Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


A female vole can have 100 offspring per season and, boy, do we have voles.  I have tried trapping (and releasing) them and vole repellents, both with minimal success (though circling vulnerable plants with gravel in a ring a few feet down surrounded by daffodils seems to work).  I have written about voles before.  These "meadow mice" live underground and tunnel through your yard and garden.  Unlike moles, which create obvious mounds in your yard and do not eat your plants, voles leave no obvious tunnels, just round holes, and do eat your plants. Voles have dined on my root crops, destroyed my snap peas, eaten a tomato plant (I found only the above-ground part of the plant, all the roots were chewed off) and gorged on hostas.  So, here is one solution: I build vole barriers from 1/4 inch garden cloth/wire fencing.  I plant the vulnerable plants right into these baskets into the ground, back fill with soil.  This gives the plants a chance to grow and really seems to deter the voles.  At the end of the season, when I pull out the plants, I find that the roots grew very well right through this mesh.  And I save them to use next year.  If you are making new garden beds, you can line the entire length of the bed with garden cloth to stop the voles!

Above: Vole cage in the making

Another creature to deter?  The bunnies who love nothing better than to eat emerging bean plants!

Beans under garden cloth/fence 

For what other creatures do I use the "barrier method??  Why, cucumber and flea beetles, of course:

Floating row covers over hoops to deter chewing insects.

When the plants are large, I remove the covers to allow pollination.  I will spray members of the squash family with Kaolin clay (sold under the registered trademarked name Surround)(this acts as a sort of barrier too- insects do not like the gritty surface)  which keeps these beetles from chewing the leaves and spreading viral wilts.  I might try it on my eggplants too, though they grew so huge last year, the flea beetles hardly bothered them!  These row covers often last two seasons, sometimes more, but might need a little patching (duct tape to the rescue!). I have heard that old, white sheer curtains can be used as well!

Happy barrier-method gardening!

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