The other day I was talking to a friend who lives in one of the Rocky Mountain states. It seems that they have an unusual heavy influx of voles this year. These voles have killed several of his young fruit trees by girdling them.
Now, I have talked to a surprising number of people who live in my area, who have never even heard of voles, even though they are fairly common. People are just not used to growing and having to depend on their gardens to survive. If they did, they would certainly know what animals in their area had the potential to destroy their crops. I know some who try to grow a garden and if they get lucky once, they think they are great gardeners and if the garden fails, they just give up and go to the store. So, how do you go about protecting your garden?
The solutions range from an all-natural spray, to repellant pellets, and hi-tech electronics that emit electronic sounds and flashing lights. I suspect that what works for one person in one situation won’t work for another somewhere else. Kind of like the year we were inundated with fleas and tried everything from diatomaceous earth to spray containing essential oils to outright flea-killing poison. Nothing worked, by the way. We just had to wait it out until winter arrived.
Now, if your family’s survival depends on the food you raise, it all changes. You have to take the time to learn about protecting your garden. What do you do when voles, woodchucks, squirrels, gophers, rabbits, moles, and other furry little mammals attack your gardens? I am sure your first impulse is to grab a shotgun like Elmer Fudd and blast them to smithereens. But there are better alternatives.
Start by identifying the animal that is causing the damage and then learn a little about the habits of that animal. This knowledge is essential for putting together an effective solution.
Make your garden less attractive to wildlife. Eliminate hiding or nesting areas, such as brush piles and tall grass. Seal off access to crawl spaces beneath your porch or deck. Minimize other food sources. Covering your compost pile will discourage raccoons, cleaning up bird seed will discourage squirrels, and using Milky Spore and beneficial nematodes on your lawn will reduce grub populations, which are a favorite food of moles and skunks.
A 4-foot-diameter circle around the base of young trees or vines that is free of vegetation or a buffer strip 4 feet or more along a row of trees can reduce problems, because voles and many other small animals prefer not to feed in the open.
Voles and meadow mice cause damage by feeding on a wide range of garden plants including artichoke, beet, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, spinach, sweet potato, tomato, and turnip.
Gophers are difficult to scare or repel. Castor oil sprayed on the garden may work. If gophers are a serious problem, you may want to go to the trouble of lining the sides and bottom of your garden (at a depth of 2 feet) with hardware cloth. Gopher-resistant wire baskets can be placed in planting holes before planting. For persistent problems, use traps and poisons.
Moles are carnivores and don’t eat plants, but they burrow in search of grubs, earthworms, and other insects. This can damage the plants by disturbing the roots.
Squirrels are likely to eat fruits, nuts, berries, seedlings, bark and bulbs. You can’t get rid of squirrels permanently. You can try deterrents, like spraying bad-tasting sprays on favorite plants and protect your bulbs in fall by covering them with chicken wire; the bulbs will grow right through it in spring. You can shoot them with a pellet rifle, and use them for food. Squirrels can be good eating.
Rabbits eat flower gardens and plants of vegetables. In fall and winter, they damage valuable woody plants. You can fence them out, use traps, or even poisons.
Some ideas for protecting your garden.
- There are poison baits that are effective against most, however they pose a danger to pets that may consume them.
- Smoke bombs and traps kill many types of pests and can be a method to help reduce the population. Trapping can also be a food source for either you or your dogs.
- A dog or even a cat can help with protecting your garden from pests
- Scent repellents, such as garlic clips, castor oil, and predator urine can be effective temporary solutions but they need to be reapplied to remain effective. Products made with hot peppers can deter nibbling rabbits.
- Don’t leave dishes with pet food outdoors.
- Don’t put your trash out in plastic bags; use metal cans with locking lids.
- Don’t pile firewood up against the side of a home or shed; it creates a perfect place for rats and other small animals to nest. A friend made this mistake.
Just remember these small animals hate to be in the open where they are exposed to predators, so keep the areas around your gardens and trees clean.