We have an allotment garden and the voles really attacked my beet crop last year. Do you have suggestions for dealing with them? There is a product called PermaTill in the US but not available here that is a type of grit that works against them but I don’t see how to get it.
Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners. Vole populations are becoming more adapted to our backyards and urban areas as their natural habitats (orchards, pastures & meadows) are impacted by increased development. Voles live under leaf litter or in shallow underground burrows or tunnels and typically occur under mulches, raised beds, new sod, and abandoned mole tunnels.
Because you are growing edibles in your allotment garden, it is important to consider only using non-toxic control methods. Below are several suggested methods:
- Hygiene: Make your garden less hospitable to voles by eliminating their sources of food, water or shelter. For example, keep recycling bins, compost boxes and all other sources of food (e.g. bird seed) covered. Remove dead brush piles, leaf litter, mulch and stone piles and block off open sheltered areas with wire screening (e.g. under a shed) where voles can build nests. Keep lawn areas near gardens well mowed as voles like the protection of tall grasses.
- Physical methods: place barriers such as chicken wire, hardware cloth (less than a ¼”’ mesh) or black bird mesh sold at nurseries around plants and if planting young fruit trees in your garden, place a wire or plastic mesh tree guard around the trunk (18” high) pushed 2” into the soil surrounded with a mound of crushed stone to prevent digging.
- Culture: deeply cultivate the soil in high traffic vole areas (watch plant roots) to break up the tunnels.
- Natural Predators: Encourage such predators such as cats, foxes, weasels, snakes and birds of prey (eg. owls, kestrels, hawks) by removing food sources and opening up the area to help contribute to controlling the vole population.
If you have raised beds in your garden, this link provides further measures to protect your plants from voles.
Beyond the direct actions you take within your garden, you will likely need to educate your allotment neighbours on these measures so that together you can all work to control the vole population which is most certainly impacting the entire allotment garden.
Finally, in terms of the PermaTill product that you mentioned, its key attribute appears to be that it is a course textured material which voles do not like to dig through. As a policy, TMG does not recommend specific products, but you could consider placing a layer of natural coarse grit or expanded slate along the sides of the roots of your existing plants and around and under the root balls of new plants to create a similar barrier.