[NAFEX] pine needles and voles

Alan Haigh alandhaigh at gmail.com
Mon Jun 8 17:22:58 EDT 2009

Voles kind of like most mulches but in home orchard situations I think the
advantages of mulch far outweigh the liability although I've never used pine
mulch.  I guess it might be a bigger problem just because it doesn't break
down after one season so it would continue to provide cover in the fall.  If
it encouraged pine voles that could be a huge problem.

I don't believe the hydrophobic aspect of pine needles is at all helpful
however.  I like just plain, slightly aged wood chips a few months after
they come out of a well maintained commercial chipper (no strips please,
just chunks).  I also use a lot of mellowed stable waste which is pine
shavings that have been augmented with horse manure and urine and allowed to
sit for a couple months.  Because of the high carbo content of the shavings
it doesn't excessively juice up the trees in my nursery with excessive N.

For me the stored water in either of these materials helps me get through
drought almost as much as keeping the weeds down.  I have my guys spread out
newspapers and put the mulch on top and it's good enough for the season.
Most of the advantage of keeping weeds down is accomplished by mid-summer as
far as tree growth is concerned.

I actually trap out the voles in my orchard with typical plastic mouse traps
baited with nuts and covered with plastic trays.  I cycle about 100 traps
through my 3 acres starting in mid-Fall.  Haven't had a tree girdled (meadow
voles) or de-rooted (pine voles) since I started doing this.  Both species
are plentiful here.
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