Rodents can cause havoc in the garden, leaving unsightly tunnels and hills, munching on crops, and uprooting plants. But with so many different types of rodents, including moles, voles, chipmunks, white-footed mice, and house mice, it’s important to properly identify the pest in order to control it effectively. This article will help you learn the difference between moles and other rodents and how to get rid of moles in the garden.
How To Get Rid Of Moles In The Garden
Are rodents digging through your garden? First, we’ll look at proper identification to make sure moles really are the culprits, and then we’ll review some effective natural control methods for reducing or even eliminating mole damage.
How to identify moles
Although there are several species of moles, including the unique star-nosed mole, they all share a few distinctive characteristics. Moles tend to be about five to seven inches long with a hairless, pointed snout. Their short, velvety, brown fur conceals their small eyes and ear openings (they lack external ears). And while moles have small, narrow hind feet with sharp, slender claws, one of their most distinguishing characteristics is their large, paddle-like front feet designed for digging.
What mole damage looks like
Despite their bad reputation, moles actually provide benefits to the soil and help control undesirable insects and grubs. When they dig and tunnel, moles aerate the soil and mix it up so that humus can travel deeper into the soil and subsoil material (including nutrients) moves toward the surface and into the reach of plant roots.
Unfortunately, moles can also cause some damage while burrowing and hunting for dinner. Most mole damage is an indirect result of this tunneling, as moles disrupt roots while moving just under the surface of the soil. Their runways and molehills can result in a bumpy lawn and unsightly brown traces and mounds of dirt throughout the yard. Of course, their digging sometimes damages garden plants as well.
Gardeners often blame moles for the destruction of seeds, plants, and bulbs, but moles feed almost exclusively on grubs, worms, and insects, not plant material. However, other rodents – like voles and mice – may use mole runways and eat seeds and tubers as they move through the tunnels. If the damage in your garden seems to have been caused by munching rodents, moles are likely not the culprits.
How To Control Moles
Moles are solitary creatures, living in seclusion in their underground burrows for most of the year. Because they cover a large area in search of food, typically no more than three to five moles will live within one acre. This is good news for anyone struggling with mole problems, as you likely only have a couple to deal with. Below are a few methods for effectively ridding your garden of moles.
1. Apply repellents
According to PennState Extension, there are no registered chemical mole repellents on the market. However, several natural products have shown effectiveness in repelling moles. You can create a DIY solution by diluting six ounces of pure castor oil in a gallon of water with two tablespoons of natural liquid soap and spray it on the soil. Or you can purchase a ready-made castor oil product like organic Holy Moley. Repellents containing Fuller’s earth are also popular.
Mole-repelling devices that vibrate or produce sound have varying degrees of effectiveness. While some people swear by them, others swear they don’t work. In any case, these devices work best in a small area, as they have a limited range.
2. Bury a fence
Speaking of small areas, a physical barrier is an excellent way to keep moles out of a flower bed or other small space. Dig a trench one foot deep and wide around the area you want to protect. Then bend 24-inch-wide hardware cloth or sheet metal lengthwise at a right angle and place it in the bottom of the trench. One side should lay flat against the bottom and the other should rest vertically against the area you want to protect. In other words, the L shape faces outward. Refill the trench with soil or gravel.
3. Set a trap
Most experts seem to agree that trapping is the most effective way to rid your outdoor space of moles. Specialized mole traps may look horrifyingly dangerous, but a quick death is the most humane, and these traps pose little danger to adult humans when properly handled.
Once you have acquired a trap, you will need to identify an active mole tunnel. To do this, simply step on a section of the tunnel to compress the soil. An active runway will be raised again within 24 hours. Then follow the instructions on the packaging to set the trap, and check on it at least once a day.
4. Plant mole-deterring plants
A border of marigolds around the garden not only can help control insect pests but also might deter moles! Other plants that moles dislike include daffodils, caper spurge (also fittingly called “mole plant”), and castor bean. Use caution with the latter two plants, as caper spurge and castor beans are poisonous to humans and pets and can become problematic weeds if they escape cultivation. If you have curious pets or young children, you may want to stick with marigolds and daffodils.
Although rodent problems in the garden usually stem from voles, mice, or chipmunks, moles can sometimes cause havoc simply by tunneling. Chances are, any mole “infestation” you have involves only a handful of moles, which makes your job of controlling them a little easier. Make sure you’ve properly identified the pest, then try one or more of the control methods above to rid your garden of moles.