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Summer Crop 2011: Part II

August 8, 2011

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The most recent and urgent problem in my garden is an uninvited, vegetable-eating vole. This doesn’t have anything to do with the poor yield previously mentioned in Part I, but it impacts how many veggies reach my dinner table versus the mouth of rodents.

I first noticed runways in the main raised bed beneath cucumber and squash plants. Flipping over the cucumbers some had been partly munched on. I decided to flush the varmints out, so I jammed the end of the water hose into one of the openings and turned on the faucet full force. A title wave flushed through the burrows. Then out came one vole. He hid on the edge of the raised bed between trailing squash vines. I had a perfect shot. But I couldn’t commit murder with a shovel and not destroy the squash plant.

That evening, I loaded the .22, jammed the hose in a hole, turned on the water, and shouldered the .22. As if the fat-bellied rodent knew I was armed with a gun, he ran for shelter beneath the tomato plants. He was so fast it was as if brown lightening had passed before my eyes. Then I became concerned he would move into the melon bed—the only crop that has produced well this summer. Sure enough, the next day when I flooded the burrows in the squash and cucumber bed, he never surfaced. Checking out the melon bed I discovered openings and runways so I flushed the burrows. Out he ran, in the open, straight for his old eating ground. I chased after him with a shovel. Of course, he won the race. I could have shoot him with the .22 .

I absolutely hate these pests. They’re smart! Quick! Hide-and-seek experts! They can eat enough food for an elephant. What little crops I do have this summer, much of it is being devoured by one measly vole.

Vole (meadow mice) Facts:

  • Voles usually live 3-6 months, rarely beyond one year.
  • There are six species in California. They weigh ½ ounce to 3 ounces, and are very prolific breeders fluctuating in numbers from a few to thousands per acre.
  • Voles can carry disease that can be transferred to humans through food cross-contamination or direct contact.
  • Voles do not hibernate. In colder climates, voles are more active during the afternoons when it’s warmer. In warmer climates, they scurry about early mornings and late afternoon when summer heat is lowest.
  • One can determine voles from gophers and moles by their aboveground runways between multiple openings located closely together.
  • Voles eat seeds, tubers, bark, tree needles, vegetables, various green vegetation such as grass and clover, and insects.
  • Voles are intelligent. Once they witness a family member caught in a trap, they know to avoid the same fate. They are very hard to trap.

Helpful (but not foolproof) Solutions:

  • Remove food and protection from predators by cleaning away weeds, heavy mulch, and dense vegetative cover.
  • Keep a weed-free strip around garden areas. Voles don’t usually go into the open. A minimum width of 15 feet is recommended by Integrated Pest Management at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7439.html
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2 comments

  1. Pesky little critters! I can see where that one little minchkin was smart enough to ‘outwit’ your carefully calculated plan to exterminate.

    Hopefully he will tell all his relatives and friends of his last ditch efforts to escape and warn them to stay away from Farmer Dianne’s garden.

    I hope your tactics staged the final battle and the vole war is over. Three cheers for garden warfare. bernadine

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  2. […] Around the Garden Mostly about gardening, but also on country life, family and friends « Summer Crop 2011: Part II Summer Crop 2011: Part III August 10, […]

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