Are You Dealing with Voles in Your Backyard?

Posted by Justin Havre. on Friday, April 25th, 2014 at 8:01am.

These are small rodents that can be anywhere from 12 to 20 cm in length with dark brown or gray fur. They make their way through the yards by burrowing tunnels and you can often see the evidence when you're looking at your yard. It looks like there are runways on the lawn and you may see further damage as well.

You can blame the weather for this increase in vole infestations since we didn't have a Chinook this year. This means that voles were busy nesting and breeding below the snow for a longer amount of time. Voles can damage your yard, strip the bark off your trees and cause havoc in your garden beds. They are difficult to get rid of and can cause thousands of dollars in damage in very little time.

How to get rid of voles

Most exterminators will use trapping methods to get rid of these rodents along with toxic pesticides that are put into the holes. It's a difficult situation to deal with since many homeowners don't want to have mousetraps in their yard or chemical pesticides that can be poisonous to children and pets.

Here are a few other alternatives that you can try if you want to stay away from the trapping and pesticide use:

  1. Put cinder or gravel barriers around your garden. This barrier should be about 7 inches deep and at least a foot wide. The particles in the cinder are sharp, which can deter the voles from rushing into your garden.
  2. Wrap a piece of mesh or chicken wire around your tree bases to prevent girdling of the trunks. The wire should extend down below the soil.
  3. Many gardeners use castor oil to help with this problem.

The castor oil method was researched at Michigan State University and it was discovered that a pint of this oil distributed over 5,000 ft.² would work. Their research showed that using less wouldn't be effective while using more would be wasting your money.

If you're planning on trying this castor oil solution, you should know that it's a sticky substance that will leave your watering can with a sticky residue for some time. You may want to consider purchasing a separate watering can that you can throw out after you have applied the castor oil.

 The oil doesn't have to be sprayed on your garden plants but should be directed towards the ground. Once you have sprayed on the oil and have then watered it, you won't be able to notice that the oil has been used. Before using the castor oil method, however, you may want to check with your lawn care specialist or a horticulturist to make sure that it will be safe to use on your lawn. If you find that others are telling you that the oil won't work, you may just want to try it for yourself anyway. The research has shown that this method works as long as enough oil is used.

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