Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. ~Albert Einstein
Every spring as the snow retreats, I cringe to see the damage. Not from the frost or snow or frigid cold. Not even from the rabbits or deer although they can be devils (I wrap many young trees and bushes to keep them at bay). No this damage is from an elusive, small intruder. And for such a small critter, just one or two can wreck a garden in no time causing massive destruction.
Who is this varmint that is the bane of my existence….why the very fast, very hard to get rid of vole. Voles burrow underground during warm weather and have an extensive labyrinth of small holes throughout the garden. These mice-like rodents feed on roots and small plants and multiply like rabbits. This is a problem in my veg beds, and last year they mowed down all my beans.
But it is in winter where I see just as much if not more damage. Under cover of snow, these pesky critters dig troughs through the grass sawing it off below the root level and using the grass for snug nests. They dig up the beds chewing all plants in their path to below their crowns virtually dooming them. And one of their favorite targets are small bulbs especially crocus. They dig up the bulbs and use these in their nests too as pictured right. They have even chewed off the buds of crocus and used these in some nests I have found in the garden.
Now most people would think…OK so get a cat, set traps, get rid of them however you can. But I have a dilemma which runs deep within. I do not like to harm critters. Let’s face it, I have made my garden in their territory. So what to do….
The following is Part II of my March Garden Journal as I highlight the front gardens. I am linking in again with Helen@The Patient Gardener’s Weblog for her End of Month View.
Here’s what the front garden looked like as the snow was still melting on March 31st. All looks well. There is no way to tell what lies beneath until the snow melts more. And when it did, a few days later, I saw this….
Our sod lies dormant, and while it looks a mess, it will green up and bounce back quickly. What won’t bounce back fast are all the troughs dug by the voles chiseling out the grass by going deep into the roots. This will have to be filled with some soil waiting for the surrounding grass to grow and fill it in. I am not as concerned about the grass, but this used to send me over the edge when I’d see this damage. Now when I see this, I know the garden beds will have damage as well.
This small front garden is on the side of the walk closest to the house. It looks good….not much damage….
Next to that lavender is this perennial, a sea thrift I believe. You can see where they mowed through it cutting the plant in half. This too should grow back. There were a few perennials that looked in bad shape, but I am hoping they won’t be lost.
So what about the other side of the walk where the main vole nest is located…..
This was my first inkling of any damage as the snow melted away from the porch. The ground was churned up with holes and tunnels. But I was not prepared for the full impact of the damage under all that snow.
This used to be a lavender. It was right next to the first bit of damage I saw in the picture above. It is all chewed up its bits and twigs left strewn where the plant used to be.
As I moved along there were no plants to be seen just more holes, tunnels and destruction. Many phlox, gaillardia, daylilies and columbine are gone. Chewed right through as the voles searched for the small bulbs they treasure.
In the center of the white structure was a Crystal Fountain clematis. It has been sawn off at the base with one stem remaining. It may grow back, but I don’t hold much hope for it.
The boxwood were hacked at to make room for nests underneath the branches. Luckily these grow back and can take the indiscriminate pruning.
This area contained all sorts of bulbs and perennials. Scabiosa, columbine, coreopsis, geranium, verbascum, penstemon. Most are nowhere to be seen just more carnage. This was a lot more destruction than I have ever seen in our 9 years here. So could there be more …..you betcha!
Here’s the messy side garden that is mostly sunny and dry. And this is a stronghold of the voles although there is less damage here among so many native plants this year.
And similarly, this small bed near the road seems to have been spared. Daffodils, lavender and echinacea.
So what are my options. First I scooped up as many of the hundreds of bulbs the voles had amassed. They fit in this pot there were so many. I will try to pot them up and see if anything grows. I surmise that besides the crocus, there is scilla, grape hyacinth and Glory of the Snow in the bunch.
Ok I might be able to save the bulbs, but what to do about the voles. Well they don’t seem to like daffodils or iris reticulata so I can plant more of these as well as snowdrops which they also seem to ignore. The rabbits and deer also don’t eat these so that is a plus. Then I will have to wait to see what grows in the front gardens, and what is missing.
This winter, I found a new deterrent that is not harmful to the voles or plants. They don’t like the smell and move out to find another spot. I specifically will be using this around the veg beds first. It’s called Shake Away Rodent Repellent. I’ll let you know if this repellent is successful.
Once fall rolls around, I hope to have some ideas for reworking the areas decimated. More than likely, I will look for natives that can be planted in these small beds as I have found voles tend to steer clear of the natives in my gardens. But only time and hopeful garden designs will tell if I can regenerate the beauty of the garden beds while living with these most frustrating creatures.
If you have perused to the end of this long post, I appreciate your readership. This year it will very important to document my observations and challenges in the garden as I look to make further changes to the multiple garden beds. And as always I love your comments as I learn so much from other gardeners.
Do you have certain critters that get in the garden and just drive you crazy? How have you dealt with them?
Next up on the blog: Monday it will be time for our first spring Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. I am sure the garden will be springing to life this week as warm weather is coming.
I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.
As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.
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