My Hosta Cages to keep Voles at bay

Albrightsville, PA(Zone 4a)

You can find this wire mesh at Lowe's. It's sold to cover dryer vents to keep critters out, or in the roofing section to keep leaves from the gutters. Comes in a big roll and is 8" wide. You can make a circle as big as you need, smaller ones for younger plants and bigger ones for larger. Yes the roots will eventually grow through the mesh, but the crown and most of the roots are safe from vole damage. I use black plastic cable ties to close the circle.

Bear with me, it looks like I can only post one photo at a time

Thumbnail by woodthrush
Albrightsville, PA(Zone 4a)

completed cage

Thumbnail by woodthrush
Albrightsville, PA(Zone 4a)

Dig a hole 8" deep and insert the cage

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Albrightsville, PA(Zone 4a)

put about a 2" layer of course gravel in the cage. Voles have little mice feet and digging in gravel and hard soil deters them. They also don't dig very deep.

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Albrightsville, PA(Zone 4a)

Add soil to bring your crown up to the proper height and plant your hosta. Top off with another 1" of gravel. It's a slow process, I know. But I won't put another new hosta in the ground any other way, and I'm getting my other hostas caged also. I have found vole holes right up against the cages, but they only dig down about 4 inches and gave up.
So far, I have not lost any caged hostas. I live in the woods and there just is not way
I'd be able to trap or poison every vole.
Pam

Thumbnail by woodthrush
Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

Pam, how big a cage do you have to make for a large hosta- say one that is 3-4 feet at maturity? And do you worry about the impact of digging up mature hosta to cage them? Will you have to dig all of them up every few years to replace the cage as they rust out? That seems like it would be very difficult to do when the roots start to grow thru the holes?

Albrightsville, PA(Zone 4a)

You could probably use a 2 gal pot to form the cage. I've only had them in cages for 2 years so far, so I'm still waiting to see how long they last, but replacing the cages is easier than replacing the damaged hosta.

Hannibal, NY(Zone 6a)

Good info Pam! I'm lucky I don't have that big a problem yet, but they say the vole population is increasing, especially in areas that are seeming to have warmer winters.

I just wanted to mention a couple of things. I talked about using poison bait on voles before, and it is very effective, but only when they don't have a lot of other sources of food. So late fall to early winter is the time to bait for them. It won't do any good while they have vegetation to munch on.

A castor oil soak is said to help. Drench the area where you see openings to the tunnels.
1 tablespoon castor oil
2 tablespoons liquid detergent
One gallon warm water

And just so people know, voles are commonly referred to as field mice, almost every area has them.

Albrightsville, PA(Zone 4a)

So that castor oil soak is probably the same product I mentioned in the other thread, but a homemade and far less expensive recipe.

Yes, they are called field mice. I think our gardens are just easy pickins'. They really don't have to dig deep to eat a hosta, and there are plentiful in one spot. We need some hungry hawks and owls to help us out.

Hannibal, NY(Zone 6a)

Lots of cats?

I'll go look at the other thread, too. Thanks.

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

Pam, do you have any issues with the gravel mulch covering the crown like that? I keep all my pine mulch pulled away because I'm afraid of crown rot, but I noticed that some of the vole holes are right at the base of the plant. And the eyes don't have a problem pushing up thru the gravel in the Spring?

Port Orchard, WA(Zone 8a)

Pollyk, I've been having problems finding Castor Oil that isn't deoderized. what you find in stores is deoderized and isn't near as effective. Jim

Hannibal, NY(Zone 6a)

Jim, from what I understand it's not the smell. The castor oil makes their skin burn. The detergent keeps the castor oil attached to the skin.

But this might be what you're looking for?

http://www.baar.com/moles.htm#Howorder

Charlotte, VT

Is the burning enough to kill them? All of my onions died because of those critters eating their roots. I've noticed many holes in my strawberry bed too. I hate them and I want their death to be a sure thing!

Port Orchard, WA(Zone 8a)

pollyk, thanks that's just what I was looking for, I've tried the other castor oils and they have no effect on the moles, I've found a bait that works but it takes a lot of effort. spraying stuff on the lawn is easier if it works, Jim

Hannibal, NY(Zone 6a)

Great! You're welcome.

Charlotte, VT

Do you think it would be safe to spray the castor oil around garden beds? If the voles are already underground in a bed will the castor oil be ineffective?

Port Orchard, WA(Zone 8a)

Helen, my biggest problem is the moles. so far I haven't seen any voles, thanks, Jim

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Jim, why wouldn't the wire cage protect against both our mole and vole friends?

Woodthrush, I have been using the same cages for years.

I have a huge roll of 'hardware cloth' which I cut and roll just as you do.
I also secure with cable ties.
I use them both below ground to protect roots against burrowing critters,
but also above ground to protect newbies from bunnies.

I have cages of all sizes scattered throughout my yard.
My shrubs and trees are wrapped in netting to protect against deer antler rubbing.
My wife complains my garden looks more like a war zone.
But sometimes I think the 'war zone' analogy isn't so far from the truth.
It's a war out there!

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

It sure is a war. We've been setting traps for voles and haven't caught a single one. I don't want to dig up anything else at this late time, but I'm trying to make gravel moats as much as I can around the established hosta. It's gonna be a nerve-wracking winter here.

The cages would work for moles, but moles don't bother plants so it wouldn't be necessary. They eat grubs, apparently.

Hannibal, NY(Zone 6a)

Would it help then if you killed the grubs?

I don't know if you garden organically, if not the Bayer Tree and Shrub drench with Imidacloprid as the active ingredient is very effective in my garden. It's supposed to be effective for 12 months, and I apply it in the spring. Just once.

I have an iris nursery, and I use the soil drench so I will not have thrips and aphids, but I have had no problem with my hostas, nor with the dreaded lily beetle, and I think it's due to the Bayer drench.

I was origionally told the Imidacloprid was not able to be purchased in NY, but thankfully that's not the case, as it's the product that works best for me.

In fact my inspector recommended it. It was once thought to be killing honeybees, and I would never consider using it in that case, but my understanding is it turned out to be mites that were killing the bees, not the Imidacloprid.

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

I imagine getting rid of grubs would discourage moles, yes, but would have no effect on the voles since they don't care about grubs. I'd much rather have moles instead of voles! But I guess they sort of work in tandem, because the voles apparently like to use mole tunnels to get around.

I used the Bayer Rose stuff on my astilbe that always gets tarnished plant bugs (I think that's what they are called) and I think it worked to minimize their damage. Next year I will apply it sooner. I think that's Imidacloprid too. I tried organic solutions first, which didn't work, so I had to go to chemicals. They destroy my astilbe buds every year before they get a chance to bloom and I've had enough of it. I may try the Bayer next year on a few hosta I suspect may have nematodes.

Hannibal, NY(Zone 6a)

That's the reason I thought it might work, as the voles use the mole tunnels.

Stinkers! Best of luck. It's very discouraging.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Bayer answered my question today:



Dear Arlene,

Thank you for visiting our website and your inquiry to Bayer Lawn and Garden!

Imidacloprid is not banned in the entire state of New York. It is available everywhere in the state, with the exception of Long Island due to the low water table.

Bayer Advanced products are available at most home improvement centers as well as Co-ops (such as Ace and True Value hardware stores) and independent nursery or plant centers.

If you would like to speak to a representative directly with questions in regards to your Bayer Advanced product please call 1-877-229-3724 and we will be happy to assist you further.

Sincerely, The Bayer Advanced Team

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

FYI, for those who don't feel up to construction projects like wire cage production, you can purchase similar cages commercially. Here is a pix of one of the cages. They are mailed flattened in a case. They open to form a wire cage w/ wire-enclosed bottom. I use them both in the holes against voles and above ground to protect young plants from rabbits (and also to keep young woodland plants from getting smothered by soggy leaves over winter).

Thumbnail by Weerobin
Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

3 sizes available. Available on-line.

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Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

Weerobin, aren't those holes big enough for a vole to get in? Those certainly would make it easier- cutting and working with hardware cloth is really a pain. I picked up some plastic hardware cloth the other day at Home Depot and am debating using it. I figure they could probably chew thru it, but maybe will decide not to bother. I haven't unrolled it yet, but it seems like pretty sturdy plastic

Albrightsville, PA(Zone 4a)

I think the holes are too big in those commercial cages also. Vole entrance holes in the garden are small. Moles are fatter than voles. And who could afford commercial cages for every hosta. I have 1200 varieties, and even more with duplicates and extras from the co-ops.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

The gopher cages are smaller gauge than chicken wire.
The manufacturer claims it's small enough to prevent small rodents.
I've been satisfied so far.
There's no question they're too expensive to use for every planting.
But I've used them as a guarantee for those 'special' plants I would really hate to lose.
I have both home-made hardware cloth cages and the commercial cages - they both work fine.

Royal Oak, MI(Zone 6a)

I'm sorry I missed this thread last year but happy for some inspiration! The rabbits ate several new hostas (I guess they were a tender delicacy like baby lettuce??) and ALL my lillies down to the ground last year. Animal deterrent sprays and pellets didn't have any effect.

So I think that wire mesh from Lowe's will work nicely. I hope I even have some of the new mini/small hostas left to protect! And poor Queen Josephine!

Huntersville, NC

Well I spent most of last summer making wire baskets and planting with Permatil.

I am pleased to announced I only lost one hosta in the ground.
I'm guessing that variety needed more protection or mulch.
But all others in ground survived.
Guess a chipped tooth from attempting to munch thru the wire cage is a deterrent after all! :)

Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

I have a question. I have made a few, as I am redoing my front garden. Its a huge sun/shade spot where no grass grows so we mulch it. I forgot to put gravel on bottom and top. So I am going to redo the ones I already did and fix that. My question is, hosta's spread right? So I think my cages might be too small for future years. Should I redo the size of them also. Since I am digging them up again anyhow?
Thanks,
Kristen

Royal Oak, MI(Zone 6a)

Kristin, I think it would help to know how large your hostas might grow and how fast. Personally, I would probably enlarge the cages for the fast growers. That way you still have time to redo the other ones later.

Thankfully, I don't have to contend with voles or moles, just squirrels and rabbits. My new cages seem to be squirrel-proof so far!I may have to make changes when the rabbits return this summer. Here's a "surround" cage for tiny Hosta venusta:

Thumbnail by Eleven
Royal Oak, MI(Zone 6a)

And here's an open-topped one I added to newly planted Hosta 'Rainbow's End' after the squirrels ripped off an eye:

Thumbnail by Eleven
(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

I used plastic hardware cloth to protect a clematis Montana Rubens from voles. The guy at the hardware store told me it would last many years, where hardware cloth would rust out. The first spring after planting I went out to prune and the whole vine swung away from the trellis at the bottom- they had eaten everything that was underground. So before I planted the replacement I dug a huge hole and lined it with the plastic. I brought the plastic together at the top in the shape of a drawstring bag around the stems trying to leave space for more stems as the plant grew, stapled it together just above the ground, then mulched. That was four years ago-- so far, so good. I wish I'd thought of gravel for the top. Next time!

The voles don't bother my poor few hosta, the deer eat them to the ground. Also the daylilies. I gave up and just plant what they don't like, which they only munch on in early spring when greens are scarce.

Pam

Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

So I made a bunch of baskets yesterday. I folded the bottoms in on itself and zip-tyed them off. They look pretty darn good I must say. I did the hydrangeas and hostas that I just bought this weekend. Im not sure if they go after the hydrangeas or not, but Im not taking any chances. I left them a few inches above ground only because my yard seems to be one giant ledge. (stupid New England!) Hope it works. Thanks for all the help.

Thumbnail by blupit007
Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

another shot, this is the bottom

Thumbnail by blupit007
Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

another shot. I made bigger ones for the hydrangeas. With those, I just tied another piece to the bottom to fit.

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Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

I also made some last year using the black plastic hardware cloth. I imagine a determined vole could chew through it, but I'm hoping it will at least be a deterrent. It is certainly a hundred times easier to work with than the metal mesh, and cheaper. I also kept many plants in nursery pots that I sunk in the ground, including one hydrangea. Everything came through the winter in great shape.

Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

I was actually thinking about cutting the bottom of the plastic nursery pot the hydrangea came in. But I was worried that the roots would rather grow laterally. I thought the mesh would allow them to run through. We will see how it goes.

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