Bulb destruction

annainva(z7 MD)March 18, 2011

The moles were very active this winter, ALL my bulbs are gone, even my lilies of the valley, cannas, irises, daffodils, everything. I am so sad, I worked hard the past four years to have a nice yard.

How can I prevent this from happening again other than container gardening ? Mole killer liquids, pellets, etc. did not help.

Thanks all.


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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Are you sure it was moles? Moles don't actually eat bulbs and roots, they only disturb them with their tunneling and do damage that way. They eat mostly grubs and earthworms and whatever other underground insects they come across.

Voles on the other hand are nasty little beasts that will eat anything remotely to their taste. They look like mice with short stubby tails. Very cute, but will wipe out most everything edible.

But even with an infestation of voles, I never saw them eat daffodils (which are toxic to most animals) nor lily of the valley (which I also believe is fairly toxic). Do you think it was the cold winter or the thick icy snow? Maybe all the snow melt drowned things? There might be something else doing the widespread damage.

In either case please don't give up!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 8:44PM
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annainva(z7 MD)

thank you, kato_b. You are so right. I did further research and find that moles certainly are not the cause. But where are all my bulbs ? They lasted 4 years in some cases. Might squirrels be the cause ? Where I had planted the lily of the valley, some holes remain but no bulbs. The 3-year old hosta is gone too. The ice and snow weren't it since we are on a hill and everything drains well. The next-door cats caught one little beast which had darkish skin/fur and no eyes.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 6:27AM
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Lily of the Valley(Convallaria majalis L.)Lily family, whole plant is toxic.
Narcissus/Daffodils(Narcissus spp. L.)Amaryllis family,bulb,leaves are toxic.
The best way to stop the pest without using poison, is to plant inside a wire mesh box. Bottom & sides of 1/4 inch mesh or smaller. This will stop wood chucks too.
No eye sounds like a mole.
If you need to stop squirrels-live traps & shotguns will not work. They will not work, because when one colony is removed, another will fill in the void. Nut growers have done a great deal of research into squirrel removal.
You will have to enclose the new bulbs in a cage of 1/4 wire.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 11:32AM
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annainva(z7 MD)

jolj,have you done this before ? How would I plant with wire, just around the sides or the bottom too ? Also how would that affect the growth of baby bulbs against the mother .....
Wonder if something larger like a coffee can would work and not prohibit new bulbs to grow.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 5:34PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I used to suffer through a vole infestation at a previous garden, if that's what you have then I suggest moving. But I understand that because of poor economic conditions and a depressed housing market, this might not be realistic option. So until one or the other changes here are some vole tips.

They are lazy diggers, using either old mole tunnels or shallow tunnels just below the surface, so they usually won't dig down more than 5 inches to get under a barrier. Also the barrier needs to come up above the soil or mulch level so it's visible... but it doesn't need to be too high. They don't like to come up out of cover to go over a barrier. They love mulch though. It's their comfort zone, easy to dig through and nice cover to hang out in while they nibble everything from roots to bulbs to bark to stems and leaves.

I've done the wire thing, but basically gave up on growing most of their favorites. What did work well was planting hostas and such in 1 gallon or larger plastic nursery pots and digging them pot and all into the ground. Don't cover the rim with mulch or soil and just leave them that way. The roots go out the bottom holes and they don't really seem to mind being potbound. My mom has some that have been like this for 10-15 years. I don't remember ever trying bulbs this way though.

ironic side note: after 6 years of living at this house and another here in Pa, and with never a mole or mole tunnel seen, what do I find this morning after responding to this post? A mole tunnel. I hope they loosen up the compacted dirt around here a bit!

The gray beastie the neighbor's cat caught might have been a shrew... google 'northern shrew', there's actually a pic that comes up with both a mole and a shrew for comparison. They are very similar and both look eyeless... the mole though is usually safe from cats underground (and has huge front shovel-feet)

sorry if I went on for too long here!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 9:22PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Lily of the valley and daffodils were not eaten they are toxic. I would look to other causes rather than some critter...

Lily of the valley should not even be up yet, I'm in zone 8 and there are no signs of mine, though I truly wish it was dead. It is a noxious weed for me here that chokes out everything in it's path.

With that many different types of plants missing I'd wonder if a chemical herbicide found it's way into your bed and everything rotted away during winter after they died from it.

Cannas rot easily in winter especially where they are borderline hardy. They will completely disappear after being frozen. Iris can rot if they are mulched, at least bearded iris can rot right away, they don't like their rhizomes covered.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 11:53PM
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annainva(z7 MD)

buyorsell888 you have given me some hope re the lily of the valley (sorry they are such a nuisance for you). There are woods on three sides of the house and having them grow between the trees is so pretty. Maybe they will come up but as I mentioned, all I see now are actual holes. Same with the hostas - holes. Glad you told me about the bearded iris, I did mulch last fall and will go out and remove the mulch.
Hopefully, they weren't eaten.

Much appreciated !

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 10:23AM
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