Before I moved to the Midwest, I saw wildlife as something abstract: deer as harmless little Bambis and moles as relatives of the mole who wanted to marry Thumbelina in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale. This does not mean that I was indifferent to nature. On contrary, I always admired it — from afar, that is. Here in Columbia, I decided that it was about time to get closer to nature: plant trees and bushes, make flowerbeds and put up bird feeders.
After careful research (based solely on beautifully illustrated library books), I finally sprang to action – I bought plants, dug holes and did a lot of mulching. I even succeeded in soliciting my husband’s help, and together we put up a nice bird feeder. The feeder quickly turned out to be a hit — especially with the squirrels. We moved it from the tree to a metal hook, which my husband greased with Vaseline, and installed a squirrel baffle underneath – all with no visible result. Next came a large squirrel–proof bird feeder with a spring–loaded platform that closed the feeding portals when squirrels sat on the perch. For a week, we enjoyed our victory, but soon birdseed started to disappear overnight. One morning I looked out the window and saw a large raccoon clinging to the bird feeder upside down, eating seeds without even touching the platform. Also, at about the same time, deer stripped bark from the bottoms of my newly planted apple trees, and they ruthlessly destroyed most of my flowers and bushes.
In response, I bought plants that deer are supposed to dislike. The result was still devastating. Even my holly bushes lost their spiky leaves, not to mention antique roses and beautiful Asian lilies. Losing ground, I tried folk remedies recommended by my friends and co-workers. For several weeks all our trees and bushes were decorated with soap. Next, I put out mothballs, which were as unsuccessful as the soap but much stronger–smelling. I also mulched my plants with human hair sprinkled with aftershave and bathed them in commercial deer repellents. Everything was useless, and on top of that, a web of mole runs criss-crossed our yard, destroying the grass and sending me back to the library books once again.
Armed with my new knowledge, I continued to fight the deer for a little longer. In the end, though, we fenced off our young trees and shrubs and liberally peppered our flower beds with store-bought products like Deer Off, Sweeney’s Deer Repellent and others.
As for deterring the moles, here are some things I learned that I could do:
- Bury empty plastic bottles upright in mole runways – the blowing wind will, supposedly, make the bottles whistle and drive the critters out of their shelters.
- Grow mildly poisonous castor beans in or near my garden.
- Put mothballs into molehills and spread castor oil around my yard.
- Start my day by stabbing molehills with a pitchfork.
- Install electronic pest repellents.
- Apply pesticides that kill grubworms, a mole’s delicacy.
- “Gas ‘em” by inserting lit gas cartridges into the mole tunnels and sealing the tunnels (or flush the tunnels with water).
- Trap them:
- you can do this yourself — if the traps are visited regularly, “the moles that become impaled will not suffer for long” (Missouri Conservationist).
- You can call your local exterminators (prepare to spend about $60 per animal).
- Fence in the affected areas with a half-inch hardware cloth buried two feet deep and angled outward at the bottom.
We’ve already tested several of these methods — with no discernible success. At the moment, we are contemplating mole traps and underground fencing, although the former is too cruel for my taste and the latter seems like a lot of work. Still, underground fencing would nicely complement the fences we already have above the ground to protect our plants from the deer.
“Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden” by Rhonda Poe
“50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants” by Ruth Clausen
P.S. If after all this reading you’re still thinking about putting in a vegetable garden, check out “The $64 Tomato” by William Alexander and don’t say that I did not warn you !
Disclaimer: Everything in this article is true, although no scientific data was used during its writing .