March 2010
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Zesty solution to vole woesZesty solution to vole woes

Holes pock-marking the garden beds. Centers nibbled out of precious winter lettuce heads. Healthy parsley plants suddenly flattened and limp,the deep tap roots completely vanished. Carrots eaten from the bottom up. Voles have suddenly become garden enemy #1!

 Don’t know if it’s our aging cat providing less effective varmint control,or if it was the particular weather characteristics,but voles went from giving occasional trouble to becoming a major problem over this past fall and winter.

 When we had a stretch of warmish days a couple weeks ago I removed the row covers from the hoop house beds to water and found vole holes riddling the whole surface. They had eaten nearly all the seedlings of spinach and lettuce I planted in the fall to overwinter and now as I prepared to replant in all the empty spots,voles threatened any chance of getting early season greens. This called for an immediate solution.

 Don’t know where the initial idea came from but for the last couple years I have prevented rodent damage in the root cellar by applying orange essential oil or Citrasolve (an orange oil-based cleaner) to strips of fabric and laying them over the stored produce. Orange zest,a pleasant smell to us,apparently repels rodents.

 So I tried spraying citrasolve directly onto the wooden frames of the garden beds and dropping wood chips soaked in the liquid into the vole holes before raking the holes over – then re-covered the beds with the row covers. Two weeks later,there doesn’t appear to be any new evidence of voles. The smell dissipates in the hoop house much faster than in the enclosed root cellar so I have been re-applying regularly.

 As long as new generations of voles don’t adapt to the smell,orange zest offers a pretty easy way to prevent rodent damage. It’s also likely to become the scent I’ll most associate with winter gardening in the hoop house so I hope it doesn’t become repellent for me too!

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