Roses forum: An idea for people who have problems with voles, mice, or drought

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Name: Cindi
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 7a)
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CindiKS
Jul 25, 2014 7:59 AM CST
One of the basic tenets of growing Earth-Kind roses is soil improvement using expanded shale. I purchase expanded shale at a nursery in my area, and I believe it works.
This company:
http://www.permatill.com/
has some good articles about ways to use expanded shale. I read through their website and found an article about how they are using it in NYC in soil to combat rats that burrow in soil around trees in public areas.
http://www.permatill.com/landscaping.php?cat=79
So it made me think maybe if this were tilled in with roses or hostas or anything else that voles eat, that it would protect the plant?
The article says rats do not like to burrow around the sharp pieces of rock. Makes sense to me that voles would not like that either. I don't have voles, knock on wood, but maybe some of you could try this?
I'm not promoting this particular company, as the expanded shale is manufactured by several companies and I would think brands are very similar. If I lived in the east coast, I would certainly buy from the company because they have done significant research on horticultural applications. It is promoted as an amendment for areas with heavy clay.
I started looking at places around here that carry it by the truckload. Chandler Materials in Tulsa has it. A pickup truck load dumped into your truck is about the same price as a big bag from the nursery. If it works for you, I would start googling manufacturers in your area and get it by the pickup load.
I can attest to effectiveness against drought. We've had extreme drought the past 3 years and I don't have irrigation. The roses in the bed where I used the shale look healthy. Of course, they are more hardy roses to begin with, but I'm talking about weeks of wind and 100 degree temps with no irrigation, and the roses look fresh.
Next I'm going to work it into the soil around my hydrangeas, hostas, hibiscus and anything else that needs more moisture. I don't have heavy clay, but this, (along with compost,) is a very effective cure for heavy soils.
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Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
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chelle
Jul 25, 2014 8:57 AM CST
I can't find it offered small-scale around here yet, but it sure does sound interesting. Thumbs up
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Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
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Seedfork
Jul 25, 2014 9:53 AM CST
After you dig it in, is it difficult to use a shovel when you need to move plants or add new ones?
Name: Cindi
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Plant and/or Seed Trader Permaculture Roses Ponds Peonies
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CindiKS
Jul 25, 2014 12:47 PM CST
No, because it is small pieces and I don't put more than a few cups' worth in a big hole for a rose, for example.
I mix it deep in the root zone rather than as a top dressing. How deep do voles burrow? Do they have tunnels or do they stay near the surface like rabbits? Seems to me the sharp edges of the shale would also foil slugs.
I need to do some more reading on this.
Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.
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Name: Toni
Denver Metro (Zone 5a)
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Skiekitty
Jul 30, 2014 9:49 AM CST
This sounds about right. My mom's property in S. NM is a shale mountain. Where her house sits, she had .. 7? dumptrucks worth of soil brought in (I can't call it "top soil" as it actually was the bed of a dried up pond, so there was a lot of fish yuck in it, but man was it rich soil!!) and took us all summer to spread it around (by hand!!.. literally! Shovels & rakes.. you know how much soil is in a full-size dump truck?? Blinking Blinking Blinking ). Gophers were coming out of the woodwork to hit the plants she planted in that soil versus the native soils that have a lot more rocks in it. Me personally, I don't have gopher/vole problems and never had a prairie dog in my yard (they're all over the place here, but I'm lucky!). I do have mice, but trying to trap these boogers as I really don't want mousies in my yard (where or where are my snakes???).
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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Jul 30, 2014 6:00 PM CST
I can vouch for dense rock deterring gophers. My native soil is dense rock and clay. I don't think there is a gopher in his right mind who would try to tunnel into that stuff. Why did I even think I could garden in it ??? *Blush*

Mrs. J had soil imported for the front yard and that's where I have had my gopher problems this year. They used to be happy living in my neighbor's yard until he stopped all gardening activity including watering. Then they moved to my front yard ... especially to Mrs. J's roses.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
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porkpal
Jul 30, 2014 6:26 PM CST
The western part of my farm is sand the east is heavy clay. All the gophers stay to the west - which is where I have most of the roses.
Porkpal
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Jul 30, 2014 7:40 PM CST
Oh, joy .... Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Andi
Pocono Mountains, PA (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap
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GardenQuilts
Aug 6, 2014 10:57 AM CST
Lyn aka RoseBlush1 said " Why did I even think I could garden in it ??? "

My thoughts exactly. I live in the "slate belt". I can't imagine buying rocks of any kind including shale. I don't have gophers, but the chipmunks are moving into my yard. I am sealing, caulking my house hoping to keep the mice outside once the weather turns cold.

In general, sharp rocks may deter rodents. My gardening efforts seem to be encouraging wildlife to visit my yard. The birds like the planted and mulched front garden. Rodents like squirrels and chipmunks are digging in my potted plants. My grandmother used to plant a mothball with each new bulb. I tried it with tulips and I had less losses to overwintering rodents (mostly voles or moles). Squirrels still dug for grubs, but they usually didn't disturb the bulbs (mostly lilies. worst case I divided the split bulbs and increased the lily stand) Deer are grazing the new plants. If you turn this around, it may make sense to add sharp rocks in planting holes and treating fresh soil to deter rodents. I use hot pepper and hot pepper spray. whether or not you poison rodents depends on your pest philosophy. Lets not "go there."
Name: Cindi
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 7a)
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CindiKS
Aug 6, 2014 5:13 PM CST
GardenQuilts, I'm kind of confused about why you said "let's not go there".
My initial post was not any political statement about organic gardening, it was just a simple method for improving soil that could possibly also deter pests. Toni mentioned snakes as helpful in pest control in her yard. Snakes and hawks in my area are good at keeping the mouse population in check.
You brought up using hot pepper and moth balls. You don't see much discussion of these poisons on the rose forum because so many of us have pets. I have dogs, a cat, lots of wildlife, and I'm a bee keeper. Here's a link about moth balls in the garden:
http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/pests/mothbal...
Capsaicin is extremely toxic to bees and other beneficial insects. I don't have time to add links right now, but I can come back on later and list those that describe unintended consequences for hot pepper sprays.
The expanded shale is very different from regular rocks in the soil in both size and porosity. I'll look for links about the shale later, too.
Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Aug 6, 2014 5:51 PM CST
Cindi ...

Andi was trying to avoid discussing different points of view about how to handle critter control.

Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
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porkpal
Aug 6, 2014 6:12 PM CST
I thought she was just wanting to avoid the discussion of rodent poisons...
Porkpal
Name: Andi
Pocono Mountains, PA (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap
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GardenQuilts
Aug 7, 2014 9:12 PM CST
I wasn't meaning to offend anyone. People have strong opinions on rodent control. I didn't want to start an argument or offend anyone on the use of chemicals or poisons.

I didn't realize that pepper was harmful to bees. It is the major ingredient in my bunny be gone and bambi be gone sprays.

I am planting a spray free native plant corner garden with deer resistant, wildlife friendly plants including honeybee blue agastache, echinacea, rudbeckia. I am also adding deer resistant perennials among my roses.

This discussion has me wondering about rabbit, chipmunk and vole resistant plants. Mint is the only one that comes to mind. I'll have to research it more. Surrounding vulnerable plants like roses with deer resistant plants like salvia may limit or eliminate the need to spray with pepper ( or egg, milk, pepper, garlic and thyme in my case).

I read that zinnias and marigolds repel bunnies. I almost lost my dahlias to bunnies a couple of years ago. That is when I learned about and started using diy pepper spray. I also planted zinnias and marigolds among my dahlias because I read that bunnies don't like them. It worked.
Name: Toni
Denver Metro (Zone 5a)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
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Skiekitty
Aug 8, 2014 8:15 AM CST
I heard that garlic also repels bunnies. What about lining the plant hole with dog hair? Do you think that'd keep gophers & voles from chowing down?

I've seen through experience that, if the bunnies & deer are hungry enough, NOTHING is deer/bunny resistant. Irises are supposed to be deer resistant and almost every winter my mom's irises get nommed to nothing because the deer are starving. They even eat the juniper & ceder trees because of the lack of food.

I am absolutely no help with most of these critter problems. I don't have bunnies in my yard any more.. haven't in years & years because my golden chased them all away. He's been gone now 4 years, but they never came back to my yard with all my yummy roses.

I just did some quick research and found this website from Rutgers University. Pretty nifty, if I may say so myself.
http://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/

found this one too.
http://campbellsgreenhouses.com/new/wp-content/uploads/deer-...
Roses are one of my passions! Just opened, my Etsy shop (to fund my rose hobby)! http://www.etsy.com/shop/TweetsnTreats
[Last edited by Skiekitty - Aug 8, 2014 8:21 AM (+)]
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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Aug 8, 2014 6:11 PM CST
Cindi ....

As of today, I can confirm that dense, very compacted rock will not deter gophers.

My neighbors have stopped gardening, so my garden is the only area that gets watered. The gophers are following the water. I have found mounds and tunnels up on the house pad level. Of course, I've improved the soil over time in the rose beds, but to get to those beds, the gophers have had to tunnel through my glacier slurry which has more rock than soil. It's also more tightly compacted than anything you would put in a rose hole/bed.

It's an understatement to say I am crying. Digging up all of the roses and putting them in gopher cages is both beyond my energy levels at this age and my budget.

I'll try traps, but I am not optimistic.

Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Cindi
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Plant and/or Seed Trader Permaculture Roses Ponds Peonies
Lilies Irises Daylilies Dog Lover Beekeeper Garden Ideas: Master Level
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CindiKS
Aug 9, 2014 2:28 PM CST
I just read through a very very long thread on gardenweb that had an incredible number of creative ways to kill gophers. "Caddyshack" is making more sense to me now! Nobody on that thread mentioned anything about changing the soil in any way, other than the hardware cloth and cages. The traps that had the most success were called Black Box and Cinch Traps. They are available at Home Depot. The cages are sure to prevent problems, but wow what a chore. Sorry you have to go through that! Has your extended drought caused the gophers to seek gardens with juicier roots?
I do think the expanded shale will help with moles, voles and mice, though. They are a different critter from your gophers.
I thought rats were supposed to be the most intelligent rodent, but it sounds like gophers are much more difficult to trap.
Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Name: Andi
Pocono Mountains, PA (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap
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GardenQuilts
Aug 13, 2014 10:34 PM CST
You could contact your local animal rescue groups or check the pets section of craigslist and adopt an organic rodent control device - aka pet. My late Westie, Tiffany, fancied herself "the great white hunter" and was great company. Winston the pug only barks at cars and dogs he doesn't like. He makes me laugh and will sit on my feet when they are cold. He also reminds me when it is time to stop gardening and go inside to make dinner.

Gophers may be even worse than deer. Yikes.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
porkpal
Aug 14, 2014 6:50 AM CST
I have dogs that think they are gopher hunters. I think they have killed more roses digging for gophers than they have invading gophers.
Porkpal

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