Gardener vs Vole Menace

I thought last year was a tough year but the voles have been really intense this spring. There's a bit of a vole-exclusion arms race going on at the community garden as gardeners take steps to protect their crops. (Voles are like mice)

Above: a sweet potato bed surrounded by buried hardware cloth. Voles love sweet potatoes. The black fabric is to help warm up the soil they can be planted sooner.

Below: other gardeners have made the investment to bury hardware cloth all the way around their plots. This can be a major endeavor and sometimes involves replacing the whole fence. There's also usually a lot of rocks buried in the fence lines at Belmont Victory Gardens.

I didn't feel like digging up 50 ft of fence to bury hardware cloth. Maybe I'm being a little lazy but I also wanted to allow the snakes access to my plot. I decided to protect the priority plants that are most attractive to voles - fruit trees and berry bushes. Much of the damage happens over the winter when food is scarce - see my post about Vole Destruction - but they also ate the young sprouts off my surviving berry bushes.

Hardware cloth comes in rolls and has smaller openings than chicken wire. You'll want some tin snips or wire cutters to cut out your pieces. Needle nose pliers are useful too. Usually a roll comes "tied" with some soft wire. You can use it to tie your wire cages.

These cages should be tall enough to be buried a few inches deep to prevent tunneling and protect the plants in winter. If you get drifts of snow, your cages need to be taller. I may need to add some height to mine for the winter.

My fruit trees and berry bushes were small enough to drop these cages over the top. If yours are bigger, you have to wire the hardware cloth into a tube after it is around the plant. I buried my cages about 4 inches deep.

The apricot tree and cherry bushes got cages as well.

About a month later the cherry bushes have more leaves and the herbs are starting to fill in the bed. The cages seem to be working well and the berry bushes have put on nice new growth.