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Mice in my hugelculturebeds.

 
Liane Andeweg
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Hi, I am new here, last year I started to make a vegetablegarden, I was very inspierd by the idea of the hugelculturebeds and loved it when I saw all the things grow in the garde last year.
Now it's winter and I saw there are at least 30 small holes in a lot of my beds, when I walk trough I see mice running arround. Will this give a problem when I start in spring with planting the beds again? I suppose I have to find a way to move them out of the garden, does anybody knows a friendly way?
Thanks, liane
 
Dave Burton
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I don't know; it depends on whether you grow stuff the mice like to eat! At least they are aerating the soil! Right now, I am thinking the mice like your beds because they're warm and cozy with the decomposing logs and other organic matter deep inside the hugelkultur beds. Did you have any problem last year when with mice in the spring? The mice might just be finding a home to live in for the winter, and when it warms up, they might migrate to a more suitable location for you and them.

Laying out piles of rocks near your hugelkultur bed to create snake habitat could solve your problem. I'm sure any snakes nearby would love to eat those mice. An additional bonus is that the snakes will take care of any slug problems, too.



Another way to solve it would be to get chickens to run through the bed and eat the mice:

 
Cullen Can
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You may find they are only there for a certin time of year and then they move on or you might have something else nearby that is drawing them in

some people also say they don’t like the smell of peppermint oil but i have not tried that
 
John Elliott
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I don't have this problem. I have a large black snake that lives in my hugelculture beds.
 
sue bee
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lol i believe i may have same issue as my beds are new also. BUT... i think ill find plants mice dont like, as i would rather deal with meces than snakes. i wouldnt even go near if snakes are around. YIKES!!! a black snake in the bed. oh good Lord...no way. ill find a way. actually i believe they bedded down for winter, as bed has been there for latter part of summer and i saw no traces. we will see. may just like their new home. but my chicks will like them too. along with snakes.
 
Liane Andeweg
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Thanks a lot for the reactions, i just made my beds lasst spring so i don't know how it will be ,I hope they will leave when it becomes spring.
Last year I saw 7 snakes arround the house but I am not such a big hero with snakes so I think I prefere the idea of chicken over snakes
I think I slowley need to get used to see them because I am dutch, (not so much snakes in Holland), but now we live in the center of france, so I know they are arround. I will let you all know in a few months how it goes with my small inhabbitants.
 
Josh Katlof
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Get a dog... My Australian Shepard just loves mice/rat hunting. Digs into the hugelbeds sometimes to catch the new, uninvited guests. She chews the catch a bit and leaves it by my porch. I reward her with a nice juicy bone for each mice/rat she brings me. Win-win...

Josh
 
Angelika Maier
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I have the same problem, huegel or not. Mice are terrible and they eat seeds (I wonder how to coat pumpkin seeds that mice don't like them). I know the peppermint trick and I tried it with corn, it came up uneaten, but I planted it in another spot were the mice seem to be less active (maybe there are more snakes). Huegelculture beds are mice heaven. YOU might like to borrow a cat from someone.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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I've been dropping daffodil bulbs down the mouse holes that I've found in my hugel beds. They're just about the right size and I know the mice will leave them alone (toxic to mice). Great way to plant daffodils after the ground is frozen and I can't dig anymore! "The problem is the solution"
 
Wi Tim
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I did my hugelculture bed with branches that were left by the previous owner who cut firewood on the property. Obviously, I was not able to stack the branches dense enough and there is tons of air pockets between them - making it an ideal habitat for mice.
 
Victor Johanson
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I've got a vole infestation myself. This photo doesn't show the extent of it, because the bed is honeycombed with entrances. They've proliferated, and this summer the place was crawling with them. Amazingly their depredations have so far been tolerable, so I'm pursuing a policy of coexistence (and hopefully mutual benefit) at present. The hope is that appropriate predators move in before they become problematic, and meanwhile I'm interested in the benefits their burrows may furnish. I only intend to take action if they cause trouble, and so far they haven't, despite their growing numbers.
Volecity.jpg
[Thumbnail for Volecity.jpg]
Vole Condo
 
Matthew McCoul
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This is a GOOD SIGN.

This means your hugels are so fertile that they've become ecosystems already. From microorganisms to mammals.

Your soil should be top notch. Those little guys are creating fertilizer too, don't forget.
 
Frenzo De Frenzis
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This is my second year. I planted a hugelkultur with potatoes and they have being eaten so rapidly by voles that I had to harvest early. I looked into barriers and somebody in this forum made an underground fence (made of expensive steel!) against burrowing rodents and had success with it. I was thinking of doing it as well but today, reading again the Permaculture manual by Bill Mollison I found, at page 272 that he wrote "The roots of vetiver grass prevent rodent burrowing from outside the system, as do root masses of Euphorbia species". Why nobody in this forum ever talked about using vetiver for blocking voles? Did anybody try it? It seems to me a very permacultury way of preventing the problem. Thanks
 
Victor Johanson
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Vetiver grass is a zone 9 perennial--not too useful in Fairbanks, Alaska. Some Euphorbias may be hardy enough, but at least one is listed as a noxious weed in Alaska. Either way, while these plants may prevent burrowing through the roots, what's to stop voles from just strolling in on the surface and beginning their tunnels inside the perimeter?

Narcissus is supposed to be poisonous to voles, and they are also said to avoid alliums. We're in a vole population explosion up here right now, and they're even more abundant in my succulent environment than they are in the general vicinity. I've still refrained from trapping or poisoning them (although I did unearth a nest when digging up a compost bin this weekend; they went to the chickens), because I think they'll benefit my ecosystem in the long run. But it is a trial to protect against them, and I've lost some choice stuff. Still hoping some predators will move in soon. Both my hugelbeds look like vole condos and they're scurrying around all over the place every day.
 
Frenzo De Frenzis
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Sure, Vetiver dies when the ground freezes, plus you need a fine mesh fence above it to keep rodents out. What bugs me is this: even if you have predators in the garden, but still have plenty of food for the preys (say potatoes), won't you end with zero potatoes for you and a lot of predators which have predated a whole lot of preys grown thanks to those easily accessible potatoes? I mean if it is easy for voles to eat all the food in the garden then they will do it even if there are predators, you need to wait for the predators pressure to build up and eventually, one year you will have few voles. But then predators will diminish in numbers and the cycle starts again from the beginning. What a hassle!
THis is why I think the gardener still has to repel pests and proactively make things difficult for them to say the least.
I am also starting to believe that hugelkulture is a bit overkill and that I prefer the Charles Dowding method of no dig gardening which uses mature compost as mulch ( https://youtu.be/HATC3rG6NbQ ) . Its stuff grows beautifully.
 
Cristo Balete
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I had the same problem with hugel mounds. The rodents were thrilled, everything dried out worse than ever.

I switched over to hugel pits, as deep as my patience allows at the time. Even just one shovel blade deep works. I soak the wood first, try to fill it in with a mixture of stuff. I mound it a little, because it will settle. Mulch it thickly with mowed stuff. Then it doesn't matter if they get into it from below because the sun isn't involved, there are fewer creatures in a wet and damp zone like a hugel pit.
 
Frenzo De Frenzis
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Cristo Balete wrote:I had the same problem with hugel mounds. The rodents were thrilled, everything dried out worse than ever.

I switched over to hugel pits, as deep as my patience allows at the time. Even just one shovel blade deep works. I soak the wood first, try to fill it in with a mixture of stuff. I mound it a little, because it will settle. Mulch it thickly with mowed stuff. Then it doesn't matter if they get into it from below because the sun isn't involved, there are fewer creatures in a wet and damp zone like a hugel pit.


Very interesting indeed. Thanks for sharing. So the final result is a bed on ground level, slightly raised, or pitted? I think a slightly raised bed is better for my climate in center Italy. Our summer used to be low rainfall but the last 5 years have been very rainy and stormy. It rained heavily and damaged urban sites and coltures everywhere. Working with raised beds saved my garden from rotting in a heavy clay soil. Next time I have woody materials I will make a new hugelkultur (or maybe I will dismantle the one I have rodents in..), and bury the woods and other green materials in a pit as you suggest, while taking care of filling all the holes. That will be a reservoire for water and slow release nutrients.
Having a problem with slugs as well I will not use straw for mulching. Maybe I will just not add anything as mulch to the hugelkultur beds at all and plant only thickly (living mulch), cut everything and let the roots rot inside while taking the air portion of the plant to the compost heap. Then make compost for my other NON Hugelkultur raised beds to use as a mulch (which fertilizes the soil as well) once a year.
I will use black compost through the winter/spring, and only when the sun is too hot in summer, and the plants are grown a little more, I may be adding some straw to decrease soil temp and evaporation.

The point in hugelkultur is that against a big amount of work up front you get fertility (nutrients and water) for many years with less work. So I won't make compost for these.

What do you think guys?
 
Cristo Balete
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Frenzo, slanted runoff trenches help with heavy rains. So if you have a, say, 3 meter hugel pit, dig a shallow trench above it at a slant that extends beyond the hugel pit, so the water will go into the trench and go sideways and around the pit. If you don't have a lot of room to do one solid trench, make two in the shape of an upside down V, the water will skirt off both sides of the pit. If you have big logs and thick branches in a deep pit, they will absorb a lot of that water.

You can put a low dirt mound over a hugel pit, and then lots of mowed weeds, but you want the roots to get down into the damp and rotting contents of the pit as soon as possible.

Slugs and snails don't like coffee grounds, and you can surround plants with used coffee grounds. I go out early morning and hand pick the snails and slugs that are heading back to where they hide all day.

With clay soil it saves a ton of work to use very thick mulch, then it will settle into a matted cover. It keeps the sun off, which keeps the clay from drying out, it suppresses weeds, it improves the soil.

I just had something interesting happen. I have been putting very, very thick mulch all over my clay for years. I dug a big hugel pit, but got interrupted for several sunny days, while the amended-clay clods sat at the side of the pit and dried out. It couldn't be helped, and I was dreading having to break them up, but they crumbled in my hands. I was impressed. So even if some critters are under the mulch, if it's really, really thick it will act like a working pile of compost with mold forming in it, and I haven't found any critters in the white moldy parts of it.

Thick mulch also keeps heavy rains from running off the compost. Heavy rain directly on clay can also compact clay if it is then exposed to sun. So there are many more advantages to thick mulch on clay, than there are problems.
 
Frenzo De Frenzis
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Thanks Cristo for all your suggestions. Actually I agree, and I already do hunt slugs (then feed them to the ducks) in the morning. But I can catch mostly snails. Slugs are difficult to spot, and the very small ones hide in the mulch and eat all the sprounting. Anyway I will rely more on transplants from now on. Or letting the plants grow bigger before mulching with straw..
Again. Regarding your method of discouraging rodents in the hugel bed, I am grateful you shared your solution, thank you. The only drawback is a lower height of the bed which requires a better back and kneeling down while gardening (which I don't mind really being no dig/mulch gardening not that hard anyway) , but the advantages are major humidity retention and less voles. Why not everybody does it this way? I read a lot of people desperate with their infestations in the hugelbed. And the ones who did not have the problem (lucky indeed) could only suggest cats, dogs, snakes...
I agree that the ecosystem must be balanced, but, those little rodents are among the most succesfull animals in the history of evolution, so we have to create ourselves the conditions to disincentivate and repel them. Even Bill Mollison wrote, as I quoted above, to plant vetiver fences to keep burrowing rodents out!
So just to be clear.How long did you start your hugel pit and how visible is the declining in voles damage? Thanks
 
Cristo Balete
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Here is something else I found catches rodents. Leave out several buckets, about 20 feet/6 meters apart, (or near where you find mice, like the compost pile) half full of water with a very thick hose draped over the top of it and down the sides, running along the ground for 18"/1/2 meter on both sides of the bucket. At night rodents are running around, they go up the ramp, fall in. It's summer now and I've found 2-3 mice in several buckets, mostly babies. I find voles and mice in the buckets.

The buckets are handy for a quick dose of water here and there. The snails also hang around these buckets for water at night, and hide on the edges during the day, so it's easy to find them and get rid of them.

It seems to go in waves of catching them, it's not a constant thing, but I have very little rodent trouble, and lots and lots and lots of very thick mulch.
 
Maria Epp
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Location: Winnipeg, Canada
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Thanks for the advice. I have two medium sized hugel beds in my urban lot. They are always moist. I have mushrooms like crazy. Every time I try to plant spinach, kale etc... they are eaten quickly by the slugs. I'm going to try the coffee grounds. But did I do something wrong with the beds to bring this on?
 
Cristo Balete
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Maria, I'm pretty sure slugs are a weather thing and change with each year depending on rainfall. It's not about hugel mounds or pits. There is another thread going on here about thick mulch and too many slugs, but I'll bet that changes with each year as well.

I agree with putting coffee grounds down for slugs because that will also improve your soil and helps with an alkaline pH. Also, sunken half-full beer bowls or a little baker's yeast in leftover fruit juice in sunken bowls, cleaned out each morning. They come for the scent of the yeast. A neighbor of mine takes great delight in cutting each slug in half with scissors. A little morbid for my purposes, but whatever floats your boat.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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Cristo Balete wrote:Maria, I'm pretty sure slugs are a weather thing and change with each year depending on rainfall. It's not about hugel mounds or pits. There is another thread going on here about thick mulch and too many slugs, but I'll bet that changes with each year as well.

I agree with putting coffee grounds down for slugs because that will also improve your soil and helps with an alkaline pH. Also, sunken half-full beer bowls or a little baker's yeast in leftover fruit juice in sunken bowls, cleaned out each morning. They come for the scent of the yeast. A neighbor of mine takes great delight in cutting each slug in half with scissors. A little morbid for my purposes, but whatever floats your boat.


This sounds like it would also be a great resource for feeding chickens or ducks in confinement. I sure do like having the eggs, but the chickens absolutely destroy my hugels when they get out. I don't know if ducks would do the same thing, but I imagine they could do a fair bit of damage as well. Set the traps out and collect the slugs every morning on your way to get the eggs and just toss them in there....drunk slug surprise, I'd bet they love it!!!
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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