By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)
Vermin like mice, shrews and voles can be a troublesome pest for many. The thought of these rodents is enough to make many homeowners shudder. Just as we would prefer our homes to be rodent free, preventing the presence of these nuisance animals in our gardens, yards, and flower beds is equally important. Read on for tips on preventing mulch rodent problems.
Mice in the garden, as with other rodents like volesand shrews, can cause a multitude of problems. Damage to vegetable plants,fruit trees, expensive ornamentals and/or flowering bulbs can be quite costly.By familiarizing ourselves with the needs and habits of these pests, we canbetter prevent them from nesting in or near our homes.
The main reasons in which mice invade the home landscape isto look for food and to find materials to safely build nests with. Your gardenis naturally filled with plants that may appeal to rodents. This, incombination with the presence of mulching materials, make your garden the idealspace for these pests.
Mulches such as straw, wood chips, and leaves offer the miceand their relatives safety and cover. While many growers use these resources toprevent weed growth or to regulate moisture, the mulch also provides protectionfor undesirable rodents. Keeping mice out of mulch is a very difficult task,especially as the weather begins to cool in the fall. Though mulch rodentproblems can be extremely frustrating, there are some solutions.
When it comes to mice living in mulch, prevention is key.When making new plantings, avoid using a very thick layer of mulch. This isespecially true when planting trees. Using the mulch only as needed will reducethe amount of protection provided to the mice. In turn, the mice may be lesslikely to feed on the bark of trees or on the stems of delicate flowerplantings.
Be certain to maintain a clean and tidy yard and gardenspace. Remove any excess materials and/or mulches that are not in use, as thiswill discourage mice and the like from moving into the garden.
If prevention of keeping mice out of mulch has not been successful,there are other options of pest control. These methods include the use of trapsand other products designed to deal with rodents. Poisons designed to controlmice should not be used outdoors, as other animals or children may come intocontact with them. As always, make certain to use these products only asdirected per the manufacturer’s label instructions.
Though some people may suggest growing fragrant plants suchas mintor lavender,there is little evidence that this is effective in deterring mice. Thosewishing to naturally control mice populations may consider employing the helpof our feline friends. Depending upon where you live, the presence of workingcats in the garden can help to reduce rodent populations.
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Those little creatures you see scurrying in your yard and destroying plants are likely meadow mice, also known as voles. Meadow mice burrow and tunnel underground and eat roots and bulbs. They also eat vegetative growth above ground, including stems and leaves. To stop these creatures from burrowing in your yard and garden, prevent them from coming into your landscape or get rid of them all together.
Create a plant- and weed-free border around your landscape, especially on the side that is next to a woody area, a field or another untended, wild area. This helps keep meadow mice out of your landscape so they won’t burrow in your yard or garden. Ideally, the border should be at least 3 or 4 feet, although a 15-foot border works best. Apply rocks or mulch to the area to inhibit vegetative growth.
Install a fence around your landscape to keep meadow mice from coming into your landscape both from above ground and underground. Chicken wire with 1/4 inch or smaller openings works well. Bury the fence at least 6 inches deep and extend it above ground 12 inches. You can also protect gardens and individual specimen plants in this manner instead of the whole landscape.
Trap meadow mice using mouse traps baited with apple slices. Walk around your landscape and track where their tunnels are located. Place the traps so the baited ends are facing the tunnels. Use the traps per manufacturer directions. At least 50 traps are needed for a small garden area for effective control, according to University of California. Discard dead meadow mice in plastic bags or bury them.
As the name implies, this type of mulch is made from chips of wood. But not all wood chip mulch is created equally.
Many landscaping companies sell mulch – you’ve seen the colored piles at their places of business. This mulch is generally made of bark, or shredded discards of the lumber industry, and is often lacking the nutrients your vegetable garden needs.
In addition, if the mulch is colored it may contain questionable chemicals that have no place in an organic garden.
Arborist wood chips are valuable in an organic garden–particularly ramiel wood chips. Ramiel chips come from small branches and leaves and are wonderful for building healthy garden soil. The leaves provide nitrogen to help break down the carbon in the branches.
Mulch in a flower garden provides an inviting area for both pets and animal pests. Mice and other rodents may burrow in the mulch rabbits can pull up flowers from mulched beds squirrels dig in the mulch to hide their cache of food. Even neighborhood cats may be attracted to a mulched area, viewing it as a giant litter box. Making the mulch difficult to dig in and working to exclude the pests protects the mulch and your flowers from further damage.
Rake the mulch from the bed, exposing the soil. Pile the mulch outside the bed on a tarp or in a wheelbarrow.
Measure the length and width of the flower bed. Add 4 inches to each measurement, or 6 inches if rabbits are an issue. Cut a piece of hardware wire cloth to fit this measurement, using wire cutters. Use hardware wire with 1-inch openings.
Bend down the 2 or 6 inches of excess hardware wire on each side. Lay the wire over the flower bed, cutting holes in the wire to accommodate the plants. Make the holes 3 inches wider than the bases of the plants. Push the bent edges into the soil to anchor it and prevent animals from digging under it.
Replace the mulch, spreading it over the hardware cloth. The cloth prevents animals from digging in the mulch and can make it difficult for them to uproot flowers.
Install an 18-inch stake 6 inches deep in each corner of the flower bed if rabbits are digging up plants. Stretch a 12-inch high length of hardware cloth between the stakes and secure the wire to the stakes using a staple gun and staples. This short fence prevents rabbits from jumping into the bed.
Yes, they’re abundant and pretty, but rocks offer no benefits to your soil and can do more harm than good in your garden. Rocks heat up quickly in the sun and hold onto heat, which in turn can raise soil temperature, resulting in stressed, thirsty plants. Windblown weed seeds also nestle among the rocks and root in all the nooks and crannies, making weeding even more of a chore. Especially avoid rocks around common foundation plants like azalea, hydrangea, and yews these plants thrive in acidic soils (those with a pH level below seven), and rock mulch elevates soil pH, making an acidic soil more alkaline. Opt for an organic mulch instead and collect those stones for a rock or cactus garden, where they belong.