Lawn tunneling creatures, what to do? 9/3/18 Q

Asked September 3, 2018, 5:19 PM EDT

All of a sudden, a noticeable tunneling by what we're assuming are moles or voles. I try stepping on the tunneling in front and back yards, to discourage whatever is down there. In the 30 years I've lived in Brooklyn Center, upper Twin Lake, our yard has had tunneling, but mostly, not very much. What drives these cycles, is it known? Should we dig open some tunnels and drop some poison down there? What are the implications of having tunnels under a lawn... does tamping down the raised areas restore the dirt.. a bit? Or, must we dig it all open and add more dirt? (big sigh) If it's not one thing, it's another!

Sherburne County Minnesota

1 Response

Hello and Thanks for your question.
You do not need to dig up your yard to get rid of the moles or voles. There are some easy steps that you can take. Here are a couple:
You can use garlic -

This mole and vole control method is one of the best ways to get rid of the rodents. It is very effective immediately … but also lasts for year. Unlike most other approaches, it’s almost for free, does no harm to animals and the environment and is totally safe for pets and children. A few hours of effort need to be put in once … but thereafter no further work will need to be done at all.

Mole & vole control with Garlic – how does this work?

As we humans know too well, garlic has a very strong smell and taste. Moles and voles have extremely sensitive noses … after all that’s how they find their food digging through thick soil. So if garlic smells already so strong to humans … we can only imagine how much stronger and off-putting it must be to those sensitive rodent noses. And this is exactly the basis for this mole and vole control method: The rodents won’t even go near a plant of garlic.

The good news is that garlic is really easy to plant and grow: You simply put an ordinary clove of garlic in the ground and it will grow all by itself (returning every year).

In most cases, simply placing one clove near the plant to be protected is already sufficient. To have maximum mole and vole control we recommend to place 3-4 cloves around the plant you want to protect. For vegetable beds we suggest to place the garlic in rows along the beds. (Distance between two garlic plants should be approx 2 feet/60 cm, and about 3 feet/1 meter between rows). For larger areas like lawns we recommend to place the garlic around the edges or trees, so that it doesn’t affect your ability to mow the lawn.

This method of mole and vole control works astonishingly well: Protection is immediate when you place the gloves in the ground.

As the garlic grows back every year you also have an excellent long-term solution. You can even cut the garlic (e.g. with a lawn mower) and it will still grow back.

There are three steps to this mole and vole control method:

  1. Decide where you will place the garlic and estimate how much you need to buy. (Depending on what you are trying to protect, this can take from a few minutes to an hour for bigger and more complex areas.)
  2. Buy the garlic.
  3. Place the garlic cloves in the soil. (This goes very fast once you’ve done a few … for example you can protect 50 single trees/bushes or a medium size lawn in 2 hours)

The best about this mole and vole control method is that once you have done above 3 steps, you do not need to do anything any more for years to come.


Mole and vole damage can be completely prevented using wire baskets. This is one of the most effective rodent protection methods, both short and long term. It is totally safe to children and pets … and one of the few methods where no harm is done to any animals. Unfortunately, the method can be expensive and involve a lot of effort in some cases.

How does this method work?

A cage or basket made of galvanized wire mesh, hardware cloth or strong plastic is placed around the roots of the plant to be protected. Gopher, mole and vole damage is prevented since the animals physically cannot get to the roots. This method is easiest to apply before trees, bushes or bulbs are actually planted.

Cages or baskets can be cylindrical or rectangular and come in different sizes. You can also make your own putting together sheets of mesh with a wire or string. The mesh size should not exceed 3/4 in (2 cm).

Where plants are already in the ground it is usually not feasible to place them into a cage or basket. In this case you can dig a thin trench around the plant(s) … placing the wire mesh at least 8 in (20 cm) deep into the ground.

For lawns or bigger areas such as flower or vegetable beds, the mesh is ideally placed both on the sides and at the bottom:

  • Sides: The mesh needs to be placed vertically at least 8 in (20 cm) deep. This is done most easily by digging a narrow trench.
  • Bottom: For lawns it is important that the bottom mesh is placed at the right depth, neither too high nor to low: About 2 in (5 cm) is ideal. For flower and vegetable beds we recommend 8-12 in (20-30 cm) although the exact depth is less critical here.

In many situations, placing a mesh at the bottom of a large area is not possible or too expensive: In such cases only doing the sides will already avoid most of the mole and vole damage.

Can mole and vole damage really be prevented?

Absolutely yes. This is indeed one of the most effective methods to prevent mole and vole damage. It works immediately and lasts many years.

As mentioned, protection is less strong if there is no mesh at the bottom and if the area is big. (But even then, you should see a significant improvement.)

Is this method expensive?

Yes, unless the area or number of plants to be protected from mole and vole damage is small. You can save money by making the baskets/cages yourself. This is not difficult, but can be quite an effort.

On lawns, flower and vegetable beds you can avoid most of the cost by placing the mesh only on the sides, but not at the bottom. As mentioned, this will increase the risk of mole and vole damage to some extent.