Help me de-vole my garden. Humanely.
May 12, 2008 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Help! I have voles! How do I get rid of them? Do those repellent sprays work? How about those sonic things?

I have a small (about 15-foot-square) vegetable garden with raised beds. It was covered with mulch all winter, and I put landscape fabric on it a few weeks ago to keep down the weeds. I also used to have a nice, healthy poppy plant -- until I visited the garden yesterday, and noticed that my poppy plant was now just a handful of shriveled-up leaves. There was a perfect hole where the root used to be, and a tunnel leading to it (I felt this with my hand -- it's all under the plastic). I had high hopes for a row of tiny carrot seedlings I planted weeks ago, but now I fear that they are doomed. How do I vole-proof my garden, while keeping my vegetables organic and safe? And can I do it without mass varmint carnage? Do those various chemical sprays work? How about those sonic posts?
posted by chowflap to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
posted by caddis at 8:16 PM on May 12, 2008

Agree with caddis. Always had garden; always had cats.
Only time I've ever seen a vole, it was when I caught kitty in mid-NOM.
About as organic as you can get.
posted by penciltopper at 8:36 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

The castor oil spray is vaguely effective, but as with any treatment like such, they simply move to a new area - pick a random direction, move thirty feet. You'd have to treat your whole yard and then it's simply Someone Else's Problem. You have to go the whole hog, too, and use the pure stuff. It's quite expensive. I suspect a half-acre yard would probably run you perhaps $200.

Alternatively, go for the feline method. We had a vole/mole/diggingmammal issue and tried numerous tacks, just short of Caddyshack territory. Finally, the kid (me) picked up the cat and brought it down to the various holes. The cat wanted to get away but then ... she sniffed. And she sniffed more, and did that half-open mouth thing you see on the Discovery Channel. I took her to a few more holes the next day.

A few days later, the slaughter began. One little carcass after another, averaging three kills every two days. Once, meowing loudly and proudly, she led me to down the stairs to ... a part of the mole on this stair, another part on the next stair, and so forth. Eventually, no more varmints.

It's one of the old bargains we have with cats - take care of our vermin and we will take care of you.
posted by adipocere at 9:13 PM on May 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Mouse traps, baited with peanut butter mixed with oatmeal. Also, keep vegetation to a minimum near the area; they are discouraged by lack of groundcover in which to hide (and also more visible to predators like the neighborhood cat).

I feel your pain; a family of voles chewed the heck out of our back yard under cover of snow this winter. After several sessions with traps and keeping things mowed short, they appear to be gone.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:18 AM on May 13, 2008

Best answer: I dealt with gophers quite successfully with a mixture of castor oil and a little soap. I did not spend any where near $200.
about an inch of castor oil in one of those sprayers you hook up to a garden hose, with just enough soap that it foams a little.

Spray it into the ground (and yes, you are driving the bastards away, not killing them). For added satisfaction spray into any holes you find.

We kept them out of our gardens and lawn with this applied every spring.
posted by pointilist at 7:00 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My 2 cats are indoor only, but there are some friendly neighborhood cats who visit the yard... Maybe I'll try to employ them to do my dirty work. (Traps are too hands-on for me.) And I'll try the castor oil trick, too. Thanks! And if anyone else comes upon this question, please feel free to chime in!
posted by chowflap at 7:39 AM on May 13, 2008

As for the sonic posts, fagedaboudit. They don't work even a little bit.
posted by KRS at 9:33 AM on May 13, 2008

After the oil and the soap you fill it the rest of the way with water. :)
posted by pointilist at 7:28 PM on May 13, 2008

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