Our Farm & Lavender Market is open June and July every Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10 - 5. You can find Lockwood Lavender Farm products in these retail locations. Like us on Facebook and receive up to date information on what's happening on the farm. I'm sorry we do not sell Plants.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gardener's number one enemy...VOLES

I love animals period!  But their is a creature that is running havoc on the farm and mostly in our field of lavender.
Cute right....WRONG!  Sometimes I think I am in the movie Caddy Shack and this little creature is out in our field dancing around laughing at me.

People often refer to voles as meadow mice, or "field mice".  Voles are of pest significance in turf and landscaped areas for two reasons; they tunnel and burrow in turf areas, and they gnaw on the trunks and roots of various trees and ornamental plants. 

When conditions are favorable, voles are perhaps the most prolific of all rodents. There are cases of meadow voles producing up to 17 litters in one year for an amazing 83 offspring. Assuming that her offspring also mated and reproduced, several thousand voles could result from one female in a years time. You can see why this could be a big problem in our lavender field.
You can see in the picture that the voles got into our cold frame of propagated lavender.  Although it was disappointing to see that they chewed all the new growth.  We learned our lesson and will be putting a bottom floor in the cold frame this spring for a new propagating trial. 
It seems that its the smaller lavender plants that are effected.  This might look like the last straw for this plant,  but it is surprising how the voles have been our best pruners.  But year after year this will not be good for the stress of the plant.
Voles are herbivores. The stems and leaves of grasses comprise the majority of their diet, but they will also consume other green vegetation and fruits. Voles do not hibernate and are active throughout the year. During severe winters and snow cover, when green vegetation is scarce, voles often girdle tree trunks and roots killing or damaging trees and shrubs.

They are in the process of chewing the middle of this plant.  We have used mouse snap traps, installing them with the trigger end in there runway path. A peanut butter-oatmeal mixture or apple slices make good baits. Fall and late winter are periods when many vole species are easiest to trap. With our large field it is difficult to keep up.
Zinc phosphide is the most commonly used toxicant for vole control. Because of its effect on ground-feeding birds and waterfowl we refuse to use it.
I have been to a number of talks on controlling this little pests. One suggestion it to plant with chicken grit which can be found at your local farm store.  Because voles don't like to dig in the grit they will stay away.  This is great if you are planting tulips or any other tubular or bulbs.  I don't think it will help the lavender.

Springs warmer weather is not far off and we hope the voles will find something else to eat.  Hopefully not my tulips.


Judy said...

Arrgghh critters - every year we have to deal with woodchucks. They make their home under our shed and have babies and eat everything. Last year we had 8 woodchucks hanging in our yard. We got a hav-a-heart trap from a friend and were we able to catch them all. It gets discouraging to plant stuff and come home and find that they have chewed all the leaves off the flowers. The get into our garden and take bites out of the tomatoes or eat all the cucumber plants before they get a chance to grow. I can sympathize although you have a much bigger problem.

Karen Wheeler - Lockwood said...

Ah, Yes Woodchucks. They have been known to wipe out a portion of our soy bean field. All the while looking at you straight in the eye.

Tami SouthStreetShabby.blogspot.com said...

I have these little 'you-know-whats' at my house too! I have, over the years, planted several hundred tulips, daffodils and crocus...every one of them have disappeared! I finally gave up! I can see the trails all over the yard in the spring where they've tunneled all winter...I always hold my breath until I see my gardens growing in the spring...just in case they've been feasting all winter...URGH! I understand...

Robin Larkspur said...

We have already trapped two voles in our garage just this past week. Last year they ruined our summer squash, cukes and zucchini! dreadfully disappointing. But this is a home garden, not anything compared to your lavender farm. I wish you good luck in coping with these durn pests!

Raspberry Hill Crafts said...

I love lavender,had about 15 huge beautiful bushes in the UK. I planted 2 last year that were growing so good. This year after the snow melted my yard now looks like a war zone from the voles and my lavender bushes dead..so yes voles are a prob. Question...what kind of lavender is best to plant, winters here are very cold and far too much snow.

Karen Wheeler - Lockwood said...

Hi Diane,
Don't count your lavender out yet. You may be surprise what may come up. Even if it is chewed down to the ground. Give it a couple of weeks and see if anything greens up.
Snow is not the issue with lavender. Actually the snow cover protects it from our cold temps. Wind damage and our freeze and thaws, freeze and thaws is what will kill a lavender plant.
The safest variety would be Munstead or Hidcote which are Angustifolia (English Lavender).
If you get a chance this summer stop by our farm I would love to show you around. We are open every Saturday and Sunday.

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