Very timely discussion for me - seems like I will finally be moving up to WI in the Spring - planning "starter" garden on our new place, which has been uninhabited for 3 years . When I visited in mid-October, the voles had already girdled EVERY new (May/2018) fruit tree because my house-building son hadn't been able to keep weeds away, and his roaming German shepherd was lessening their natural predation. When I replace those trees, I'm using 1/4" hardware cloth for individual barriers on each tree. But I'm having nightmares about the potential vole damage to my garden. They were practically running over my feet when I was in the orchard! I've heard that the little b....stards will actually pull carrots, etc down into tunnels to eat! Gardening work is already going to be hard enough for 67-year-old me - DO NOT want to share.
The rabbit/woodchuck/deer fence will be created sometime later in the Summer, and the dog might be help, but it seems that these tiny critters are problems above and below ground. We can't build the permanent fence with hardware-cloth down into the ground until we are done with the tractor in there. Even so, we'll still have a gate area, and they can get in no matter how tight we can make the clearance.
I'm planning raised/lasagna-type beds on our heavy clay soil. Though the beds will likely be permanent, they will not have permanent structure this year.
Sooo, what is my permanent plan? Will it help to keep my paths clear - do I need to insert hardware-cloth along my bed edges - do I need to get a Terrier or barn cats or let my chooks in there regularly???
I DO realize that a multi-faceted approach is best, and I'm looking forward to hearing all your experiences/suggestions - especially for the northern Midwest, zone 4. TYVM, and best regards to all for productive 2019!