[permaculture] more on voles

Rain Tenaqiya raincascadia at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 3 14:59:17 EDT 2010

As with any permaculture design, you need to start by figuring out what your goals are, and what inputs you are willing and/or able to invest in the system, comparing the carbon footprint of the different options.  As most people have stated in recent posts, killing the voles is the only guarantee, using cats (there are some dog varieties that may work, but the costs may not be worth it), traps, or even short-lived and nonbioaccumulating poisons.  However, all the other things mentioned can also be part of a wholistic design.  These things include wire fencing underground and six inches above, gravel or broken glass around roots, vibrators, or planting species which voles don't like near the target plants.  Other preventative measures (some of which contradict common permaculture gardening practices) include avoiding mulch, clover, and other groundcovers, keeping surrounding areas as close to bare as possible, and designing irrigation methods that
 minimize vole damage (for example, using a gravel filled hole or pipe to irrigate below the level of vole activity).  Over time, a dense food forest without vole-preferred groundcovers such as grass and clover would not have much food to offer voles.  In general, there is less vole activity in forests, something to consider in designing gardens (less edge is better in this case, as is often true, contradicting lazy permaculture maxims).
All of these methods require ongoing observation and adjustment.  For example, a friend recently told me about voles eating all the roots that grew beyond the very large wire cage a fruit tree was planted into, killing the tree.  Voles are especially active in recently loosened soil, so the first year after planting is often the most crucial one.  On the other hand, it is helpful to remember that voles are often the basis for the wild predators in the surrounding ecosystem and also perform the useful functions of aerating and mixing the soil.  They also maintain grasslands by killing young trees and shrubs, thus reducing fire danger (and, unfortunately, preventing the spread of forest which would fix carbon, another complex topic).
Let us know what works for you,


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