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My wood chips, neighbor's lawn or turf, and Vole damage

 
Merodean LaRose
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I live in Northern Utah. In an effort to conserve water, I smothered my grass with wood chips and love it. Wood chips have been in place for 2 years. My neighbors all have lush, green, weed free, water hungry grass and are not thrilled that I moved in and, "bucked the system". We had a heavy snow cover all season--snow melts and my South neighbor's lawn is riddled with Vole tracks. Some of the tracks seem to be coming from under my mulch, but many of the tracks are coming from their sidewalk, garden boxes, their cement driveway area, etc. North neighbor and East neighbor's lawns are not affected. My large strip of mixed, organic, critter friendly turf (that borders wood chips) is not affected. I can't help but believe that neighbor is blaming me for the rodent problem although, nothing has been said to me, just lots of boxes of poison placed along the property line( in plain sight where children and pets can get to them).

I'm not supplying the Voles any food. However, neighbor with the problem, has lots of tasty grass and several large Rose of Sharon bushes just loaded with seeds.

Ordinance Officer visited when I first took out the grass because people complained. I was asked to spread my woodchips rather than leave them in a pile, which I did. I am in full compliance with the city code and want to be a good neighbor. If neighbor complains about the rodent problem and blames me I would like to be prepared to defend my position.

Advice anyone?
 
Zach Muller
gardener
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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You said the other adjacent neighbors lawns were unaffected by voles, this is good evidence that they aren't originating from your chips. If your neighbor complains that the voles are coming from the chips just bring up the fact that the other neighbors aren't having an issue. It seems reasonable if voles were festering under the chips they would be moving out in all possible directions.


Maybe you should be proactive and accuse them of harboring voles that are messing up your wood chips...
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Maybe you should be proactive and accuse them of harboring voles that are messing up your wood chips...
Ha ha. That sounds a little like preemptive aggression than a proactive measure, but might work. Not sure I would take that route.

You said the other adjacent neighbors lawns were unaffected by voles, this is good evidence that they aren't originating from your chips.

That might not be good evidence. The voles might be living in the wood mulch, but are choosing only to go for the seed-rich yard for food in the winter, and avoiding the places that are just lawns. It might very well be that the voles did find the wood chips to be a very effective habitat for a winter survival house, and it might have served to expand the population.

It is likely though, that said neighbors with seedy bushes had a vole problem (or at least a population) before this, and they are using you as an easy scapegoat, and this situation as an excuse to set up a poison regime and to complain to the authorities (cause that's the kind of neighbor they are). It's often the people who complain or are super sticky about the rules who have broke, or are willing to break, a bunch of other rules. Those types of folks see rules as good at keeping other people in place, but not themselves.

If you feel that the rodent poison is in an unsafe place for your children and pets, then that might be a very valid reason to speak up to the authorities. It seems like your South neighbor might be the source of your earlier ordinance officer visit.

Voles create holes with tunnels. If you don't see holes all over your mulch or on the edges of your mulch then it is unlikely that you are the source of the vole issue. If your mulch is not riddled with holes or there is no major sign of a population in your mulch, than you can point that out to the ordinance officer if he comes by, and ask him to direct your neighbor to move the poison away from the fence so that your kids and critters can't be harmed.

I feel for you. It's crappy to have problems with neighbors.
 
Merodean LaRose
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Thank you for your responses. Hopefully no one will come knocking on my door with complaints. I just hate to think that I may have caused a problem by trying to do the responsible and water wise thing.
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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How much mulch do you have down? I think that 3inches is the most you need and 1.5inch is enough if you do yearly application.

I would also plant some fruiting shrubs and nuts (no vegetables). You might as well use water just like them and grow some food, plus you will start need less mulch too.
 
Merodean LaRose
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Hello 5 Bengi,

I have about 3 inches of mulch down and in some spots where the yard slops up to 6. This might be overkill in some areas, but the yard does look better level. I have no desire to use water just because my neighbor is using it. My goal with the xeriscape was to conserve water. I did put in some Scrub or Gambel Oak And other native species that in the future will not require water and will feed the native wild life, quite possibly the voles?. In another spot I have some fruit trees that are watered by a high water use neighbor.

My original question was did I create the Vole problem in the neighbor's yard. After reading these posts and researching I have come up with the answer. Yes and no. No, I didn't draw the Voles to the area. There are 5 species that inhabit our region. No, it's not my fault the Voles made tunnels in the lawn. The heavy snowfall provided cover for the Voles to forage safely. No, I am not providing food for the Voles. The neighbors with their yummy grass and seed pods are doing that. Did I provide habitat for the Voles in my wood chips? Maybe, yes, probably. I accept one third of the blame. Mother Nature and the neighbor are responsible for the other two thirds of the problem.

To me it's no longer a problem. This will be my defense if I get that knock at the door that I was so worried about a few days ago. The Voles are Mother Nature's little gardeners and are just doing their work. The problem arises when we try to change our environments so drastically that we have to kill, kill, kill in order to make a picture perfect life. This culture of planting grass in the desert and then poisoning and killing everything that interferes with the beautiful green lawn is the problem here not my efforts to work in harmony with nature.
 
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