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Repel voles?

Posted by brandyray Coastal NC/8a (My Page) on
Mon, Nov 19, 12 at 21:19

Okay, my gorgeous rudbeckia plants begin to turn brown and eventually the whole plant dies, then another, then another. My spiderwort (tradescantia), an extremely hardy plant, begins to turn brown, then wilts right down.
Daffodils-have had some of them disappear.
I have tunnels in my sand (yes, my yard is mostly sand- all too easy for critters to dig in.)
Voles- what repels them? Will Allium? Garlic?
I love my brown-eyed susies, and spiderwort, too. Also, I have quite a few lilies and there are definitely fewer than I planted. While my cats catch one occasionally, they're definitely not doing the job. So, what have you found to work to deter or remove, voles?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Repel voles?

To control voles try horticultural castor oil (not the drug store kind) available at www.baar.com (also availale from Amazon). Nhhostas has a long video about the use of castor oil to repel voles, and there is quite a bit of information about vole contol on the hosta forum.


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RE: Repel voles?

Thanks for the chuckle this morning. I was scanning the Thread titles and thought for a minute your heading was 'Rebel voles'....! lol It conjured up quite a vision of your garden being attacked by an organized band of rebels. :-)

Sorry, I know the damage they are doing is not funny, and wish I had a solution for you. But I've read many discussions on this subject on various forums. Here is a link to one....

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: How to get rid of Moles/Voles in my Garden?


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RE: Repel voles?

I tried the horicultural castor oil in one bed that was particularly bad this summer. While it seemed to reduce the amount of vole activity, it definitely didn't completely eliminate it. I have resorted to planting plants which I really don't want to lose in collars of 1/4" hardwarecloth that come to just above the ground surface and are 6 - 8" deep and 8" to 2' in diameter, depending on the plant. Initially I was topping the soil inside the collar with sharp gravel as well, but I have noticed several tunnels that went to the hardwarecloth and then went around it, so it seems to be working even where I didn't add the topping of gravel. Kind of ugly if it's in a garden you view from close in, but I've been using it in gardens that are mostly viewed from a bit of a distance.


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RE: Repel voles?

My cat does a good job of keeping voles in check, but there are sections of my front garden where she doesn't hunt (up near the sidewalk) and the voles were wreaking havoc up there last year. I lost Sedum, Baptisia, Echinacea, Phlox etc., numerous established bulbs, and they chewed away half the root system on a large Buddleia Black Knight (established for 7 years)!

That was the last straw for me, so I borrowed a mole trap, but didn't have any success with that. Then tried a castor oil solution recommended on the hosta forum - 1 tablespoon castor oil (CVS brand) and 1 cup human urine per gallon of water. I actually made it a little stronger than that and sprinkled the solution so as to saturate the root zones of the perennials.

I don't know about drug store vs. horticultural types, but CVS castor oil worked GREAT. I had lovely native and oriental hyacinths that were being wiped out day by day, then after the castor oil it abruptly stopped! The only drawback of the castor oil that I could see was that it is very sticky and coated the inside of my watering can, which doesn't really wash off.

I also used the hardware cloth cages around some of the plants that were being planted back into the garden to replace the losses. Those also work very well and are a semi-permanent solution.

After using these methods, I only had one loss to voles all summer - an Echinacea plant, shortly after transplanting into the front garden, that didn't have the castor oil or the wire cage.


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RE: Repel voles?

terrene, so happy to hear you had success. I remember seeing you post when you had just suffered that damage and how discouraged you were. And I'm happy to know what to do if I get any voles. Thanks for posting that.


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RE: Repel voles?

I was so happy too PM2! To find a natural way to control pests that really works, doesn't kill anything, no risks to pets, children, or wildlife, etc.? It's great!!

Here's an example of the vole damage when they were running amok. They decimated this Hosta 'Halcyon', although it did eventually recover:


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RE: Repel voles?

Voles/Moles are pretty scary after some of the threads I've read on the damage they do. I have worried over them a little because I've seen one or the other of them around the garden every once in awhile. I just haven't seen any damage that I would attribute to them. But .... once you've seen one, I assume they can multiply quickly, so it's very reassuring to hear there is an organic, non toxic solution, just in case. I understand that you are more at risk if you use a lot of organic materials for mulching, which I often do and I assume you do too.

Amazing that Hosta survived!


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RE: Repel voles?

Rebel voles, huh, prairie moon? Geez, I hope not, these are bad enough.
I like the caster oil/urine/water solution- low tech, low cost, and low in toxicity. How long does a treatment last?
I did not realize they were destroying my butterfly bushes. I thought there was a disease or some kind of bug causing the wilted leaves.
I am really looking forward to giving this a try. Thank you all so much for the information.


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RE: Repel voles?

Yes that hosta slowly recovered, as did the Baptisia and Sedum which lost 90% of its root system, and some of the other plants. Some plants were wiped out though, such as Liatris, Echinacea, Salvia Black & Blue, and lily bulbs.

Brandyray, the castor oil solution (mix it up well!) seemed to work most of the summer and into fall. The castor oil is very sticky and I think it coats the roots of the plants and makes them distasteful. It does seem to eventually rinse off.

There has been a little new tunneling activity in my front garden in the past month or so. I've been checking the plants, by pulling on the stalks, and if they've suffered significant vole damage they pull up at the roots. No apparent major damage yet, but it would probably be best to sprinkle some more before the winter, especially because they could be going for bulbs.


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RE: Repel voles?

Thank you, terrene. I will start today and see how much yard I can treat (won't my cats be confused to smell human urine in the yard!). I think I will start w/ my bulb garden, then butterfly bushes, then the rose garden, etc. So, I'm off to do battle w/ the voles...


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RE: Repel voles?

Good luck, I hope you will return and update us once you see how it all works out. :-)


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RE: Repel voles?

Hi guys, I'll be curious how it works for you too, Brandy.

There is now tunneling activity in 2 spots in the front garden, so I did some castor oil treatment yesterday. Did the Sedum, Baptisia, Echinacea, Phlox, Butterfly bush, at least those plants that don't have wire cages.

Ran out of castor oil though! Lo and behold, found an old old bottle in the back of the linen closet - it's been there for years, who knows why I bought it in the first place? Those voles and moles are in for it now, LOL.

Here's another pic for your viewing edification. On the left, a 1 year old Echinacea 'Bravado' seedling, protected by wire cage. On the right is another 1 year seedling that was not protected by wire or castor oil. Most of the roots were quickly eaten by a vole!


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RE: Repel voles?

I had so many voles in my gardens before I knew what was damaging my plants that I could hear the squeeking below ground at night. Several years later I am making progress with poison pellets in the holes, but still loosing plants especially hostas and coral bells. Now I am using hardwire cloth around the replacements but wonder if this stunts the growth of the plant or do roots reach through the holes which of course would then be vulnerable. Also someone mentioned just dropping in the plant with the pot (minus the bottom) into a hole. I would think that would stunt it's growth. Will try the caster oil but would rather not have to constantly babysit my 19 flower beds. Also using oyster shell in the bottom of the hole. Hopefully the added calcium will not affect the plant.


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RE: Repel voles?

The best way to deal with this in my garden is to put mouse traps baited with sunflower seeds under a gallon planter pot, over the vole hole. Put a rock on top so it doesn't blow over and attract birds. I catch a vole a day this way till they're all gone. I bury them or throw them in the trash. Don't use poison in your garden. Whatever eats the dead vole will also be poisoned. Good luck. I hate those creatures.

If you can't find a hole, tip the pot up an inch on a rock so the vole can crawl in.


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RE: Repel voles?

I was thinking about this thread the other day, wondering how Brandy's gardens were doing.

Mine are still doing well - no sign of voles in the front garden so far this year! The castor oil I applied last fall has lasted a long time. It seems to last for several months maybe because it's so sticky and adheres to the soil and roots. It does not appear to affect the growth of the plant whatsoever, however I'm not sure whether the hardware cloth cages inhibit root growth.

The lack of voles could also be that the cat caught at least one big fat vole in the back yard this spring, and that their population goes through fluctuations and it's low for some other reason.


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RE: Repel voles?

Hi, everyone. I did try the castor oil treatment, and I am waiting to see if it's worked. By now I probably need to re-apply it. I like Susan's idea about the traps and will probably give it a try.
I am losing brown-eyed susies already- plant starts to die and eventually dies completely. My spiderwort starts turning brown and I dig the clump up and toss it in a big hole in the woods...but I have LOTS of spiderwort and it's not practical to dig it all up. Local extension service suggested it might be a fungus, and commented that the clumps were so big there would be little airflow. I will try to get back over there this month w/ a dying plant so they can look at it, ( and my rudbeckia, too). I would like to post some pics of my perennial bed which is doing fairly well, but not too good w/ posting pics. Thanks for all the help!


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RE: Repel voles?

Are the voles eating the spiderwort? That might not be such a bad thing, spiderwort is so prolific.

During that terrible snowy winter of 2010-11, the voles ate about 90% of the Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' roots. That stuff spreads so aggressively, it was the one plant I was kinda happy the voles had eaten. Wouldn't you know, it's back 100% and I have to constantly stay on top of it because it wants to take over its neighbors.


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RE: Repel voles?

I don't think it is voles damaging the spiderwort- they have a large clump of roots. Yes, it is prolific but as long as it was healthy, I enjoyed the bright bluish-purple flowers.


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I have tried the trap with peanut butter and bird seed....no catch yet.


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A couple of years ago I had a vole problem in my rose bed. I would place mouse traps baited with a piece of apple next to their holes. I would cover the traps with a cardboard box. Caught the whole family.
I now have a new flower bed. It is looking great with hostas, coral bells, dead nettles, ferns. I have wanted a shade bed for so long. At last!
Panic.. My new bed is home to something underground. I now have to decide if it is voles or moles. Their seems to be tunnels among the uprooted plants.


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RE: Repel voles?

Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' roots. That stuff spreads so aggressively, it was the one plant I was kinda happy the voles had eaten.

I have two stands of LQ and for sure they are a large plant but I don't find they spread unexpectedly. Mine form a large clump about 2.5 ft wide.


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RE: Repel voles?

Lilyfleur, the castor oil works for both moles and voles. I bought a big 32 oz bottle online, I love this stuff (it also makes a great massage oil or castor oil pack). I was desperate when the voles ate half the butterfly bush, plus I watch the native hyacinth disappearing each day. After applying the castor oil the vole activity stopped immediately.

Hey rouge, I wonder why your H. Lemon Queen is so well-behaved? My patch is now about 8 feet long and 4-5 feet thick. It was about that big when the voles ate most of it. It spreads into the daylilies and I have to pull a lot of shoots out each year.


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Terrene, I feel your pain for losing all your beautiful plants. I went to CVS and bought some castor oil. Will use one tsp oil to one tsp soap to each gallon of water.
I am also thinking about going around the whole perimeter of the new shade garden with under ground hardware cloth. Not sure how deep.

This post was edited by lilyfleur on Sun, Jun 16, 13 at 21:54


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RE: Repel voles?

Lilyfleur, burying hardware cloth all around a garden bed sounds like a lot of work, but it would probably work. You could try putting a rock or brick border around the bed. Voles like to travel through loose soil close to the surface and they don't like rocks or gravelly soil. They will turn in another direction if they encounter rocks.

Not sure if it is foolproof, but so far the voles have never bothered any plants that are in my foundation beds, which are bordered by either a stone pathway or bricks.


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RE: Repel voles?

Hey rouge, I wonder why your H. Lemon Queen is so well-behaved? My patch is now about 8 feet long and 4-5 feet thick. It was about that big when the voles ate most of it. It spreads into the daylilies and I have to pull a lot of shoots out each year.

I am trying to look on the bright side terrene in that your very large stand must look spectacular in the fall!

I may have underestimated the width of mine....probably closer to 3.5 feet. But it is all together. I have never seen any stray seedlings away from the main clump.

This post was edited by rouge21 on Tue, Jun 18, 13 at 12:27


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