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Mint as a vole repelling mulch

 
Tyler Miller
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Location: Trapper Creek, AK (3a)
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I was researching mint, and apparently some people use it as an organic rodent control. The theory is that the smell is so overpowering to their noses that they want nothing to do with it. In some places they say to use mint extract, which I imagine would be much more potent than mint leaves and stems, but I've also read of people just using cut plant material.

We have voles in the area, and they have girdled our apple trees before. This got me thinking that growing mint around the trees and using it as green mulch might be a good way of deterring voles. Plus it would give a mint crop.

Mint supposedly does well in shade, so it seems like a good fit for even mature, shady forests.

The problem might be the roots. I searched for images, and it looks like it forms a dense, shallow root mass. Would this compete too much with tree roots?

I might have lucked out when it comes to mint in my climate. From what other gardeners are posting, it seems like mint in this area does really well for 1-3 years and then gives up the ghost. This might work out perfectly where I don't have to worry about it taking over if I'm a little lax on chopping and dropping it.

There are of course other methods of vole control, but this might be a useful addition.
 
Asaf Green
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there are several (400) types of mint;
i don't know the precise english classifications & names, but in Hebrew we have
"nana" and "mentha" with is the same family, but with significantlly different characteristics:

"nana" tends to compete over water and space, and has milder taste and fragrance (depends on the specific variety), more stubborn - it will be very difficult to erradicate once it's in the ground.

"mentha" is sharper, smaller leafs, more gentle, tends to fall apart for any reason.

most of the mint types need a lot of water to survive properly.

note - the 2 above including their sub-species are together already 5-4 types of mint.

if you want a good repellant, maybe plant several types of levender. i'm using their leafs and flowers for safe-keeping dry food, and other uses.

 
Jen Shrock
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Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Might want to look at daffodils for a solution for those voles. They would grow/bloom before getting shaded out by the trees. Supposed to be toxic / severely disliked by voles. I am going this path when I plant my fruit trees this year. Mark Shepard (Restoration Agriculture) uses this technique, too. Also, you then have something to attract pollinators to your fruit trees early in the season.
 
Ann Torrence
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Catmint. It's a good pollinator plant, not so thirsty and attracts a fantastic vole eradicator.
 
Tyler Miller
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Asaf Green wrote:if you want a good repellant, maybe plant several types of levender. i'm using their leafs and flowers for safe-keeping dry food, and other uses.

Once I get my greenhouse up and running (probably not this year) I was thinking of planting some lavender. I think it would be too cold and soggy for it to grow well outdoors where I'm planting my trees, but maybe I could trim some bits off and move them to the trees. It's such a useful plant that it seems worth trying.

Jen Shrock wrote:Might want to look at daffodils for a solution for those voles. They would grow/bloom before getting shaded out by the trees. Supposed to be toxic / severely disliked by voles. I am going this path when I plant my fruit trees this year. Mark Shepard (Restoration Agriculture) uses this technique, too. Also, you then have something to attract pollinators to your fruit trees early in the season.

For some reason I always thought that daffodils wouldn't grow where I live (zone 3a) but after doing a little searching it looks like there are zone 3 daffodils. Thanks for the suggestion, I'll have to do more research.

Ann Torrence wrote:Catmint. It's a good pollinator plant, not so thirsty and attracts a fantastic vole eradicator.

LOL, my grandmother planted some in her greenhouse several years ago. She hasn't planted any since, but the cat still tries to break into the greenhouse all the time looking for it. Maybe planting some out by the trees will lure him away from the greenhouse.

I might not have to worry about the water requirements, I live in a pretty rainy area. We usually have more problems with too much rain rather than not enough.
 
Tim Southwell
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Location: Hamilton, MT
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As an alternative to plants, I have been using Plant Skydd an OMRI product to deal with Voles. It is offered as both a powder or granular form. It is made of 93% dehydrated bovine blood and other inert particulants. It also acts a foliage fertilizer. I use the granular around the base of my fruit trees (100+ now), as well as spray the powder and water solution on the bottom 18" of the tree going into November to weather the winter. It last 3-4 months and weathers through snow and rain. Just one thing... it STINKS! I was applying it to raspberries last year and within 5 minutes I had 8 Turkey Vultures circling above. No joke. I also trialed it on my squash last year. Deer and elk hit what I didn't spray, they left the other alone. Food for thought. good luck.
 
Tyler Miller
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I'll have to look into it as an option. I am a little bit concerned that it might draw in bears though.
 
Ann Torrence
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We have voles but all the trees are wrapped, wraps seated in a gravel mulch around each tree. Our best deterrent however is doing a big mow at the end of season but leaving a few areas unmoved where we let alfalfa/grass cover get a couple feet high. Another place we just raked all the hay and fallen leaves into a 3' mound. The voles saw this as their winter vacation spot. Once the voles move in, we park the cat there. He is an enthusiastic voler. He has fallen asleep with his muzzle in a burrow in the winter sunshine. Three winters, no girdling, happy cat.

Michael Phillips (The New Organic Grower, groworganicapples.com) recommends a couple feet diameter circle of gravel around each tree. The voles don't seem to want to burrow through it to reach the trunks. He may not be a true permie but his methods are way beyond organic and our trees are doing fantastic by following his holistic spraying program and other advice.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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