Holy Mole-y! Reader needs help with burrowing critters

Garden pests come in all shapes and sizes. Some have four legs, some have six or even eight legs. Some, with no legs at all, slither on their bellies, while others fly or creepy-crawl. But sometimes the most frustrating critters are the ones that tunnel below the surface and chomp away on your plant roots.
Perhaps you have a solution to help this reader with her problem…
QUESTION: “Any new ideas on how to deal with a serious mole problem in our acre of heavily landscaped yard and gardens?
“We live in the country, and our house is on former farm land and pastures. I understand that moles are supposed to be very territorial creatures, and that only one or two moles are supposed to inhabit an acre of land, but we know that we have many more, because we can visibly see them tunneling along in different areas of our garden.
“My husband and I respect all forms of life and refuse to attempt to trap, poison, harpoon, electrocute, gas, or shovel-bludgeon these little creatures to death, but we are very tired of repairing all the damage that they do to our beds and the expensive plants that they manage to uproot. We've tried all kinds of folk lore remedies to discourage them from our yard (such as pepper based products), and we've tried the commercial castor-oil based sprays (makes your soil terribly sticky and sickly!), to no avail.
“We've also tried the ultrasonic in-ground devices, but I swear that the moles seem to be attracted by anything new that we introduce to the ground and they do MORE damage in the areas that we try to protect with such devices. We've also tried to plant things in plastic or wire mesh cages to prevent root damage as they tunnel around, but again, these little critters seem to go berserk in the "protected areas" and tunnel out all the soil surrounding such cages, thus defeating the purpose of this time-consuming effort. “In frustration, I bought traps, but couldn't bring myself to use them. We've considered getting a cat, or perhaps a couple of ferrets, or maybe a boa constrictor to set free in the yard... but, alas, we have a thriving bird community that would be threatened by the cat... and recruiting other critters to kill the moles isn’t really consistent with our "violence-free" philosophy, is it? “Have you any other ideas that might make our garden a little less appealing to these creatures?” – Deborah Abraham
ANSWER: I can empathize with you because we have similar problems in our gardens. I have used a product called Liquid Fence Mole and Vole Repellent and it works for us.
It’s a simple product to use in that you simply attach the container to your garden hose and spray the ground. Apparently it works by coating earthworms and plant roots with something highly distasteful to moles but harmless to humans and animals. The moles tunnel elsewhere in search of tastier meals. Contrary to popular belief, moles almost never eat plants, subsisting on worms and other small invertebrates, but they can damage plants by undermining the roots and often create molehills on lawns.
However it is a constant problem. When you use the product the moles move on but within a month more are back and you need to repeat the process. We feel the same way about killing the little things and that is why we do this once a month rather that put out traps or poison. The manufacturers claim that the product is biodegradable and environmentally safe.
You mentioned folk remedies, and I’m guessing that there are hundreds out there! So come on, readers: Share your mole-be-gone solutions and help Deborah and other frustrated gardeners! Remember, your remedy must be effective in your experience (rather than hearsay) and should be humane and non-toxic. You might see your remedy included here in a future column. Send your suggestion in an e-mail to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org You can also contact me there if you need shopping information for the Liquid Fence Mole and Vole Repellent.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org

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