An organic garden should be welcome to most benevolent flora and fauna as long as it doesn’t interfere with your crops. Moles are an example of animals that can be a blessing to fallow lots but a nuisance to established gardens.
Moles are small subterranean mammals that mostly feed on insects. They are notorious for their underground tunneling. Their tunnels can help turn over soil on unused land making the soil structure better.
However, if they attack your garden, the tunnels they dig can:
- Destroy your plant’s root system
- Create pathways for other rodents to access and ruin your garden
- The soil they pile at tunnel openings can cover small germinating plants
How Do You Know If You Have Moles in the Garden?
Moles prefer rich soils with a lot of organic matter that forms the perfect habitat for the insects and grubs they prey on. There are two main ways to establish whether you have a mole problem:
Seeing Mole Damage
This is the easiest way to spot a mole problem. The tunnels they dig when foraging for grubs, pests or earthworms are hard to miss.
Scan your lawn for raised volcano like mounds of soil (molehills). These are openings to the subterranean tunnels. The tunnels could also form ridges when dug close to the surface but this is rare as moles prefer deeper tunnels that are up to ten inches deep.
ProTip: Moles mostly dig closer to the surface in spring, early summer and in the fall. They spend the rest of the year deeper in the ground
Seeing the Actual Mole
Catching the real mole might be a bit hard but it is the surest way to prove that you have a mole problem. The most notable features on a mole are:
- A pointy hairless snout
- Small ear canals and eyes that are covered by fur
- No external ears
- Large and broad front feed with webbed toes
- Narrow rear feet with slender claws
A typical mole is around 7 inches long and weighs in at about 4.5 ounces.
How to Deal With the Moles
The ideal organic farmer will let moles be especially if they are not harming any crops in the garden. Normally, the moles will move on once they deplete their food source (worms, grubs and insects). They will leave you with turned over soil that is possibly healthier than before.
You can flatten the mounds every now and then to prompt them to move on faster or just wait until the activity subsides before raking and claiming your garden back.
However, if they are in an active garden and are proving too much for your crops, you can use one of the following techniques to either trap or persuade them to move on sooner than later.
Unlike rodents like squirrels and rats, moles won’t actively destroy your plants as they are not herbivores. Any damage (at least to them) is collateral.
1. Using Mole Repellents to Dissuade Them
The first, and perhaps simplest, step is throwing in some mole repellents to prompt the subterranean mammals to move out on their own.
We will start with natural ways to deter moles buy using things that they hate as this is the most natural and ecofriendly solution to the problem.
2. Growing Plants that Moles Hate
- Castor Beans
- Mole Plants
Castor beans contain castor oil that is a tested and proven mole deterrent. However, it is poisonous and should be used with caution especially if you have children and pets. Mole Plant is also poisonous.
3. Have a Cat or Dog ‘Patrol’ Your Garden
Most rodents won’t go anywhere near a garden that has a heavy cat or dog presence. Cats and dogs love chasing after small mammals, and the mammals don’t like putting their life at risk if they can avoid it.
While a cat or dog might not actively hunt moles, they will make them uncomfortable forcing them to move on. Cats are a proven effective mole deterrent but dogs can still do the trick.
4. Use Ultrasonic Noise Generators
Ultrasonic noise makes moles uncomfortable and can prompt them to move away from your garden even if there are still some juicy grubs around. Purpose made ultrasonic stakes will generate noise you can’t here while simple toys like spinning daisies will produce audible noise that is equally annoying.
Place the generators as close to the tunnels and molehills as possible for maximum impact
Tip: Just because you can’t here ultrasonic noise doesn’t mean your pets can’t hear it too. Cats and dogs will avoid the garden if the ultrasonic noise is too annoying.
5. Mixing Your Own Castor Oil Mole Repellent
Castor oil is the most popular ingredient in commercial mole repellents. You can make your own mix at home instead of going for the slightly expensive commercial blend.
- Mix 6 ounces of castor oil with 2 tablespoons of dishwashing soap in one gallon of water to form a concentrate
- Take one ounce of the concentrate above and mix it with one gallon of water
- Apply (preferably by spraying) onto your garden after rain or watering
- Don’t apply it straight onto edible leaves
- Spray onto molehills and as far from edible plants as possible
- Avoid consuming produce from the treated garden for at least a week
Castor oil is poisonous. Ensure you clean your equipment well and that your livestock or family doesn’t consume crop from freshly sprayed garden patches.
6. Buy Commercial Mole Repellent
If you go commercial, you can choose between granular and liquid mole repellent. Chances are they are all castor oil based. They don’t poison the moles if used in recommended proportions but just make the area unattractive by releasing unpleasant odors and making the soil, insects or grubs taste terrible.
Granular Mole Repellent
Spread the granules over the soil using your hands or a drop spreader. Some brands to look for include:
Liquid Mole Repellent
The liquid repellent can be 100% castor oil or a blend with other compounds goes into a spray can or a water tank and fed by attacking a hose-end to the ready to use can. Some brands in the market include:
- Liquid Fence
7. Using Mole Traps or Capturing to Release
If your mole deterrents aren’t doing the job right, you will have to resolve to trapping. Most mole traps kill the mole. If you are looking for a more humane solution, you might have to contact a wild life removal experts. After all, you might not have the means to relocate the mole after trapping it.
ProTip: Since most mole traps are not humane and are basically extermination, we advocate for repellent or hiring a professional to relocate the moles. In addition to this, trapping moles might be illegal in some states like Washington while other states will demand that you get a permit to do it legally
If you want to do it on your own, you can:
- Look for active mole runs. Press down any ridges or hills
- If these look re-excavated the next day, then they are active
- Set your trap and give it a day or two to work
Mole bait also uses the same kill approach like most of the traps. The bait resembles grubs and worms moles feed on. The bait kills the mole within two days and can also kill any other animal that consumes it.
More reading: How to Sharpen Garden Shears
ProTip: Killing moles by poisoning them is inhumane and illegal in a couple of states. Do your own research before resorting to this approach.
Do Moles Eventually Go Away?
Yes. Moles will move on once they exhaust the food supply in your garden. If you can afford to relocate your patch or simply ignore them, this would be a wiser approach that using traps or bait. If it is impossible to ignore them, use repellents to encourage them to move on sooner than later.
At the end of the day, you have to decide whether a couple of molehills in your garden is worth a full-blown war or not. To most people who have sizeable pieces of land, it rarely is worth the effort. Ignore the problem and let the moles aerate your garden – and perhaps get rid of harmful pests in the process.