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Sheet Mulching and Voles

 
Veronica Shukla
Posts: 10
Location: Sioux Falls, SD zone 5
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I am fairly new to permaculture. I've been studying it for a couple years and just starting to practice it. I sheet mulched beds in the back for last summer and had no problems. This last fall I mulched what will be two apple guilds in my front yard with deep straw. Today, the snow has melted enough for me to notice vole tracks all over in the lawn and going into the straw mulch.

My biggest goal for now and the future is to make permaculture and ecological gardening cool and beautiful. I'm planning beautiful mixed border type beds for my guilds. My thought process is to make people want to do it themselves because it looks and IS so awesome. I live in an upper middle class suburban-type area in a small city where everyone has chemically treated grass. I'm so worried about what the neighbors will think and do! Do you think the cats will take care of it? We have at least 3 cats in close proximity that are let out routinely.

P.S. I cannot and will not kill them (or anything) so that's not an option. What do you think?
 
Stephanie Meyer
Posts: 39
Location: West Michigan Zone 5
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Daffodils are supposed to repel them somewhat, especially a nice thick ring around the edge of your guild bed from what I have seen suggested. Plus, daffodils! who doesn't love daffys?
 
Veronica Shukla
Posts: 10
Location: Sioux Falls, SD zone 5
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Oh awesome, maybe I'll try that this fall. I wonder about if they are already in there how that works. Great idea, thanks so much!
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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If possible I would remove that deep mulch and only lay down about 2-3 inches May 30th and another 2-3inches in Dec
 
Veronica Shukla
Posts: 10
Location: Sioux Falls, SD zone 5
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Maybe I should try that, too. Do you think the grass will survive and come up through that small amount?
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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I assume you are going to dig a 3ft wide hole for your apple trees plant them.
Then leave a 1ft circle around the tree trunk clear of mulch so that it doesn't die.
Then the rest of the 3ft circle that you just cleared I would cover with dutch clover seed. That way your new 'grass' is fixing nitrogen up to 200lbs/acre.
Outside of that dutch clover circle I would mulch with straw and plant some onions/garlic + thyme/sage. They have nice blooms and they are also aromatic.

Personally I have had great luck with using dutch clover and daikon radish in keeping the grass away and supporting my fruit trees. I planted about 10lbs of daikon radish on a 1000sqft area and they blew. I then removed all the daikon radish that bloomed. Selecting only for late blooming ones (they also tend to have huge radishes). It was alot of fun for me.

 
Nick Kitchener
Posts: 465
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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This will seem sort of counter-productive but I would be inclined to leave them be.

The reason for this is that voles perform a function within your ecosystem, once they're done, they'll simply go away. Since the garden is a new installation, it's a rather unstable system and voles moving in is a natural response. They will aerate the mulch, fertilise it, eat weed seeds, and their presence will attract natural predators.

So the voles will lead to increasing complexity in your system and the more complex it is, the more stable it is.

You might have to put up with a bit of mess for a season but in the long run it will be beneficial.

There is a video online about a couple of guys establishing a permaculture site on an island in the North West. They describe this process very well as they experienced it. If anyone can remember who the video was with (I think it's one of Paul's videos) then please post it here

Edit: Actually, it might have been a podcast...
 
Stephanie Meyer
Posts: 39
Location: West Michigan Zone 5
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Bullock brothers?
 
Nick Kitchener
Posts: 465
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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Yeah I think it was an interview with them.

Anyway, pigs think voles are candy apples and if you're worried about the damage they might do, then chickens also love a tasty vole. If you put some electronet around the area and a mobile coop then some chickens would knock them back pretty quickly.
 
Veronica Shukla
Posts: 10
Location: Sioux Falls, SD zone 5
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Nick Kitchener, I totally love that thought process. That's exactly how I feel about every "problem" we encounter in our gardens.

But I also don't want to tick off all the neighbors and face possible consequences from the city or developer. It's a newer housing development, so it's a unilawn with some rock gardens. I'm working to set a good example so maybe some others will want to change that, too. And also, I'm planting comfrey in these beds and wonder if they will create lots of baby comfreys .

So right now, all I'm doing is pouring my urine mixed with water and a tiny bit of castor oil over the beds (they need some nitrogen added anyway since it's just carbon right now). I don't know if it will repel them or not; we shall see. We're next to quite a bit of undeveloped prairie area, so I'm thinking now that the snow cover is gone, most of them will head on over that way.
 
Lisa Paulson
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I happened to get a load of green tree chips and mulched about 40 mostly young fruit and nut trees in fall with the chippings over top cardboard surrounding the fruit trees . Around that I wired pallets together to keep my horses off the sapling trees . What a disaster, that winter I lost 90 percent of my young trees to voles being protected while eating the bark and roots . After that I pulled up the cardboard and I limed the fields which seemed to deter the voles a bit. I also got a solar sound deterent that works well emitting a buzzing sound about every ten seconds, it seems to work. This year I cut holes in the bottom of a few pallets and in the day I rotate through the orchard tossing duck food inside the tree protection pallets so they eat the feed, any weeds are eaten or stomped and manured . That kept any cover from forming around the sapling and about 90 percent survival rate this winter . Note the ducks are locked away at night and those holes cut for the ducks to access the protected area around each sapling is accessible better to coyote hunting the voles . If you live more urban I recommend those solar mole and vole sound emitters to drive them away , i am not sure how they work by sound or vibration but I think they seem to make a difference . I also plan to plant daffodils , no such thing as too much deterent to vermin . Something else I noticed concerning vermin be they voles or rats , my 50 foot on hugelkulture bed is now two years old and hosting healthy growth of herbage and fungi , it also is magnetic for our cats as the rats or voles apparently think it is architecture put in place for them to breed .
 
anna swing
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I don't like killing anything either, but I may be less quick to notice that my cat has a vole this year after what they did to to my apple tree rootstock this winter. The rootstock was not mulched but was next to a strawberry bed covered in a deep layer of pine needles.

I am thrilled that the 2 year old trees made it through unscathed, but 80% of my rootstock is denuded of bark. The small trees have wooden edging, weed screen, and a 2-3 inch layer of bark mulch. It does seem like the thickness of the mulch makes a big difference. The rodents in my area seem to glory in cardboard and newspaper, so I am not going to use that anymore.
 
William Bronson
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Kate Muller
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Location: New Hampshire
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bee chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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anna swing wrote:I don't like killing anything either, but I may be less quick to notice that my cat has a vole this year after what they did to to my apple tree rootstock this winter. The rootstock was not mulched but was next to a strawberry bed covered in a deep layer of pine needles.

I am thrilled that the 2 year old trees made it through unscathed, but 80% of my rootstock is denuded of bark. The small trees have wooden edging, weed screen, and a 2-3 inch layer of bark mulch. It does seem like the thickness of the mulch makes a big difference. The rodents in my area seem to glory in cardboard and newspaper, so I am not going to use that anymore.


We used aluminum window screening to protect our new trees. I got the idea from Ben Falk. It works and is tall enough for our deep snow winters. The 3' wide screen was buried up to 2.5' in snow this winter. I still need to find something that will work on bushy shrubs. 1/4" hardware cloth boxes is to pricey to cover a couple dozen shrubs a year with.

 
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