"One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Who's been digging in my garden?

I was walking out to the front yard when I saw something that caught my eye, holes that I didn't dig for plants.  This nice big hole leads to a tunnel under a weeping cherry tree.
I don't really mind seeing the little holes that I know are from the squirrels.  They don't dig very deep and I usually find these peanut shells nearby.  I know they're just looking for their stash.  I haven't had too much of a problem with them digging up bulbs.
But, it's the mole holes I really don't like.  Every year as soon as the ground begins to warm the telltale mounds of dirt start appearing.  I see them in our lawn and more often in my flower beds.  They push out plants and bulbs, like this little oriental lily bulb.  There was a whole little clump on top of this fresh pile of dirt.  The freshly planted things get it the worst.
I know that moles don't eat plants or bulbs, they are there for the grubs and earthworms, but still they drive me crazy.  I've heard people say it's a sign of a healthy garden if moles are there.  If that's true we must have one of the healthiest yards on the block.  I rarely see mole mounds in any other yard on our street.  Maybe they are secretly laughing underground at us as we carry shovels full of dirt away or stomp around trying to push their tunnels closed.
One year after my husband and I spent a lot of time fixing up a new flower bed he saw the ground moving.  I looked out the window to see him stabbing at the ground with a shovel, I'm sure the neighbors thought they were witnessing a crime in progress.  As much as I don't like the moles I just don't like the thought of killing an animal.  Luckily for that guy, he got away.
I've read lots of articles about natural and unnatural deterrents from hair to chewing gum to flooding their tunnels with water.  I don't know if any of those things really work, but I know the neighborhood cats sometimes can catch them.  The story that always stays in my mind was one that I heard listening to a local talk show host, Pat Cashman, many years ago.  He told the story of his brothers and him pouring gasoline into the tunnels and then lighting it on fire.  I can only imagine how that turned out.
I guess for now I'll just live with them and continue to stomp down their mounds and replant my plants.  
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  1. We must have a healthy yard as well. I have noticed the little tunnels where the moles are pushing the soil up. Well with respect, I find this a little entertaining, hence the name of your blog! LOL

  2. As much as they're a pain in the backside, moles do leave fabulous loam. I often shovel the 'hills' into a wheel barrow and distribute the soil elsewhere. I's good stuff and usually without weed seeds.

  3. At least they are not voles, which eat grubs and plants both underground and above. The Black Hole traps are the only thing I have found to get rid of those destructive little varmints!

  4. Hi fustrating - my parents had moles in the past and it used to drive them mad. The only plus side was that the soil they turned up was very good. I have heard that children's windmills stood in the hole are good as they dont like the sound they make but I have no idea if it works - might look pretty though!!

  5. A friend of mine that lived not far from me had this problem- only a lot worse! They cause you more work, that's for sure! Good luck with these little rodents!

  6. Here's some "food for thought." I've heard that moles don't appreciate vibrations, so I've put several children's pinwheels in the ground. The wind makes the pinwheels turn and the posts send the vibrations into the ground. I don't know if they work, but if you move them around from time-to-time, they're supposed to also help deter rabbits (and deer?) ;-)

  7. How very frustrating that must be. The windmill idea sounds promising.

  8. We purchased mole chasers, a long tube with batteries that you push almost totally underground to "vibrate" the moles. For the most part, they do a great job if planted near your most precious gardening spots; of course batteries are expensive these days!!!

  9. Darla - So maybe it's good that we have moles? :) I'll take it that we have healthy gardens!

    Rob- I guess I didn't realize how good the soil was. That's good to know and I guess the weed seeds wouldn't be that far underground, good point :)

    Sheila - I am glad that we don't have anything that actually eats the plants, they would really make me crazy!

    patientgardener - it's good to hear that the soil can turn up is good, maybe they are helping more than I realized!

    Tessa - I can't imagine when these guys take over a hole nice big lawn. That would be maddening, I always feel bad when I see a whole bunch of piles all across someone's grass.

    Shady Gardener - I think I do remember hearing about vibrations at some point but I've never tried that. My girls would have fun putting the pinwheels up.

    Connie - It sounds like the pinwheel could be a solution!

    Mildred - I've never heard of mole chasers before. Batteries are expensive but just might be worth saving the plants that keep getting pushed up.

  10. That's what I do too. They don't bother me any where near as much as the voles. Urgh! P.S. Dogs are very good mole deterrents though:) I just stomp the tunnels down too.

  11. I like your idea of co-existing with the moles. I, too, have gotten so frustrated with critters in the garden. I finally decided to give up and accept that it's their land too. Makes it easier for all of us :)


  12. It's usually about mid-summer when I start seeing the telltale mounds. I've taken to grabbing a hand trowel and bucket and scooping the mound soil into the bucket and leaving an open hole. Every time the mole pushes up more dirt, I scoop it out. Eventually they get the hint, especially with a watch-cat on the prowl. The bucket-ed soil, always a nice crumbly tilthe, works great for filling in low areas or covering seeds or whatever. From what I hear, moles are a more convenient inconvenience than Japanese beetles or chiggers or hurricanes... you know the plagues that abound in other parts of the world. I'll take the moles and slugs. :-)

  13. I heard that if you got rid of the grubs then the moles would go elsewhere. I believe Scott's Sod Webworm control applied to the lawn would fix the problem. We grow all organic so that is not a solution for us. Once I lost a new butterfly bush to voles or something it was a fragrant bush and the roots were ate from under it.

  14. Tina - Our dog would probably want to be friends with any moles she found :) I'll just keep stomping.

    Karrita - It does just get easier to coexist doesn't it. I used to get so mad at the raccoons in our pond and the squirrels in the bird feeders. I've learned to find some sort of entertainment in it now, they are all just trying to find food I guess.

    Grace - I like your idea of taking their dirt. They do seem to eventually move on sometime during the summer, and you're right there are much worse things. We are pretty lucky out in here in the PNW.

    Randy - I hate to use any kind of pesticide either, with kids and dogs and knowing our runoff ends up in the salmon spawning streams I just can't do it.

  15. Moles are pesky critters. We have a few of them around here too. One got into my house last winter. I'd much rather they stay out in the yard even if they do dig stuff up.

  16. Here is the link to the website for the mole chasers:

  17. I haven't had moles here, but have had plenty of other critters to contend with. The squirrels dig the plants out of pots, and the ground. They knock down my sunflowers. All in all, the squirrels here seem destructive to me. The rabbits eat the plants in my garden. They also eat flowers, but I can't tell as much as with the lettuce.

    I hope you solve the mole problem.

  18. Cinj - How did you get it out? And how did it get in? Yes, much better outside I agree!!

    Mildred - Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

    Sue - Maybe our squirrels get enough out of the bird feeders here :)
    We don't have rabbits here, but I know they can be a real nuisance!

  19. This problem sounds similar to mine with the voles. I can only describe these things as a mouse/mole that does eat your plantings. So I guess it could always be worse. It would be so distressing to have a yard as pretty as yours with moles in the mix. Yikes!

  20. Heather - I realize once I read other blogs it could be worse, I think sometimes I forget that. It would really be annoying if they ate the plants. At least I can replant mine :)

  21. Catherine

    Moles have been a big discussion at Master Gardener meetings. Many of members have tried the worms that you drop into the mole tunnels and found that they do work. The worms are put out by Tom Cat and are available at Lowes stores.

    Garden Thyme with the Creative Gardener

  22. Debbie - I've never heard of the worms before. I'll look into those at the Lowes near us. I know there are worse things, but they still frustrate me when I've just replanted something and it keeps getting pushed up.


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