Voles/ wild mice

Asked September 27, 2016, 12:30 PM EDT

Hi, I heard about your website at one of the Butler,PA fairs and we encouraged to ask you any gardening questions. I like to grow organic vegetables but, my biggest problem are voles/wild mice.I read about them and they spread lots of diseases and they are all around my organic garden. I trap them for years but it looks like there are way too many around here and I can't get rid of them. My question is..is it safe to eat those veggies if there are voles/wild mice all around them? We're trying to be very careful when we trap them too but, can we get sick from them? From eating those veggies? How about if we trap them and pick them up right from next to the veggies plants? Are those plants infested? Can we still eat them? Can we get sick? Thank you!

Butler County Pennsylvania

1 Response

Your safest bet is to try to exclude the animals from your garden. Here are some suggestions from university extension.

"One way to effectively deter vole populations is to make the habitat less suitable to them. Weeds, heavy mulch, and dense vegetative cover encourage voles by providing food and protection from predators and environmental stresses. If you remove this protection, their numbers will decline.

You can reduce the area from which voles can invade gardens or landscaped areas by regularly mowing, spraying with herbicides, grazing, or tilling grassy areas along ditch banks, right-of-ways, or field edges adjacent to gardens. If feasible, weed-free strips can serve as buffers around areas requiring protection. The wider the cleared strip, the less apt voles will be to cross and become established in gardens. A minimum width of 15 feet is recommended, but even that can be ineffective when vole numbers are high. A 4-foot-diameter circle around the base of young trees or vines that is free of vegetation or a buffer strip 4 feet or more along a row of trees can reduce problems, because voles prefer not to feed in the open.

Wire fences at least 12 inches above the ground with a mesh size of 1/4 inch or smaller will help to exclude voles from the entire garden. These fences either can stand alone or be attached to the bottom of an existing fence (Figure. 3). Bury the bottom edge of the fence 6 to 10 inches to prevent voles from tunneling beneath it. A weed-free barrier on the outside of the fence will increase its effectiveness. Also, burying the fence about a foot into the soil will discouraging borrowing under."

I live in the woods and have lots of animals trying to get in my gardens and my buildings. I finally raised my garden beds and that solved most of the problems. I put hardware cloth on the bottom of the raised beds and built them up to 30 inches. Now no small mammals can get in including groundhogs. I stopped the deer by putting PVC hoops over the top of the rows and covering them with deer netting. You don't need to raise your gardens as high as I did. Probably two board widths would suffice. Once the food source and shelter is gone, the animals will loose interest in your garden. You can buy raised beds on the internet if you don't want to build them. I decided to go with four by four beds with two feet between them. but they come in all sized and shapes.