday (5 days ago). Any suggestions for how to slip a plywood base under there now? I have a 4x4 garden. When I built it last year, I put cardboard under the soil, but I'm guessing it has decomposed now.

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Voles Solution

Post  PransomeHince on 4/21/2010, 4:18 pm

First year we put in a sfg we had voles and kittens.
The kittens grew up. The voles didden.

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Re: Voles!!

Post  jillschmill on 4/21/2010, 4:24 pm

Something is also eating the strings of my vertical gardening structure, so I will need to restring it. Does anyone know if voles do that, or if I have yet another critter to deal with?

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Re: Voles!!

Post  herbarium on 4/23/2010, 11:50 am

You could try repellant around the edges of your bed - hot pepper and/or garlic.
If there was anyway you could do it putting hardware cloth underneath your beds should keep them out.
Mint is something rodents don't like. You could plant pots of it around your garden or use Mint essential oil or extract on cotton balls or other material and place them around the perimeter of your garden.
Mint oil on the trellis strings shouldn't hurt your plants but would likely prevent anything from eating them.

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Re: Voles!!

Post  organicgardeningzen.com on 4/23/2010, 12:03 pm

I did a bunch of research on this last year when an ugly mole got trapped (accidentally) in one of our window wells located about 2 ft from my freshly planted SFG!

I'm a research-a-holic (science degree, so I require a bit of convincing beyond marketing claims), and a number of agro studies concluded that one of the best ways to "repel" moles/voles is to threaten them with the scent (urine) of their natural predators: the fox and bobcat. If you don't happen to own foxes and bobcats, don't despair. There is a product (with which I am not affiliated) called "Shake Away" that contains this scent in granulated, easy to apply form. Check it out at http://www.critter-repellent.com/ - it is supposed to work to repel BOTH voles and moles...

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Re: Voles!!

Post  Shoda on 4/23/2010, 2:15 pm

There is a product (with which I am not affiliated) called "Shake Away" that contains this scent in granulated, easy to apply form. Check it out at http://www.critter-repellent.com/ - it is supposed to work to repel BOTH voles and moles...
The website you linked to also has motion activated animal deterrent that shoots water! Do these work? Does this mean I would get a shower every time I went to pick the lettuce?

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Re: Voles!!

Post  organicgardeningzen.com on 4/23/2010, 2:26 pm

LOL! I hadn't noticed the motion activated squirters! I have no idea if they work...but I know if I put those in my garden, my kids would love it!

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Meadow Mice (Voles) - How high do they climb?

Post  Shoda on 6/25/2010, 6:09 pm

My SFG beds have 11" tall sides. Most are in the open, one SFG bed is close enough to a wire fence that something could use the fence to climb into the bed.

I need to build some tall upright covers to protect my tomatoes from squirrels and raccoons. I also need some flatter covers for other plants. The raised beds have hardware cloth under them. Are the voles able or willing to climb the 11" sides? Do my wire covers need to be vole proofed?

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Re: Voles!!

Post  Retired Member 1 on 6/25/2010, 6:15 pm

I've never heard of a vole climbing, although technically I guess they could. All the damage I've ever seen is from digging. I had a vole move in with me at another house (long story), and it did climb onto the recliner to snuggle with the cat (another long story), but I figured it was due to the coarse upholstery. It never climbed anything with wood sides.

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Underground

Post  jenjehle on 6/25/2010, 10:33 pm

From what I've read (a lot b/c I have voles too) is that you usually don't see them. They stay underground and only come to the surface on occasion. I know b/c I saw one ONCE, just briefly. But most of their damage is done underground. They dig tunnels to get from one area to another.


I've also never heard of them climbing.

Best of luck!

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Re: Voles!!

Post  milaneyjane on 6/25/2010, 10:59 pm

I have the same dilema and was wondering the same thing. My strawberry bed is 8 inches tall and has the hardware cloth underneath. But I think a vole has been climbing up over the sides at night and into my boxes because all my tiny strawberries that are ripe are always half chewed in the morning by something with tiny sharp teeth. A rabbit would eat the whole thing so I am thinking vole. Last week after I shaved my sons hair for a summer cut I took the hair and put it all over their holes next to my garden. Thankfully, he had a ton of hair. Not one strawberry has been chewed since!

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Re: Voles!!

Post  Shoda on 6/25/2010, 11:40 pm

Today as I was sitting in my garden thinking about the vole problem, I watched a bee slip through the chicken wire cover that sits on top of my strawberries. As it buzzed from flower to flower, I realized I can't make a cover too secure or the bees won't be able to get in! They say to keep out baby voles, you need to use 1/4" hardware cloth. That is way to small for the bee I saw to get through. Looks like I might have to combine the two types of materials in order to keep out the voles and let in the bees.

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info

Post  jenjehle on 6/26/2010, 3:27 am

Shoda,


Here's some info I found that you may may find helpful. To read the whole article, click on the link below. There was a lot of other good info that I didn't include.


Jenny


http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7439.html



IDENTIFICATION




Voles are mouselike rodents somewhat similar in appearance to pocket gophers. They have a compact, heavy body, short legs, short-furred tail, small eyes, and partially hidden ears. The long, coarse fur is blackish brown to grayish brown. When fully grown they can measure 5 to 8 inches long, including the tail.
Although voles do spend considerable time aboveground and may occasionally be seen scurrying about, most of their time is spent below ground in their burrow system. The clearest signs of their presence are the well-traveled, aboveground runways that connect burrow openings; the runways are usually hidden beneath a protective layer of grass or other ground cover. The maze of runways leads to multiple burrow openings that are each about 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. The runways are easily found by pulling back overhanging ground cover. Fresh clippings of green grass and greenish-colored droppings about 3/16 inch long in the runways and near the burrows are further evidence of voles. With age, the droppings lose the green coloring and turn brown or gray.

BIOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR



Voles are active day and night, year-round. They are normally found in areas with dense vegetation. Voles dig many short, shallow burrows and make underground nests of grass, stems, and leaves. In areas with winter snow, voles will burrow in and through the snow to the surface.
Several adults and young may occupy a burrow system. Home-range size varies with habitat quality, food supply, and population levels, but in most cases it is no more than a few hundred square feet.
Vole numbers fluctuate from year to year; under favorable conditions their populations can increase rapidly. In some areas their numbers are cyclical, reaching peak numbers every 3 to 6 years before dropping back to low levels. Voles may breed any time of year, but the peak breeding period is spring. Voles are extremely prolific with females maturing in 35 to 40 days and having five to ten litters per year. Litter size ranges from three to six. However, voles seldom live past 12 months of age.
Voles are mostly herbivorous, feeding on a variety of grasses, herbaceous plants, bulbs, and tubers. They eat bark and roots of trees, usually in fall or winter. Voles store seeds and other plant matter in underground chambers.
Voles are poor climbers and do not usually enter homes or other buildings. Instead, they inhabit wildlands or croplands adjacent to buildings, or gardens and landscaped sites with protective ground cover. Most problems around homes and gardens occur during outbreaks of vole populations

DAMAGE


Voles cause damage by feeding on a wide range of garden plants including artichoke, beet, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, turnip, sweet potato, spinach, and tomato. Turf and other landscape plantings such as lilies and dichondra may be damaged. Voles will gnaw the bark of fruit trees including almond, apple, avocado, cherry, citrus, and olive. Vole damage to tree trunks normally occurs from a few inches aboveground to a few inches below ground. If the damage is below ground, you will need to remove soil from the base of the tree to see it. Although voles are poor climbers, if they can climb on to low-hanging branches they may cause damage higher up on trees as well.
Gnaw marks about 1/8 inch wide and 3/8 inch long found in irregular patches and at various angles, taken in conjunction with other signs (droppings, runways, and burrows), indicate vole damage. If voles gnaw completely around the trunk or roots, the tree's flow of nutrients and water will be disrupted; this is called girdling. Girdling damage on trunks and roots can kill trees. Signs of partial trunk or root girdling may include a prolonged time before young trees bear fruit, reduced fruit yield, abnormal yellowish leaf color, and overall poor vigor. Where snow cover is present, damage to trees may extend a foot or more up the trunk. Damage that occurs under snow cover often escapes notice until it is too late.

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Voles can climb

Post  ander217 on 6/26/2010, 8:51 am

I had a SFG box full of peas that was 1' x 8' x 8". It had weed barrier stapled to the bottom and was set on top of newspapers.

I returned home from a weekend trip to find numerous vole tunnels all through the box and half of my peas were gone.

The only way I see they could have gotten into the box was by climbing/crawling.

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Re: Voles!!

Post  milaneyjane on 6/26/2010, 10:33 am

Ander--they will chew right through the weed barrier. You need 1/4 inch hardware mesh. They can chew through just about anything.

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Re: Voles!!

Post  jenjehle on 6/26/2010, 6:07 pm

I agree about the chewing of weed barrier. I also read somwhere that the young ones/babies can squeese through very small places. If there is a small area where to weed barrier isn't perfectly attached (like if it's stapled.... between the staples) they can get into the box that way.


Everything I read I didn't see anywhere that they actually ate the veggies. Here's a paragraph about just that:

The majority of the vole diet is made up of vegetation, roots, grass. Any animal matter they do eat is thought to be an unintended side effect of the manner in which they find their food. They eat berries, seeds, nuts, fungi, fruit, roots and bulbs.

Vole colonies eat bark and crops. Snails, insects and animal remains are a rare treat for voles, usually when they are very hungry and vegetation is scarce.
Vole colonies locate food in various ways. They will either feed on roots they run into while they dig or else they will pull above-ground plants into their tunnels from below. They eat vegetation from yards and golf courses.
In their attempt to find food and sharpen their teeth, voles girdle trees and shrubs. This means they go to a tree and chew around the bottom circumference of it, much like a ring around a finger. Voles thrive in more lush areas, such as well-watered lawns and gardens.

HTH!

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Re: Voles!!

Post  L&K-IL on 6/27/2010, 8:22 am

well...my boxes are 32" in the air, and I've killed one and there's another one rooting around in our flower beds....but he hasn't made it into the SFG.

So...their climbing range is lower that 32". That's at least the upper limit. tongue

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Re: Voles!!

Post  SassyScraps on 6/27/2010, 2:27 pm

I too have fallen victim to the vole. I suspect that they are the critters that are taking precise little bites from my beautiful strawberries. To tell the truth, I wish they would just eat the whole thing, it would be less painful. I am thinking of making a "lid" out of the 1/4" mesh that can fit down over my 4X4 bed each night. Should this work?

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Re: Voles!!

Post  Shoda on 6/28/2010, 5:34 pm

Yesterday, I found a dead baby vole on my wooden deck. I was able to examine it closely and it definitely wasn't a regular mouse or a rat. It was only 2 1/2" long and its head was larger then rats or mice my kids have had as pets. I took a picture of it and compaired it with pictures on the web. Definitely a vole.

It looked like it might have dropped down from the upper, ivy covered trellis. Otherwise, I am not sure how it got where it did looking as undamaged as it did. If a vole did manage to get into this porch cover, then they can climb better then we thought.

SassyScraps -- your solution might work for the voles, but what about
the birds during the day? Would be a pain to switch covers every day and night.

I am going to try to build some better covers that can stay in place all the time -- maybe with a hatch that can open for harvest and weeding. The trick will be to allow the bees in, but keep the birds, raccoons and voles out.

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Re: Voles!!

Post  jsavolt on 6/28/2010, 11:19 pm

So true, they tunnel and go through just about anything. I found solar stakes that go in the garden that emit a sound they don't like. It's a beeping sound that is activated by motion. Since I put them in, I haven't seen evidence of any voles. Can't say it's a for sure thing but I think it's helping.

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Re: Voles!!

Post  Squat_Johnson on 6/29/2010, 10:15 am

I don't know about climbing, but I dug up a nest in the middle of my box that was full of weed barrier (chewed up) and mulch.

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Goodbye Voles

Post  Shoda on 8/11/2010, 3:37 pm

As some of you may remember, I had a problem with Voles getting into a part of my garden where I have not yet build a SFG box. I think they have also been responsible for the nibbling of my "low hanging" tomatoes.

Well they are not as plentiful as before! YEAH... thank you mother nature! We have recently seen a nesting pair of Harriers in our back yard and my dogs have been bringing me Owl pellets. There have also been an increase in hawks lately.

Thanks to their small animal eating habits, there has been a lot less crop damage. Also, for some reason (unknown) the raccoons have not yet attacked so we are enjoying a fairly animal free harvest season.

I was just so thrilled that I had to share!

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Re: Voles!!

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