Molehills, Mountains and the Paralympics

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You go to bed with a smooth lawn and wake up to new mountain range in your back garden…why?

Molehills

That’s probably an exaggeration; moles usually take a few days to fully turn your lawn over rather than an overnight job as they tend to be solitary creatures. You may have a family of moles in your garden of course, but look on the positive side: this also means you have lots of worms – mole food – which is a big plus for your soil and therefore your plants.

“Hang spring cleaning” was Mole’s comment at the beginning of Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Graham’s classic children’s novel; but the mole in reality is busy for most of the year. They need to eat roughly 70% of their own bodyweight every 24 hours (which is more than even Plews’ own Nathan consumes) and they eat predominantly worms but also other the larvae of insects like chafer grubs which will decimate your lawn and will even lunch on slugs.

Moles do not eat plant roots. This common myth results from the collateral damage done to the plants by the tunnelling, which disturbs and potentially uproots plants and seedlings in the borders. The small but impressive European mole (Talpa Europea) can shift six kilos of earth in just 20 minutes and tunnel up to 20 metres in a day. So those piles of freshly excavated earth hide a huge underground system. This latter is the real problem as it can literally undermine not only lawns and allotments but also sports fields and canal banks.

On the plus side, once excavated, the tunnels are often used for many generations of mole, so it should be possible to live with your mole; especially if it’s eating those slugs of which we’ve had a population boom this year.  And those molehills with their freshly sifted topsoil are an attractive source of food for insect-hungry birds.

Suddenly our little burrowing pest can be seen in a new, ecofriendly light; helping to control pests in the garden and allotment, and encouraging birds into our gardens. All those tunnels and holes can help aerate your soil too; although the sensible mole prefers to dig in lighter soils rather than heavy clay, where drainage is more of an issue. However, if you don’t want moles in your garden, and you’ve got them, what can you do to discourage them and hopefully send them away?

A few eco-friendly ways to deter these unwanted visitors:-

Helpful teens?

Moles hate noise and vibrations, so encouraging your teenagers to have a party and dance over the tunnels could be one solution. No? Ok, what about beating the back of your spade over the tunnel route? Sonic devices are also a possibility, but we would recommend you contact a Mole Catcher before going down this route, as they’re the experts if you have a real problem.

Moles dislike strong smells so you could try lightly crushing garlic bulbs to release the scent, digging in to a molehill and dropping them into the tunnel. Spraying cayenne pepper into the tunnels is supposed to be even more effective.

Speaking personally, I have been ‘bothered’ by moles and have learned to live with them; I made myself think of the positives and I was lucky that, barring the lawn disruption, it wasn’t a problem.  If anything, the dog digging up the molehill was more of a nuisance! But I can empathise with those, like Jasper Carrot the comedian who had to take extreme measures. (Check out an animated video of his tale of moles on our YouTube channel)

As for me, I’ll be looking out for mole hills in the Paralympics. Why? Because the topically named Mole Valley in Surrey has hosted not only the Olympics cycling, but Sophia Warner, a Mole Valley girl, is competing in the Paralympics sprinting.

If you have a problem with moles, athletes using your garden as a training ground or any other garden queries, why not ask us to organise a ‘Garden Advisory visit’?

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