Over the years of gardening in our high country area, I have faced the same problems that have plagued vegetable, fruit and flower growers, large and small — since the first plow cut the earth. One of them seems to have been anathema since agriculture began — the mole.
We’ve all tried some of the many recommended solutions from Juicy Fruit chewing gum sticks placed (unwrapped) inside the tunnel hole; to poison pellets; to horrible elaborate pronged “guillotines” installed for impaling the hapless creature. I never heard of any of them being successful, though I only tried the gum.
My personal solution came in a surprising manner one day when small and beautiful pearl-grey/white kitty “Shiela” brought a dead mole to the door. I remembered seeing her sitting patiently for hours in the garden and realized what she had been about. Over the years, she killed several moles and ultimately they were gone from the premises. But Shiela was unique — none of my other cats displayed any interest at all in joining her on her boring lookout. I guess “mole-cats” are born, not made.
Some time back, I received a leaflet on moles from the American Horticul-tural Society. Their informative guidelines are interesting, and point out some basics that may help those still struggling with the problem.
The moles themselves are small — up to 9 inches — furry creatures with slender, hairless snouts, generally harmless except for the root damage they cause. They have poor eyesight but possess superior senses of smell, touch and hearing. Their front feet have large trowel-like claws for tunneling and are much larger than their hind feet. They live underground in burrows made up of interconnecting runways, usually about 6-8- inches under the surface. This tunneling produces ridges on top of the ground and often the first sign of moles are the fresh tunnels in the lawn.
Moles prefer eating grubs but also eat slugs, earthworms and other soil-dwelling insects/larva. They make the tunnels to reach the grubs and in so doing, disturb deep perennial roots, uproot plants, or loosen soil around roots so they dry out and cause plants to die. Though moles can be a problem in the veggie garden, the grubs they feed on prefer undisturbed soil such as lawns, around flower bed borders, shrubs or at the edges of lawns or paths.
All this points up that the best way to get rid of moles is to control the grubs. For long term organic control, milky spore disease, a granular substance that infects the grubs, may be used. Granted, this is not immediate; it’s a long process but will provide some help within the first year. Its long-term effectiveness will continue through the next two to three years. Milky spore lasts in the ground for many years and is harmless to humans, dogs, cats or anything except grubs! It is available at most garden centers and some hardware stores and it’s not too late to get a start now.
Now, let’s address my enigmatic headline: The old WWII song “I’m gonna’ sit right down and write myself a letter” seemed appropriate for a nifty bit of info from the Bonner County Gardener’s Association monthly newsletter for August. Thanks to my peers for this day-brightener!
“Writing to Rats and Mice: Gardeners once employed a novel method to rid their gardens of rats, mice, groundhogs and moles. They wrote polite letters to the creatures, inviting them to leave their gardens and placed the requests in their burrows. This practice is thought to have originated in ancient Greece where farmers, anxious to clear their gardens of mice, wrote messages to them offering alternative accommodation.”
Who knows but what there may be a literate mole out there who will appreciate the gesture, pack up its family and leave? (Maybe you could write the message on the back of the Milky Spore label.) Good luck!
Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 208-265-4688.