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swales and voles, protecting trees from voles  RSS feed

 
Levente Andras
Posts: 179
Location: Harghita County, Transylvania, Romania
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Hello Permies !

This new thread is kind of a continuation of an earlier one I started back in August about planting on swale berms and issues around the maintenance of swales http://www.permies.com/t/38956/permaculture/swale-headaches

I was saying then, among other things, that maintaining my swales - and keeping alive the trees planted on the berms - was a bit of a challenge because of vole activity.

Since then, this activity has intensified - there are vole tunnels wherever the soil is a bit softer or has been mulched (such as around the planted trees), and the swale berms (especially the north-facing side) are riddled with holes. I have noticed two types of vole attacks on trees / shrubs: (a) the voles dig tunnels around the contour of the planting hole, and start gnawing the fibrous roots at the margins, moving progressively towards the central root; (b) they dig down right near the trunk and attack the taproot. (A third type of attack is possible - girdling the base of the trunk - but I prevented this by the use of tree guards on single-stemmed trees).

A couple of interesting points that I noticed regarding trees planted on swale berms, versus those planted elsewhere (on flat ground, e.g., the hedge):

When we planted the swale berms, initially we were in two minds about where to dig the planting hole - should we plant the tree into the top of the berm, or at the base? By choosing the former, we would have ensured good drainage in a very heavy clay soil. By choosing the latter - which we eventually did - we would reduce the risk of trees drying out in prolonged dry weather.

In hindsight, ours turned out to be the right decision. Trees planted at the base of the berm did extremely well and suffered no or minimal vole damage due to being less accessible (despite the swale berm being vole condominium !!!). A few plants (lavender, sage and similar herbs) planted this spring on top of the berm were killed within weeks of planting (the voles went straight for the roots). Trees planted on flat ground - such as those in the hedge - had very modest growth (despite receiving equal treatment in terms of mulch, added organic matter, etc.), and I lost a couple dozen of them to the voles.

To prevent further vole damage, we've tried one more thing - yesterday we mulched our plants - well, most of the 400 or so of them - with gravel. This will hopefully deter the creatures from digging near the tree; in addition, gravel will act as a mulch, with better moisture-retaining properties than the spent mushroom compost we have been using so far). I've inserted some photos for illustration. I hope to be back in spring with news on how the method has worked. Meanwhile, I'd appreciate comments, especially if you have experience with this method.

Levente

fruit-trees-on-swale-berm.jpg
[Thumbnail for fruit-trees-on-swale-berm.jpg]
trees under swale berm mulched with gravel
aronia-multi-stemmed.JPG
[Thumbnail for aronia-multi-stemmed.JPG]
multi-stemmed shrubs (aronia) also mulched with gravel
trees-shrubs-in-the-hedge.jpg
[Thumbnail for trees-shrubs-in-the-hedge.jpg]
plants in the hedge
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1282
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I have experienced vole woes. I've planted my fruit trees in the top of the berm. I've lost many a tree to voles on my flat ground. I also use gravel mulch in many places.

So with all of that I haven't lost any trees in the berm yet. I have seen vole holes but so far so good. The gravel doesn't seem to have a huge impact as I see tunnels quite clearly even with the gravel.

What has made a huge difference to us is the moving in of a bunch of cats. A house near us was demolished and it had been a sanctuary for cats. Now they are all moving about. We've had a few move in and have started receiving "presents" at our door.

So I think you should get cats.
 
Levente Andras
Posts: 179
Location: Harghita County, Transylvania, Romania
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Danielle Venegas wrote:I have experienced vole woes. I've planted my fruit trees in the top of the berm. I've lost many a tree to voles on my flat ground. I also use gravel mulch in many places.

So with all of that I haven't lost any trees in the berm yet. I have seen vole holes but so far so good. The gravel doesn't seem to have a huge impact as I see tunnels quite clearly even with the gravel.

What has made a huge difference to us is the moving in of a bunch of cats. A house near us was demolished and it had been a sanctuary for cats. Now they are all moving about. We've had a few move in and have started receiving "presents" at our door.

So I think you should get cats.


Hello Danielle,

A few questions: How thick was your gravel mulch? (I piled mine about 5 cm / 2 in thick). Did the voles start their tunnels within the gravel-mulched area around the tree? Or did the tunnelling start outside the gravel and continue under the gravel?

We are planning to get cats, the only impediment so far has been that we don't live on the property permanently yet. We hear of many farmers around us whose cats give birth and the farmer has to kill the little ones 'cause they're too many - we could salvage a few of those.

Thanks for the reply !
Levente
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1282
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Levente Andras wrote:
Danielle Venegas wrote:I have experienced vole woes. I've planted my fruit trees in the top of the berm. I've lost many a tree to voles on my flat ground. I also use gravel mulch in many places.

So with all of that I haven't lost any trees in the berm yet. I have seen vole holes but so far so good. The gravel doesn't seem to have a huge impact as I see tunnels quite clearly even with the gravel.

What has made a huge difference to us is the moving in of a bunch of cats. A house near us was demolished and it had been a sanctuary for cats. Now they are all moving about. We've had a few move in and have started receiving "presents" at our door.

So I think you should get cats.


Hello Danielle,

A few questions: How thick was your gravel mulch? (I piled mine about 5 cm / 2 in thick). Did the voles start their tunnels within the gravel-mulched area around the tree? Or did the tunnelling start outside the gravel and continue under the gravel?

We are planning to get cats, the only impediment so far has been that we don't live on the property permanently yet. We hear of many farmers around us whose cats give birth and the farmer has to kill the little ones 'cause they're too many - we could salvage a few of those.

Thanks for the reply !
Levente


It starts outside of the gravel and then tunnels in. I tried to maintain 2 in mulch but it may not be as thick in some places where I started running out of gravel.

We are saving our cats too. Just provide a dog house, food and water and they should be ok.
 
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