Pest Away Tips

10 Effective Methods for Deterring Voles from Your Garden

Voles: The Uninvited Garden Pests

Have you ever stepped into your garden only to find it riddled with oddly shaped and interlocking runways created by pesky, tunnel-digging rodents? If you have, you surely know how frustrating it can be to have these tiny, rodent pests wreaking havoc on your lawn, ornamentals, and vegetable gardens.

In this article, we will take a closer look at vole damage, how to identify it, and the methods that have proven effective in deterring them from your garden.

Vole Damage and Identification

Voles, also known as meadow mice, are small rodents with short ears and tails. They are about the size of a hamster, usually measuring between 5 to 7 inches long and weighing less than 2 ounces.

Despite being small, they can do significant damage to lawns, trees, and gardens, especially in the winter months when food is scarce.

Vole Damage to Lawns

One of the most recognizable signs of vole damage is the network of runways that they leave across your lawn. These runways may appear as narrow, winding paths that are about an inch wide and an inch deep, usually running parallel to each other.

This tunneling can damage your lawn’s roots, making the grass yellow and unattractive.

Vole Damage to Trees

Voles can also damage trees by gnawing on the bark around the base of the trunk and roots. They often chew through the bark in a complete circle, cutting off the flow of water and nutrients to the tree.

This girdling can cause the tree to die or become stressed, making it more susceptible to disease and other pests.

Vole Damage to Gardens

Voles can cause significant damage to vegetable gardens. They feed on the roots of plants, causing them to wither and eventually die.

They also leave droppings and tracks behind, making it easy to identify where they have been.

Methods to Deter Voles

While vole damage can be inconvenient, there are several methods that gardeners can use to deter them. We will discuss some of the most effective techniques below.

Scent Deterrents

Voles have a keen sense of smell and can be deterred by scent deterrents like peppermint, cedar, and essential oils. These can be applied around the perimeter of your garden or directly on plants that you want to protect.

If you don’t want to make your own repellent, some commercial repellents are available on the market as well.

Lawn Maintenance

Keeping your lawn mowed and tidy can help deter voles. They tend to prefer unkempt yards to those that are well-manicured.

Removing clutter, debris, and woodpiles from your yard can also make it less attractive to voles.

Clearing Yards of Cover

Voles prefer areas where they can hide and create their tunnels. Clearing out undergrowth, trimming hedges, and cutting down brush and weeds can help deter them by reducing their hiding spots.

Keep the area around your trees clear as well, as this will also reduce the trees’ vulnerability to damage.

Open Areas to Deter Voles

Voles are vulnerable when they are away from their runways and burrows. Creating cleared areas around the base of your trees can help deter them by making it less comfortable for them to create burrows and runways.

Even if you have a small garden, leaving open spaces can help keep voles away.

Tree Guards

There are several methods of protecting trees from vole damage. Voglund Nursery Mesh Tree Bark Protectors are an effective option.

These protect the bark around the base of the tree from being girdled by voles. You can also deter them by using rabbit protection, as rabbits are one of the voles’ predators.

Vole-Resistant Plants

Some plants are more resistant to voles than others. Daffodils are an excellent example of a plant that is unattractive to voles.

They contain a natural toxin that voles find unappealing and avoid, making them an excellent option for gardens that are prone to voles.

Natural Vole Traps and Predator Sound Devices

Finally, there are several natural, humane traps and sound devices that can help deter voles. Blinc’s Humane Mouse Trap is an effective trap made of durable, transparent plastic that captures voles without harming them.

The trap can be set up easily, and even better, the voles can be released far from your garden. You may also consider using motion sensor lights, alarms, radios, and water sprinklers that emit loud noises or bursts of water when activity is detected.


In conclusion, voles can be a challenging pest to deal with, but there are ways to control them and reduce damage to your lawn, trees, and gardens. By keeping your yard tidy and open, using scent deterrents, using tree guards, and planting vole-resistant plants can all be effective.

Natural traps and predator sound devices are also options to consider if voles continue to be a problem. By using these methods, you can deter and control voles in your garden and protect your plants.

In addition to the methods for deterring voles discussed earlier, there are several other things to know about these rodents that may help you understand why they are attracted to your garden and how to control them over the long term.

Vole Lifecycle and Population Fluctuations

Voles have a unique lifecycle that can lead to massive population fluctuations. They typically breed in the spring and summer, with each female typically having 4 to 6 litters per year.

This means that within one year, a single female vole can be responsible for a considerable increase in population. Voles are also known for their 3 to 5-year population fluctuations.

During years of high population density, voles can cause significant damage to gardens, lawns, and trees. During these years, voles become more active, and their tunnels and runways become more noticeable.

Vole Sensitivity to Control Methods

Voles are highly adaptive rodents with a sensitivity to some control methods. Scent deterrents are generally ineffective in deterring voles because they are quick to adapt to new chemical stimuli in their environment.

This means that a scent that may have been effective in deterring voles in the past may have little effect on them in the future. Nevertheless, there are other methods that have been proven to be effective.

Tree guards have been shown to be an effective way to reduce damage to trees, while clearing out undergrowth and trimming hedges can make it more difficult for voles to create tunnels and runways. Additionally, motion sensor lights, alarms, radios, and water sprinklers have been known to deter voles from entering gardens.

Research Studies on Vole Deterrents

Several research studies have been conducted regarding vole deterrents. Some of the most interesting research has been conducted on plant-based repellents, chemical deterrents, silica as a deterrent, and conifer phenolics as deterrents.

Plant-based repellents have been shown to be effective in deterring voles from gardens. One study found that extracts from tobacco plants were highly toxic to voles, causing them to avoid the treated area entirely.

Another study found that specific extracts from the jatropha plant were effective in repelling voles and reducing damage to soybean crops. Chemical deterrents have also been studied.

Researchers have discovered that voles are sensitive to the levels of carbon dioxide in their environment. By adding excess carbon dioxide to an area, researchers were able to deter voles and reduce damage to crops and gardens.

Silica may also be an effective vole deterrent. One study found that the addition of silica to soils reduced vole populations, likely due to the abrasive nature of the material.

Further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of silica as a vole deterrent on a larger scale. Finally, conifer phenolics have also been studied as vole deterrents.

Researchers have found that the phenolics found in the bark of conifer trees have a potent repellent effect on voles. This finding suggests that planting conifers in gardens can be an effective way to deter voles.

In summary, voles can be a frustrating pest for gardeners, but there are many effective ways to control them. By understanding the lifecycle and population fluctuations of voles, being aware of their sensitivity to some control methods, and researching effective repellents, you can ensure that your garden is protected from these pesky rodents.

In conclusion, the presence of voles in your garden can be frustrating, but there are numerous ways to deter and control their populations. By maintaining a well-manicured yard, using scent and chemical deterrents, implementing natural traps and predator sound devices, and utilizing tree guards, you can protect your lawn, trees, and gardens.

Additionally, understanding the lifecycle and population fluctuations of voles, and researching effective repellents can give you an edge in managing these pesky rodents. With these techniques and approaches, gardeners can protect their plants and keep voles at bay.

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