Moles in the garden

Mention moles to most gardeners and the conversation immediately turns to lawns. Lovely swaths of manicured lawn punctuated by vast and numerous mounds of freshly, finely tilled soil.

Mole. Image: Adobe Stock/Santia
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It’s the hidden tunnels, unsightly spoil heaps and underground excavations that cause the most problems. Moles don’t eat plant roots, but they can undermine plants and trees and of course if you have a lovely lawn, a trail of molehills is at best unsightly and at worst a hidden danger.

But look on the bright side, a population of moles in your garden means you have a plentiful supply of mole food lurking in your soil. For our little friends the moles feed on worms and worms are the gardener’s friends, they are the soil purifiers and aerate and condition our garden soil. Without worms our garden soil is dead and a good population of works denotes a healthy garden soil. But with that comes the risk that a foraging mole will move in to.

Movers and shakers

At risk of inciting the wrath of gardeners nationwide, let’s take a look at the handiwork of these industrious creatures. For a little critter that’s only the size of your hand, they really can dig and move soil fast. Equipped with virtual shovels on the end of each of their short front legs, if there was an Olympic medal in digging, the mole would win Gold every time. Moles can burrow a staggering 100 metres a night, but for the lawn lover and the gardener that could mean molehills, by the dozen.

Tunnel diggers

Moles live underground. They are very rarely seen out and about in the daylight. In a mild January and as the month moves to early spring it’s the naughty male moles cruising for a mate that dig the shallow tunnels beneath your garden borders and lawns. They motor along, sub lawn level looking for their Mrs Right and in the process they can undermine the whole garden resulting in twisted ankles and worse.

The deeper tunnels are used for breeding and raising baby moles, usually 3 or 4 little kittens, that are born between February and June.

The tell-tale signs of mole activity. Image: Adobe Stock/Sauletas

Good work

Moles help aerate and improve the drainage on heavy ground. Molehill soil is an ideal potting compost ingredient. Add some well-rotted garden compost, leaf mould and a bit of sand and you’ve got the perfect mix general potting up. A bucketful of molehill soil goes a long way and if you remove it parallel to the ground, it leaves the perfect surface to re-sow grass seed – Bare patches sorted. If that still doesn’t assuage your fury, then it’s time to rethink the lawn, replace it with a wildflower meadow and let nature take it over.

Mole control

Moles are solitary and territorial, so even if you dispatch your current fuzzy beast, another one will soon move in and use the underground tunnel network, especially if you’ve been a good gardener, added lots of rich organic matter to your soil and cultivated a healthy population of worms. Moles eat worms, they love them, but they also eat a range of other soil dwelling grubs such as the turf munching leatherjackets, wireworms and chafer grubs.

Mole traps are hideous, though some are considered humane. Mole deterrents usually affect the worms, removing the mole diet from the garden, but surely that’s a daft solution for a gardener? Moles aren’t blind, but they have very poor eyesight. As a result their sense of smell and hearing is acute. If you want to deter moles then assault their senses. The smell of pickled onions is a well-regarded deterrent. The warbling sound of a radio or singing birthday card placed in the tunnel can drive them crazy.

But if you still hate them then move to Ireland – there are no moles in Ireland, at all.

Jean Vernon

About Jean Vernon

Jean Vernon is a slightly quirky, bee friendly, alternative gardener. She doesn’t follow the rules and likes to push the boundaries a bit just to see what happens. She has a fascination for odd plants, especially edibles and a keen interest in growing for pollinators especially bees. She’s rather obsessed with the little buzzers. Telegraph Gardening Correspondent, mostly testing and trialing products and Editor-In-Chief for Richard Jackson’s Garden.
@TheGreenJeanie
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