whitegarden(Z5 MA)April 15, 2006

Well my eyes are swollen as I have been crying for a couple of hours. This was supposed to be THE year for my garden. I have been working like a dog and planting for four years. Today I come to find that more than half of my graden has been descimated by voles. I lost 8 rose bushes, six of which were supposed to finally make it up their arbor this year, all my astilbe, sedum, phlox and about 70% of my bulbs. I am not sure what else is gone. My question is this. Is there any way to salvage a plant once the voles have feasted on the roots or is the plant lost??? For example, if I hydrate the roses, soak them in a root hormone, cut them way back, can I start again with them? If I water and baby the perennials like the astilbe, is there a chance they will re-root?

Please help, I am really devastated here.


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Whitegarden, I am there with you and I feel your pain. A few seasons ago I began my spring clean up and found out that voles had feasted upon and destroyed 5 garden beds. The casualty list included viburnum and roses, as well as dozens and dozens of perennial species. The only things they avoided were my peonies, iris and daylily. They literally ate around them. Two entire beds were EMPTY! Yes, I said EMPTY!

So, that year was a bust. I went into a serious garden depression. Honestly, everyone was worried about me. I couldn't even start a veggie garden. By summer though, I gathered myself. I focused on the plants that lived, cherished them like never before and even bought a few more daylillies. I also started to container garden a little bit. I began to educate myself. Why did I have voles? What would they avoid? The next year I began anew.

Now, the good news: I found some new plants that I previously ignored, I started to enjoy container gardening and am undertaking a new container project this year, I have only lost a little bit to voles since then, and THE BEST BEST NEWS???? Many of the plants I thought were dead and gone two summers before came back last summer...that's right! The voles must have left some roots behind. Also, I enjoy finding my old plants in new places; places I assume the voles took them for safe keeping, or "deposited" them.

Here are my tips:

Get a cat.

Beneficial nematodes keep grubs away, which keep moles away, which keep voles away.

I foliar spray with fermented salmon (from Coast of Maine) at least three times a year...(The year before they killed me I only sprayed once)

Some plants my voles don't like (and therefore leave alone) deadnettle, daylily, peonies, iris, may night salvia, russian sage, baby's breath, yarrow, verbena, coreopsis, ajuga.

I only plant bulbs surrounded by moth balls. Haven't had any not come up since.

As to bringing back plants this year,I am only new to propagating so I don't think I can be much help. Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to share my pain and happiness regarding my battle with the voles!!! Hang in there.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 7:50PM
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whitegarden(Z5 MA)


Thank you so much for your response. It has helped me so much. It is 1:30 and I can't sleep thinking about what is going on out in my garden. I can't tell you how happy I am that I may not loose my peonies and my iris. The funny thing is that last year my big problem was with my iris - too much mulch and a lot of rot! This year the main bed looks like an iris garden already. Peonies are by far my favorite flower, so I am relieved that I may not loose those.

On the New England board, someone posted about the CT plant swap on May 7. It just so happens that we are going to be in NJ for a family event on the 6th, so I think I will try to come and have everyone take pity on me, I won't be able to bring anything but a sad story, but in a few years I am sure that I will be able to pay them all back.

I hear you about the cat, but I am seriously allergic to cats and can't have one in the house. I wish I could.

I will try nematodes and oyster shells and moth balls and . . . LOL!

Well, at least I can laugh.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2006 at 1:32AM
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Hello White Garden, I, too, can feel your pain for I was ( and still am )in your shoes. I spent 5 years creating my gardens with the help of my husband and last spring my efforts had paid off. My climbing roses were in full bloom and reached the top of the arch. All my plants were well on their way to being established.By summer I realized I had a major infestation of voles. Before I knew what was happening they took out half my garden.My full grown 10' butterfly bush and my climbing rose were the biggest heartache.Like Barefoot, I was about to give up on gardening but one day I looked out and saw tons of hurricane lilies blooming! I planted them two years ago and forgot about them! That very bulb gave me the strength to say enough is enough and go to work.In my garden I have learned these facts about the voles...they hate gravel. I noticed bulbs I had planted in gravel for drainage have survived so now everything gets a moat of gravel dug in around them. When I plant a new plant I put them in a gravel bowl. So far it seems to deter them. I quit using heavy mulch like pine straw. They can hide real well in that kind of mulch. I use very fine ground up pine even if I have to replace it more often.I also have read where they have a population explosion every 5 years.I believe the explosion was last year for everyone noticed increased activity!!This year I am still finding holes but not as many. I planted my new roses in a wire cage with a bowl of gravel. So far no activity around the rose. I also have planted some of my special things in containers.Poison is not an option for me. I back up to a wooded area so they are always present.Finding ways to make my garden unlikable is the answer for me and gravel ( volebloc/ permatill) seems to work well. Hope this helps in some way. Tamara

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 1:39PM
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whitegarden(Z5 MA)

Thanks Tamara, I am starting to plant again and will do the gravel thing. I think it is a great idea.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2006 at 10:17AM
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Years ago I started planting in wire cages to keep voles at bay, then I discovered that the voles tunneled around the outside of the cages creating air pockets and either stunting the plant's growth or killing them. I have since discovered Permatil, which is the same product as Vole Bloc but less expensive.
If you have a vole-friendly environment you'd have to raid the local SPCA for enough outdoor/micer cats to kill the voles year-round.
When using Permatil, remember to put 1-2" on the soil around the plant.
I may try experimenting with regular gravel this year, as Permatil can get quite pricey.
BTW, moles eat grubs and voles eat vegetable matter, (roots and stems), and, rarely, insects. Therefore, Milky Spore and nematodes will not deter voles.
And, as far as moth balls go, they are quite toxic to animals, including the human animal.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 2:42PM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

How did the gravel and Permatil work out? Our area is having its vole population explosion this year. I've caught fourteen in the past week and am at my wits' end.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 10:39PM
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How did you catch the vole? I am having trouble with vole and rabbit this year!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 5:11PM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

I caught voles in regular snap mousetraps baited with almond butter.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 2:55AM
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