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Please help identify the varmints

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Please help identify the varmints

Post  ander217 on 5/10/2010, 5:50 pm

We are having an invasion of some type of creature in our beds. (So far the boxes seem safe, so the critter hasn't munched through the weed barrier yet.)

We first noticed it in the corn. Right in the center of the grid where a corn plant had been growing, there would be a hole about the size of a silver dollar, and no corn plant. At first I thought it was a squirrel, but then we realized the hole led to a tunnel. When DH dug into the hole, sometimes he'd find a corn plant pulled partway through the underground tunnel, but usually the plant just disappeared. We also found corn plants lying on their sides with the corn seed pulled off the bottoms. I'm not sure if that is the work of birds and squirrels and we have two species at work, or if the same varmint is doing all the damage. But it has eaten half of our stand of corn.

Now it has started taking the sweet potato plants. We'll count our plants in the morning, and by afternoon or the next day there will be one or two missing with the same-sized hole right there in the middle of the grid. There will be a few roots left around the edge of the hole, but the entire plant is gone. I tracked one tunnel yesterday and saw that it came out just outside the 4"x4" post around the edge of the bed with a silver dollar-sized hole just at the edge of the post. So it appears that something is walking on top of the ground to the post, then tunneling underneath the post and through the earth to the plant, pulling the plant down and back out through the tunnel.

We've been having lots of mole runs in our garden, but I never knew moles to pull plants down like this and leave a hole at the top of the ground.

Any idea what is stealing our plants?
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Re: Please help identify the varmints

Post  Retired Member 1 on 5/10/2010, 6:34 pm

Could it be voles? They make about 2" tunnels -- just the right size for pulling in a corn plant. Here's a link describing them: http://landscaping.about.com/cs/pests/a/vole_control.htm

Hope you figure it out and get your corn protected!

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Voles?

Post  ander217 on 5/10/2010, 7:15 pm

That was informative. Thanks, Belfry. The 2" tunnels really sound like we have a vole problem.

Woe is me. We just finished spreading four bales of straw for our walkways. They probably think they're at Club Med.

I'm noticing mole runs in the potato patch, too. The voles will probably be using them to munch on our 'taters next!

I've never seen this problem in all my years of gardening.

Okay, voles, if that's what you are, this means war. Has anyone had success in getting rid of them? I have cats and dogs and toddler grandchildren, so I have to be careful what I put in my garden.
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Re: Please help identify the varmints

Post  mckr3441 on 5/10/2010, 8:46 pm

On your next box you might consider stapling hardware cloth on the bottom. I do that and then line the box with landscape cloth. Also lay cardboard and landscape cloth on the ground under the box. No critters welcome!

If the problem continues this year, I would suggest you empty the existing boxes at the end of the year and staple the hardware cloth on the bottom. (Don't shoot me!)

Claire
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Re: Please help identify the varmints

Post  Megan on 5/10/2010, 8:51 pm

Don't know about voles, but we had a rat problem one time a few years ago. We got the ferrets out on a leash, let them sniff around and dig at the holes a bit. (Did NOT let them go down the holes, as they went under the concrete steps and I did not feel like a major excavating project if there was a problem). Then scattered used ferret litter around... and hubby stuffed a hose down the main hole and let the water go on for quite a bit.

They vamoosed!
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Re: Please help identify the varmints

Post  milaneyjane on 5/10/2010, 8:57 pm

Voles. Get rid of the mulch!!! They hide under it and love mulch to keep them covered out of view of prey. The hardware cloth is expensive and a lot of work and I just got done putting it on all my 4x8 foot boxes. You need to use the 1/4 inch and staple at least every inch. They can fit through minute openings. Because my screening wasn't wide enough, I then had to take wire and stitch the two layers together where they overlapped down the length of the box. I spent probably an hour on EACH box!
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Voles

Post  ander217 on 5/11/2010, 11:24 am

Thanks, everyone.

Where we're having the problem (so far) is not in our boxes, but in our beds. This is our first year of SFG and we have several in-ground beds much like Mel's original style. We couldn't afford to switch everything over at once.

I think we'll probably have to remove the straw from the paths and find something else to replace it with. Trouble is, we have a newly-dug pond nearby which has straw all around it for erosion control, and we also have a small barn for our sheep which has bedding straw in it. We can remove the voles' hidey-holes from the garden but they will have plenty of other places to remove to nearby. I'm not sure how far they will travel for a snack.

We don't have ferrets and I don't know anyone who does, but I can see where they would be very helpful. Our cat spends time in the garden but I haven't seen her catch any voles. (She's too well-fed, I think, to care.) Our dogs would probably dig them all out if I let them in the garden, but they would likely do more damage than the voles. Still at some point it may prove worth it to give them a go at them.

I think I'll try removing the straw and see if natural predators help us out. Claire, I will put hardware cloth on the bottoms of all future boxes. Thanks for that tip. Maybe this year's boxes will slide through okay. (Hope, hope.)

I remember seeing an old Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Bugs tunneled under the carrot patch and pulled each carrot underground right in front of Elmer Fudd's eyes. I never thought I'd see the day, but I have to say now I feel totally in sympathy with Elmer. Those wascally wabbits - er, voles!
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Re: Please help identify the varmints

Post  silverbug on 5/11/2010, 12:30 pm

Wow...that's just devestating. I would be beside myself. I sure hope you can figure out an easyish solution.

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Re: Please help identify the varmints

Post  Retired Member 1 on 5/11/2010, 2:05 pm

I wish I could loan you my female cat -- she's constantly bringing "pets" home with her -- yesterday was a baby rabbit (sigh). She's rid you of your problem super quick. The male, on the other hand, would make friends with them and offer to show them the best food.

I wonder if those electronic dohickies that drive away moles with work on voles? I also found this product:

http://www.critter-repellent.com/vole/vole-control.php?source=GoogleAW&gclid=CJ2wg7DVyqECFVZY2godK0UmiQ

I had not realised how cute voles are. Shame they are so destructive.

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Re: Please help identify the varmints

Post  junequilt on 5/11/2010, 2:43 pm

Know anyone who has a dachshund? They are death on voles!
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