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June 2012
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Mole problems: Remedies run the gamut

By Carolyn Roof

We are all familiar with the phrase "Make a mountain out of a molehill." This year moles are the ones making mountains. As one friend said, "The moles are terrible this year! ...(and I) will get the tractor out and run up and down the yard to flatten the runs."

The only good thing to say about moles is they aerate the soil and eat slugs. The bad news is that they leave tunnels for the more destructive voles. The loosened soil makes walking through the yard dangerous as well as unsightly. They are in the middle of breeding season and by May will have produced three to five pups that in turn will leave home to destroy someone else's yard.

Seemingly, there are as many control methods as moles. Each source swears that his remedy works whether it putting bubble gum, caster beans, mothballs, or human hair in the runs. A word of caution: Do not use caster beans or other poison if you have a dog that likes to dig.

Spraying the runs and yard with a mix of a cup of castor oil, two tablespoons of dish soap and a gallon of water, each month and after a rain is said to keep them away. Planting daffodils and garlic taints the soil, deterring moles, voles and squirrels from flower beds.

Poisoning and gassing is best left up to pest control companies.

For those concerned for the safety of the pests, traps can be set over active runs. I found that if survey flags placed into the run are tilted the next day, the run is active. Another method is to push down the run and if it is raised the next day it is active. Place a trap (live or kill type) over an opening and cover the trap to darken it. Once in the trap the mole cannot escape until you let it out far away from your yard.

Things to do

â ¢ 15 minute gardening - Mark seed packets with date arrived or purchased and length of viability. This will come in handy next season when deciding whether the left over seed should be planted or pitched. Onion and parsley are generally good for one year, while endive and lettuce seed may be kept for up to five years.

â ¢ Garden - Forced bulbs may be planted outside after foliage dies back. To replace nutrients used in forcing, pre-water the site with 20-20-20 fertilizer. Cut back roses into live canes. Whenever cutting dead from a plant, cutting into the live will stop continued die-back.

â ¢ Lawn - Mow with blades set at 3 inches, usually its maximum height. Leaves can be run through a small branch-chipper. Attach a yard bag, place facing where you want mulch or into the compost pile. It saves raking and bagging the leaves.

â ¢ Trees and shrubs - Prune spring flowering trees and shrubs after blooms have completely died. To ejuvenate cut back one/third of a shrub's oldest branches to within 6 inches of the ground. Repeat the next two years. Start new forsythia plants by pinning a branch to scraped soil. Leave until there is resistance when the branch is lightly tugged.

â ¢ Vegetable - Contact your local extension service for soil sample instructions and request Home Gardening in Kentucky ID-128. Proper crop rotation will reduce need for added fertilizer for most crops.

Seeds do not like cold air, soil, or water; use lukewarm water to moisten potting mix and watering later. Gardener's lore says to plant perennials when maple leaves are beginning to unfurl. Plant cool-weather crops of the cole family (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuce and onion). Save space by planting radish and carrot together as the first is harvested before the latter. We can successfully grow kiwi if planted on the west side. Plant fruit trees on the north side to protect them and delay flowering.

Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun's gardening columnist, at carolynroof02@gmail.com.

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