Vole repellant expansion

docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)October 5, 2013

I was reading about a recipe to keep voles from killing plants that was mentioned in the "fall cleanup" thread, and I thought it deserved more attention. I haven't lost any plants that I know of, but I have dug down near the base of some plants to find extensive holes or tunnels. The recipe called for one TBLS of castor oil, and one cup human urine in one gallon of water. This mixture was sprinkled near the roots of susceptible plants. Apparently, the castor oil is quite sticky. I wonder if adding a bit of dish soap would make it easier to work with. Any ideas? Do you think that would decrease its effectiveness?


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squirejohn zone4 VT

Baar horticultural castor oil formula calls for:

1 tbls castor oil
2 tbls lliquid dishwashing soap
6 tbls water

Mix well (blender) and use mixture at 2tbls/2gal water.

Additional info (youtube) can be found on NH Hostas website.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 8:34AM
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rosiew(8 GA)

I too read the tip from Terrene in the thread docmom cites. Decided to do further searching and found this very informative video from a NH Hosta Grower (nurseryman).

He says DO NOT USE UNSCENTED CASTOR OIL. That's what I've been doing. I won't try to tell you what he says, watch for yourselves. Fall application very important. Thrilled to have found this, hope it helps many others.


Here is a link that might be useful: Organic Vole Control video by an expert

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 3:47PM
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I have been gardening now for 60 decades people. I have yet to worry about voles or moles. Now, I will admit that we live out in the middle of nowhere and I really don't care about the mole hills going through the turf in the spring and fall. I just figure they are eating the grubs that bug us in June/July when they emerge as Japanese Beetles. But I have never seen any damage in my 'very extensive' gardens by these little creatures.

In the spring and fall our dogs and cats really enjoy the hunt that voles and moles give (hmmmm - hunt????) and tear them out of the ground. I don't think even the cats eat them ---- we find road kill voles and moles everywhere.

They are part of the whole landscape and we let them do their thing.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 5:42PM
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rosiew(8 GA)

Ryse, you've been very fortunate. Many of us aren't.

Wow - 60 decades - that's 600 years.

I have watched some beautiful pansy plants quaking a bit. On close inspection I could also hear the chewing as the pansies were sinking into the ground. Voles at work.

Hooray for road kill voles and moles.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 6:17PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Voles wreak havoc in my vegetable garden. Very experienced gardener here--almost 50 years of gardening--way, way out in the country.

They've also destroyed every lily bulb I had--and I had some spectacular ones.

This post was edited by laceyvail on Tue, Oct 8, 13 at 7:03

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 6:59AM
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rosiew(8 GA)

laceyvail, Did you watch the video I posted above? This man sprayed the entire property, and had NO vole damage over the winter!

I'm really psyched over this. Must spend a little more time trying to source the scented castor oil. Shipping from CA is high.

Losing all your lilies - yikes, what a disappointment. Let's declare an effective, hopefully, war. I'll use a hose end sprayer.

Any sources for the horticultural version to compare pricing will be appreciated.

Rosie, Sugar Hill, GA (north Atlanta metro).

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 7:18AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

You will know when you have a vole problem, they're not one of those pests that you just kind of live with....
They're different than moles and although they might run in the mole tunnels, theyre not the best diggers and usually stay near the surface in loose dirt or just dig through surface mulches.
When voles first came into our yard we lost fruit trees, lilacs, roses, all hostas, all bulbs except for daffs and some hyacinths.... Most perennials.... Each week you Could go around and wiggle on the tops of plants to see if the roots were still there or not.
Voles may be part of the whole landscape but so are tornadoes.... Tornadoes make more noise though.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 10:59AM
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rosiew(8 GA)


Sounds like you are writing in past tense. Hope so and hope also that you''ll share that you did to get rid of the voles.

I remember seeing a large mahonia that looked like it was leaning. ALL the roots were gone! Oh man, I loved that mahonia.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 1:03PM
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I have also lost all lilies...over 100 bulbs.voles ate each one. I will try this for sure. Thanks. Lesley

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 6:26PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Sorry to say it Rosie but I have no good news. I ended up moving, that was the only solution that worked.
The survivor hostas were planted in plastic nursery pots and planted in the ground that way. You wouldn't think it but the roots grew out the bottom and the voles never dug deep enough or had enough sense to climb up over the 1 inch lip of the pot.... One by one I lost pretty much everything else that was unprotected.
I'm vole free at he new house, but this afternoon I chased off a woodchuck. I hope he's just passing through....

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 6:53PM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

rosiew - Amazon carries horticultural castor oil.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 7:41AM
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rosiew(8 GA)

Thanks Squirejohn. I just wrote a company asking if their oil is scented or not. Will report back.

Kato, ugh - I don't want to bury pots, only to have to pot up to the next size, etc. etc. Glad you were able to leave those problems behind! I moved 8 years ago, was thrilled not to be covered up in squirrels, voles and deer. Guess what? Have them here now. Glad at least for the 7 years of peaceful gardening. Have rabbits also, but I think my dog and cat may be running them away.

Is anyone else planning to do the castor oil spraying?


    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 9:32AM
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terrene(5b MA)

I have used unscented castor oil for 2 years now, both CVS and HomeHealth brands, and it works great. I have sometimes added urine and sometimes not, and it still worked great. Can't speak for any other formulas but I am interested in trying adding a little dish soap (although this is soil based formula, so not sure what it accomplishes).

Ryse, I didn't have vole problems for the first 5 years gardening here either, nor at the previous house for 15 years. Couldn't understand what people were talking about - huh voles?? At the time, I had another cat that was a great little hunter. Then she died, and we got clobbered with a horrible winter in 2011 with persistent, deep snow cover in the area of 2-3 feet.

In the Spring I discovered vole carnage in my front yard gardens! Baptisia, Echinacea, Sedum, Hosta, Asters, Liatris, helianthus, bulbs, etc. Many of my favorite native perennials were either wiped out or left with skeletal root systems. Some are recovering.

Some pics to ponder. Vole eaten Hosta -

The meager root system and skimpy shoots leftover from 2 formerly huge Baptisia 'Twilight Prairie Blues' -

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 2:08PM
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Oh yeh, got 'em here too. I have two planter boxes made out of railroad ties on either side of my driveway. Both had pretty purple irises in the center...they'd gotten to be a mass about 20-24 inches in diameter so I knew I was going to have to dig/split. In Mar. I noticed that the one mass was sort of falling into the dirt...imploding??? The dirt was sorta building up around it and the whole mass disappeared except for about 6 strands of leaves. Amazing. The voles also got my big white weigela right next to the planter box, ate all the roots, so I now have this big bare leafless bush with 3 live branches on it. This spring I planted annuals in the planter boxes, and some of them did well, some not so good. I'm waiting for them to eat the oak tree nearby....... I do need some kitty cats here, but the coyotes are death on cats here in farm country.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 2:52PM
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