Mole and Voles in your Landscape

Moles and voles remind me that not all lawn problems are directly related to weed, disease, or insect issues. Moles and voles can be real lawn nuisances and I have not really addressed these varmints in the past. Moles and voles are very different critters and an ounce of prevention can help keep your landscape free of both of these pests.

 

Field Vole

A common vole

 

 
Moles are carnivorous animals that primarily eat earth worms, adult insects, and a variety of grubs in the soil. Voles by contrast are rodents and look much like a mouse. Voles seek to eat grass blades, bulbs, bark, roots, and succulent vegetation on trees and shrubs in and around your home. One is a meat eater and the other is a vegetarian and both cause an eye sore with their tunneling and feeding activities in lawns and beds. Mole and vole activity peak between September and April. Moles aggressively forage for insects in your home landscape.

 

Common Mole

A common mole.

 

 
Neither moles nor voles hibernate, so they can cause damage year round. Moles have two kinds of tunnels, a surface feeding tunnel with the characteristic mound of soil pushed up, as well as a lower “interstate highway” for long distance travel to say the woods or a mulch bed. Voles’ tunnels are similar to the mole surface feeding tunnel, less the mound of dirt. You may have moles or voles but neither has any direct correlation to the other in terms of sharing tunnels or food source. Both varmints make a mess and their tunneling can drive home owners into frenzy much like the groundskeeper in the movie Caddyshack.

 
Now that we have outlined key differences between a mole and vole, what can be done? Regular mowing is very helpful toward discouraging a resident mole or vole but is not the only preventative action available.

 
To discourage voles, keeping clean gardens, landscape beds, and mulch depth to less than 2”removes potential nesting sites. Overgrown plants, excessive leaf litter, and deep mulch in your gardens or landscape are ideal habitats for voles. Be sure to clean out all the fall leaf litter around your foundation to remove vole nesting sites before winter. Cutting your lawn short to 1.5” in November will help reduce a surface food source under the snow. Since voles are rodents, you can also use mouse traps placed around ornamental shrubs like you would in your home.

 
Moles meaty food source of worms, grubs, and insects ironically often means you have healthy soil under your lawn. While grub reduction can be helpful, it is not the moles’ main food or only food source. Since moles don’t like a lot of traffic or sound, I have seen sonic devices do a nice job on making a hostile habitat; creating a rock concert atmosphere if you will. I have mole baits which used as a last resort will take out your resident mole(s).

 
When it comes to controlling moles and voles, a tidy landscape is a healthy landscape. Weekly walks around your lawn and garden beds can help spot a mole or vole infestation before it becomes a big problem. Placing mouse traps for voles is a simple, yet effective means to protecting your valuable landscape.

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October lawn tips

Nothing says autumn quite like a dark green lawn covered in vibrant orange and yellow leaves. Cool fall nights and the still warm soil transform your normally fast growing lawn into one that is focused on storing energy in its root system. This special phenomenon is a unique time of year with many advantages when it comes to seeding, fertilizing, aerating, liming and winterizing your lawn.

 

October remains a top month for lawn care in NH & VT

October remains a top month for lawn care in NH & VT

 

 

Whether you have a home lawn or one at your business, October is no trick when it comes to setting up your lawn for better survival over the winter. And the treat for any lawn treatment in October means a greener, healthier lawn next spring, if done correctly. October lawn care treatments done before soil temperatures drop to a level where your lawn is going into hibernation are of particular benefit. Seeding and fertilizations of any kind are more sensitive to warmer soils for maximum results in the fall.

 

Seeding
Seeding bare patches in your lawn or over seeding new grass into a thin or existing lawn are great ways to really speed up the thickening process now to set the stage for next year. Any grass you gain now by seeding can be treated for crabgrass next spring, allowing for a better lawn in 2015. If you wait until spring to seed, the cold soil prevents early seeding well into May, thus competing with annual weeds and crabgrass; a recipe for disaster.

 

Fertilizing
Natural and organic fertilizers also work best in warmer soils when micro-organisms are growing and can help breakdown the material into a useable form for your turf grass. By contrast, synthetic fertilizers are already in a more useable form and can be used later into the season as soils cool down. The cautionary note of using fertilizers too late in the season if the ground is frozen or very cold means not really achieving any benefit to the lawn and the possibility of runoff into streams, rivers, and other undesirable areas.

 

Aeration and Lime
Core aeration on the other hand can be done right up until the ground freezes or is at the very least very cold in November or early December, depending upon your actual location in New England. Of course, if you plan to over seed after aerating, earlier is better for germination and subsequent growth before snow falls. Lime can also be applied well into late fall, with the full benefits achieved in spring relating to pH or general soil conditioning.

 

Winterizing
One last tip, remove piles of leaves on your lawn, especially on thin, shaded, or new grass areas, as they will act as mulch and damage your lawn. As the temperature drops and November approaches, you can actually drop your mowing height down to 2”. Your final cut in November should be 1.5” to help minimize winter damage and snow mold.

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Fall lawn tips

Generally speaking, the summer of 2014 on average was a little cooler and wetter than the past few years. The few hot and humid periods did cause a spike in disease issues like red thread but overall our lawns’ were fortunate not to have to endure extended drought. What does this mean for the average lawn as fall is a mere few weeks away?

 

Back to school time is fix up your lawn time

Back to school time is fix up your lawn time

 
First, actively growing lawns means faster recovery and a more robust turf plant going into the winter, especially if you take advantage of the weather. Aerating, over seeding, lime, a few fertilizer applications, and perhaps potassium will put your lawn in top condition for next spring. My advice is not to squander this unique scenario and time period but seize its advantages.

 
A bit of caution, healthy growing grass can easily mask grubs eating your lawns roots. The classic brown patchiness may not be visible until the invaders are much larger and difficult to control this fall or next spring. If you have not had a preventative grub treatment earlier this year, take a brisk walk around your lawn, especially in the sunny areas, and pull up on the grass to see if it is weakly rooted. If so, you may well see small white grubs within the first few inches of loam below the grass. Treat them now, don’t wait!

 
Over seeding with such warm, moist soil is a dream come true for lawns and can yield fantastic results to help thicken up your existing lawn. Bare patches should be top-dressed and then seeded after aeration. September and early October are the best time periods to seed a lawn, no question about it. Seed your lawn now, don’t wait until spring!

 
Healthy grass will grow aggressively and save extra energy down below in the root system. Providing a generous supply of nutrients during the fall allows for a healthy growing lawn that can save extra energy for winter and next spring’s green-up. Don’t forget to fertilizer a few times and be sure to lime. If you forgot to lime this year, it’s never too late as liming any time is just fine.

 
A final word on year-end lawn mowing. Keep your cut high at 3” for now but you can begin to lower it in October by about ½” per week. The slow decline in height will help harden your lawn off and not expose it to a harsh scalping on one massive slicing. Most lawns will grow well into late November so your final cut should end up at around 1” to 1.5” in November. Mowing short in height is ideal for helping minimize snow mold and winter damage caused by long grass.

 
This fall could be the best in years, don’t let your lawn miss out on a great growing opportunity.

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