As a child, I watched a cartoon where a beatnik cat named Jinx would spend his days chasing two irascible rodents, Pixie and Dixie, while spouting “I hate meeces to pieces!” And much like other carton rivalries (e.g. Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner) never the twain would meet—always close, but only within arms (or falling anvil’s) reach.
Years later, I am wiser, surely older, and more importantly a man who knows grudges get you nowhere, especially where nature is concerned. Simply put, nature always wins. Raccoons will break into chicken yards, deer will dine on trees, coddling moths will riddle apples, and voles will chomp through a tree root like a kid with a licorice whip.
For the most part, I deal with annoying critters through tactics of prevention and acceptance. Basically, since I couldn’t beat them, I have joined them.
For example, measures of prevention and acceptance include:
- Deer: fencing the orchard.
- Hawks and Eagles: netting the chicken yard
- Raccoons: installing electrical wires around the chicken yard.
- Voles: mowing and weeding regularly around young trees to eliminate cover and tunneling.
- Weeds: mulching heavily around garden beds.
- Blackberries: weed-whack the young canes, eat berries, make pies.
- Birds: Accepting that they will eat half of the cherry crop.
I take exception with moles, those seldom-seen, grub-eating, mountain-makers tunneling under my lawn. They are garden helpers. While vegetarian voles can handily kill a tree by girdling its trunk and roots, moles, the Mr. Magoos of nature, blindly blaze their subterranean trails in search of insects, grubs and worms; and in the process aerate soil and rid the area of damaging insects. Moles are actually good for your garden.
So rather than kill these gentle, unassuming creatures, I enlist them to my advantage as they provide excellent planting sites for naturalizing bulbs like alliums, scilla and daffodils (bulbs ignored by deer and vole). Moles create mini-planting pads for me to use in spreading spring blooming bulbs throughout the lawn and garden, and creating random patterns for natural and uncontrived floral drifts.
Here’s how I turn molehills into no-maintenance lawn gardens.
Step 1: First, I or my trusty lawn scout Buddy identify areas of mole activity. (Well, that was easy.)
Step 2: Dig one hole for each molehill. I like to use a three-inch diameter bulb auger on my cordless drill.
Step 2, continued: Because the moles have done all the work, the digging is easy.
Step Three: Seek supervisor approval.
Step 4: Fill the hole with some surrounding soil to create a proper bulb planting depth. Place one bulb in each hole, then cover with soil. Press firmly.
Step 5: Once bulb is covered with soil, rake lightly to smooth and flatten lawn surface.
Step 6: Check with supervisor, then move on to next molehill mountain range to plant remaining bulbs.
Step 7: Sit back, relax, and wait for spring and a patch of posies to appear.
Step 8: For spring bulbs, after blooming, let them die back naturally before mowing. Next years flowers will be produced by the energy stored from the leaves in the previous season.
- Plant deer and vole-proof spring-flowering bulbs: daffodils, alliums, camassia, and frittilaria. Full list here.
- Plant in fall/winter for spring bloom
- After blooming season, let leaves die back naturally before mowing lawn.
- Scatter seeds over lightly-raked soil for summer lawn flowers: yarrows, english daisy, clovers, California poppies, creeping thyme, and alyssum.
Extra Credit: What Varmint Obsessions Can Lead To