Subarctic Garden Vole Prevention Techniques

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The first method we use attempts to thwart entry into the garden itself.  Voles that tunnel and scurry along the ground do not like to cross open spaces.  They instinctively know that this is how they can become trapped.  You can use this instinct against them by surrounding your entire garden with a 6 inch wide by 12 inch deep gap.  When a vole approaches, either under or over ground, they will notice this gap and turn around.

This is a very easy and free method to deploy and will thwart most of the voles that want to munch on your garden.  It is best developed with the use of a narrow tiller and shovel, but could be done with a trowel or shovel alone.  This design tends to bring about an area that welcomes ankles to get twisted.  It’s important to be careful when entering your garden and working around the edges with this method.

The second method we use employs an ingenious design we learned right here in Fairbanks.  For plants that the voles find most attractive, you transplant into a plastic solo cup with the bottom cut out.  The cup sticks up an inch or three from the ground, surrounding the stock.  This will not interfere with the plant’s growth at all.  It also helps water to funnel towards the plants roots, a beneficial side effect.

This will primarily defeat the vole that is scurrying above ground looking for its next meal.  The vole will effectively approach a “wall” (the Solo cup) and will turn around.  They’re not very smart animals, you won’t see behavior of them constantly trying to thwart your protections.  They survive primarily on easy meals and will go elsewhere with a little suggestion.

You can see that we plant most of our broccoli, cabbage, kale and other plants in a Solo cup with the bottom cut out. This is a very effective vole deterrent.

You can see that we plant most of our broccoli, cabbage, kale and other plants in a Solo cup with the bottom cut out. This is a very effective vole deterrent.

It is not necessary to use this treatment for every plant, but it’s beneficial for some more than others.  Plants such as cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, kale and collard greens will highly benefit from vole prevention.  Peas are also recommended, but we haven’t had much trouble without using solo cups on ours.  Squashes are also quite easy to provide this treatment for.

Another good preventive measure is to eliminate potential ground cover.  Voles are vulnerable when exposed and they know it.  Keeping your garden clear of long grass and other ground cover will make it more risky for them to enter your garden.  Keeping up on your weeding and trimming nearby grasses will help reduce the attractiveness of your garden to the common vole.

We’ve seen great success in our gardens by employing these techniques.  This is in an area where voles are known to be problematic and in high population.  And we’re quite happy not having to lug vole bodies everywhere.

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2 comments… add one
  • VALERIE JENSEN May 29, 2023 @ 0:30

    Me again. 🙂
    Was looking to see if you address the issue of pH esp WHEN and HOW to apply lime in home gardens to raise pH. Didn’t find a specific section but do you address this issue as part of another topic heading?
    Have a mtg at 2pm on Tuesday to address another issue.
    Then became concerned about the recommendation for an annual “dusting of lime” on our raised beds at UAF. So am gathering a list of resources to share at the mtg. The Cooperative Ext publications address pH of course but do NOT offer easily accessible information for gardeners who tend to JUST DO rather than take the time for research.

    • Jeff May 29, 2023 @ 10:59

      We haven’t really addressed the topic in a thorough fashion yet. It’s in our “master plan” of topics, of which there are well over a hundred topics, we just haven’t gotten there yet. We briefly touch on it in our soil building article, but not comprehensively and only in the context of newly built soil. I’ll try to bump the topic up in priority, but our primary content development cycle on the site here is over the winter…so don’t expect anything this season. (We’re just way too busy over summer to write long form, comprehensive content.)

      Lime really only needs to be applied if and when you’re trying to pH correct a growing space. You can take multiple approaches, like correcting it in one big shift or over multiple seasons. We prefer the latter as it’s safer that way. That “sort of” leads to “annual” corrections, but once it’s in the zone (pH of 6.0 to 6.7), there’s usually not a need to continually correct it. Soil pH will drift over time, but once it’s corrected, it’s likely you only have to address it again every 3 to 5 years.

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