Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Vole Aeration

A few mornings ago, I was complaining to Jack about the many vole holes I'm seeing around our garden. For those of you lucky enough to be unfamiliar with voles, let me explain. Voles are small, mice-like creatures that you hardly ever see because they usually stay underground chomping on the roots and tender crowns of your plants. In fact, I've never seen one, just the results of their activity. Their favorite meal seems to be whatever your favorite plant is. (Well, that is an exaggeration because there are some plants they leave alone.) In particular, they are fond of hostas. It's so sad to go check your garden and find  this where a favorite hosta use to be.
A vole hole where a hosta use to be.

One part of our garden seems to be the main source of my vole woes. We have a shady area that is heavily planted with hosta and similar plants. The moles love this area because the soil is soft from compost and frequent waterings, and they feast on the earthworms, who also favor these conditions. Voles are opportunistic and they use the moles' tunnels as underground highways that lead them to the plant roots, where they do their damage and leave those tell-tale round holes. (Chipmunks also make similar-looking holes but if the plant is gone, your villain is probably a vole.)
Vole's favorite area in our garden

Later in the week, Jack and I were working on a part of the lawn where the drainage is very poor. The lawn in this area has low places and the soil is very compacted. We brought in sand to level the ground but before putting the sand down, we wanted to aerate that area. We have a sod-plugger/bulb planter that does a great job extracting large cores of soil. Rather than leaving the mostly clay cores on the ground, we used a mix of soil and compost to refill the holes, then we leveled the area with sand. (Disclaimer: this procedure seemed like a good idea to us, but time will tell how it works out.)

Seeing the holes left by the aeration we did in the lawn made me think of the holes made by the voles in our garden area, and I began to wonder whether we could reap some benefit from the those holes. Perhaps we could find a use for the voles' holes in the same way they find a use for the moles' tunnels. Even though the soil was very compacted in this garden area, we thought it best not to aerate it because of an abundance of tree roots. But since the voles had already done the job of making holes, wouldn't it make sense for us to take this as an opportunity to add organic matter, just as we had done in the lawn area? So I've decided to keep a container of compost handy and anytime I see a vole hole, I'm going to fill it with compost. As many holes as they make over a season, it might do some good, and I can't think of any downsides.

When mother nature sends you moles and voles, make lemonade. Oh wait, I'm mixing my metaphors. But you see my point.

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