Holy Moley

As most of our friends and customers know, we put a lot of effort into the soil we create for our organic gardens…. vegetable and ornamental alike. Lots of organic material from compost, our animals, and leaves. The plants are not alone in enjoying this rich array of decaying material. Our gardens are quite full of earthworms. Enough so that our son Noah can easily dig what he needs for a day of fishing in short order, this is good because going fishing is often a last minute decision around here. This summer during the drought, we had woodcock feeding on the worms in our soft moist soil, in the morning we would come upon them and be momentarily startled as they fluttered away (did you know that woodcocks can eat their body weight in earthworms each day?). Having soil riddled with worms is a good sign, they are certainly helping to break down and digest the organic matter for us. But another predator has come to feed that can be less of a welcome…. moles. Worms are a mainstay in their diet, and I believe they were eating well. While I don’t mind sharing the worms with the moles, the tunnels they make can be a problem. What happens next is that voles, a vegetarian, use the tunnels to go underground in the gardens, and they can eat our plants from the roots up through the winter. In the spring, all that can be left is a hole or depression where the plant or plants were. And of course, they seem to often eat those that you cherish most! They will also girdle the bark off from your favorite trees and shrubs. We combat both the moles and voles in this way: we make a liquid combination of water, dish detergent, and castor oil. Moles and voles hate the smell of it and will leave any area you treat. It can be used as a spray on pots and plants, and as a drench on beds where you first see mole or vole activity. We use it under our covers on the pots we over winter, and in our gardens. It is best to get a head start by driving out the moles first before they make too many tunnels, and then discourage the vole as well. It’s cheap and is good insurance against large losses of your plants. The recipe we use is 6 oz of castor oil and 2 tablespoons of dish detergent to a gallon of water. Mix well and add 1 oz of the mixture to a gallon of water that you will then spray or drench with. I often use more to make sure they get a good nose full. We like to think we have room on our plot of ground to welcome all creatures great and small, but would prefer they fill their bellies outside our garden walls!

21 comments on “Holy Moley

  1. …..and don’t they just love the Hostas!! They also feasted on the root vegetables in the vegetable garden. Extensive damage in 2015, but nothing last summer. We tried those solar powered vibrating stakes. I think the voles thought it was background music while they dined. Will keep your spray recipe handy in case they return. Thanks.

    • Keep us posted , some years do seem worse than others. Such a disappointment here in the nursery to uncover in the spring and find an entire row of a specific plant eaten! And yes, root vegetables….they love beets. Little rascals!!

  2. What part do you think the soap plays in eliminating the moles? Or does it just help the solution penetrate the soil? Soap in the environment can be harmful to a number of creatures, especially amphibians.

    • The dish detergent helps to mix the oil evenly in the water ( water and oil not being two ingredients that mix well). If you are spraying close to aquatic areas and areas with amphibians,a plant based soap, like Dr. Bohners, would be better to use. The amount of soap is so small for the amount of spray, there shouldn’t be concern. We use it primarily around the pots in the nursery ( a few choice plants in the ornamental beds) with good results. Baiting with really toxic ingredients is another option, which we would rather not do. It is a good and important question, Marion…thank you for asking!

    • We apply it just before we cover the nursery…..which means the entire area where plants are kept in there pots to overwinter. This is where most of our damage would occur and we are trying to protect the plants from vole activity during the winter months. But using it in the spring around the plants would be fine as well, anytime moles and voles are present. Often 1 application will work, applying again if you continue to see activity. Good luck!!

  3. Thank you!! We have them everywhere. They have destroyed our lawn. They don’t eat the flowers nor shrubs for some reason. There are tunnels everywhere. I will try this process and be very thankful when it works!

  4. Thanks for the recipe – we have a critter (I think it’s a rat; my husband isn’t convinced) that is creating tunnels in a small bed near our house (and near a bird feeder :). So far I’ve done everything except put out the Hav-a Heart – I’m going to try your concoction!

    Deborah Fickling Brooke milasmainemom@gmail.com

  5. Thanks for the good advice. I’m keeping the recipe!
    p.s. so far as I know, a bit of detergent, especially so well diluted as in this recipe, is not harmful in the garden, if one is not near a body of water,

  6. After visiting your beautiful “plant place,” I left the leaves in my garden this fall for the first time. I look forward to enriching my soil like you do. Enjoy your posts! Sue

  7. Thanks for the recipe. I have used peanut butter bait on mouse traps next to the holes to reduce the vole population. I’ll try your recipe on the moles, which I am now finding in our turf for the first time.

  8. Great post! Voles were the bane of my existence a couple of years ago (not so bad this summer), anyhow I tried everything except the chemical controls, nothing really worked that well. In all of my research I never came across your tip. I’m excited to try it! :)-Lana

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