Q: When I was spraying my roses I noticed that one of my ‘Oklahoma’ hybrid teas was drooping at the top. When I went out today leaves were drooping worse than ever.
I pulled gently and it came out of the ground – without a single root on it! They had all been gnawed off right at the main stem, about 3 inches below the graft. It looked like the work of a beaver, but underground. Any idea what did it and how I can prevent it from getting my other roses?
A: Voles love to run along under the mulch (or just below the soil) and gnaw on plant parts that are right at the soil line. Voles go for hydrangeas, hostas, roses, camellia and small fruit trees. If they are in the same place for long enough, they can girdle medium-sized trees.
Moles and voles are not the same animal. Moles eat grubs and soil insects; voles gnaw on the roots and bark of small plants. Voles are short-tailed meadow mice. They make runways under the mulch around plants.
If you think voles might be the problem, here are some suggestions:
• Make a “fence” out of hardware cloth and wrap it around the base of woody plants to deter the animals.
• Pull the mulch about 4 or 5 inches away from the base of your susceptible plants. In order to feed on your plants, the voles will have to come out into the open – they don’t like to do that.
• Look for the runways and gently pull back the “roof”. Find a large cardboard box and remove the top. Bait a mouse trap with peanut butter and place it in the vole path. Cover the trap and runway with the upside down box. The voles will be more likely to venture into the covered area to investigate the nice peanut butter smell if everything is covered by the box. When you’ve caught a vole, remove the trap and replace it with a slice of apple. Check it a few days later to look for toothmarks. If the apple is gnawed, bring the trap back into use.
NOTE: Placing several mousetraps around an affected garden will be more successful.
short-tailed shrew (similar in size to a vole but only eats insects)
vole damage to hosta
vole damage to hosta
vole damage to camellia roots