The Vole Patrol
It’s more about rabbits, actually, but I couldn’t think of anything that rhymes with rabbit (Babbit?).
The biggest catastrophe that befell my garden last winter came as a result of nibbling and gnawing creatures. The worst damage was to three dwarf Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) ‘Iroquois Beauty’ that I had just planted. Every single stem had been chewed down, and while they weren’t killed, they did not quite recover during the growing season. There was lesser damage done to some serviceberries (Amelanchier) as well.
While I’m quite sure the damage done last year was by rabbits, I’ve recently learned about the Vole Menace at my Plant Health class at Chicago Botanic Garden. Voles, which are like even smaller versions of mice, can girdle young trees and shrubs by chewing the outer layers at the base of the plant. I’m pretty sure there are voles living in my garden, but I haven’t spotted that sort of damage to date.
So yesterday Measures Were Taken. Specifically, I surrounded my Aronia, my two youngest serviceberry, and my new flowering dogwood with a barrier of hardware cloth, which is like chicken wire but with much smaller holes. From this exercise I can offer my readers two pieces of advice.
First, if you do something like this, wear gloves. Well, of course, you might think. I never think “of course” when it comes to wearing gloves. Partly it’s because I like to feel the soil in my hands when I garden. But my point now is, despite the name, hardware cloth is not made of cloth. It is made of metal wire, with lots of sharp pointy bits sticking out when you cut off lengths of it. These pointy bits will hurt and cause your hands to bleed. While this does provide a unique opportunity to impress your spouse with what you remember of the dialogue from Macbeth, I don’t recommend it. Neither does your spouse, or mine.
Second, measure the lengths of hardware cloth before you cut them. Once again, you might think this is obvious. But it is not obvious if, like me, you pride yourself on the ability to do things by eye. I keep forgetting that this pride is entirely misplaced. If you don’t measure, you may very well finish off what the rabbits started by breaking off live twigs trying to install lengths of hardware cloth that are too short.
In addition to hardware cloth, I also sprayed an animal repellent, Repels-All, on and around the lower parts of the plants. It claims to be effective for two months. We’ll see. It smells like rotten eggs, which turns out to be one of the ingredients.
What are you doing to protect your garden from hungry critters over the winter?