I discovered that my vegetable garden has been run over with voles. Suggestions on how to safely rid the critters would be greatly appreciated. Yes, the moles have been around as well.
When preparing your garden for planting, the best mole/vole proof method is to start with a wire base deep under the soil to "fence" them off, or at least keep them from starting with the roots. A hungry cat works, too.
Do you have a cat? One of mine is great at rodent control.
Bury cat poop down the holes and tunnels it makes. They'll run for the hills.
I'm a cat person, too, but I've heard that some dogs are good at flushing out those little varmints as well: One of my sisters has a Schipperke and a friend has a Jack Russell, and both swear that their dogs are as good as cats at catching rodents.
I don't remember which pest, mole or vole, eats meat (worms and grubs) and which is vegetarian (potatoes, tulip bulbs and hosta tubers), but I do know that castor oil is an effective organic repellent for both. (Heck, would you drink it?) It's supposed to be effective against armadillos, too, if those are a problem in your area. Castor oil won't harm any of the "good" critters that play in your yard, and it's safe for plants, too.
Here's the recipe: Rinse out a gallon milk jug. Fill it with warm water. Add 2 tablespoons of castor oil (most drug stores carry it near the vitamins) and a couple of drops of Ivory dishwashing liquid (a soap, not a detergent that contains a degreaser that will strip plants of their natural oil). Shake the jug well. Pour the liquid into an old dishwashing liquid bottle or a spray bottle that has a setting for "stream." Apply to the affected areas--you don't have the saturate the ground, a thin stream along the tunnel is adequate. Repeat after each rain and after watering the lawn, and on new tunnels as they appear.
Soon, you'll notice that your visitors have moved next door.
If you'd rather not deal with homemade and would prefer store-bought, all major retailers sell spray and granular versions of the castor oil repellent.
Mothballs dropped into their little tunnels are pretty effective. Now that I've moved up here in the hills, I don't have a problem with them -- little beasties can't tunnel through all that damn rock!
Have you considered taking up falconry?
Cat poop? I tried that for a while, but eventually would go out to find the kitty rocca turds literally flung back out of the tunnel with a note attached saying, in very tiny letters, "nice try!" Okay, the part about the note is an exaggeration, but not by much. The hurled poop is absolutely true, and caused me to holler one evening, "This is WAR!" I started leaving the cats out later at night and letting them out before dawn in the morning. Et tu, voles!
I used the castor oil method but had to apply repeatedly before the critters scrammed for good.
p.s. The voles in my yard were completely undaunted by my cat, btw..
Thank you everyone for great advice. I knew I could count on this blog for terrific suggestions.