Spring Dinner and Workday Dates have been Changed
Attention gardeners the date for our Spring dinner has been changed. The dinner will be on April 27th starting at 6 PM.
More information is available in the garden newsletter sent to your email.
The first workday will be April 29th from 9am-1pm.
Penfield Community Garden in the Winter
Now that 2016 is just a memory you may be thinking about getting a garden bed at the Penfield Community Victory Garden. We are located on 5 Mile Line Road in Penfield and we will have some open beds for the 2017 season.
But don't wait, our beds sell quickly and by March there are few beds left.
Beds are rented each season through the Penfield Recreation Office at 1985 Baird Road.
Make this year the year you start to grow your own healthy food. Join our vibrant community gardeners.
Food Donation Program.
The Penfield Community Victory Garden donates fresh produce to the Penfield Ecumenical Food Shelf.
There’s an invasion at the PCVG. The voles have arrived and are making themselves a new home.
Why? Because the construction next door has destroyed acres of their habitat, eliminated their food source, and driven them to the nearest garden: ours!
First of all, what is a vole? It is not related to the mole, which eats only insects. It’s a small mammal, mouse-like in appearance with beady little eyes, a short tail, short legs, and small ears. It’s an herbivore with a ravenous appetite, a wide range of dietary preferences and the capacity to wipe out an entire crop. What it doesn’t eat, it can damage or kill by exposing plant roots to air and dehydration as it tunnels beneath them. It can kill shrubs and young trees by chewing their bark and girdling them. It has the remarkable ability to reach reproductive maturity at the tender age of 15 days and give birth at 30 days after only 2 weeks of gestation. Is it any wonder we’re being overrun?
I first discovered their damage in my beds a couple of weeks ago when I found a couple of potato stalks were shredded and broken. Next I noticed that some of the beets had been nibbled at the soil line. And yesterday I was amazed to find the tops of my broccoli shorn off under the protection of a row cover. That was the last straw.
Since about half of the beets evidenced vole munching, we decided to check on the state of the potatoes and were dismayed to find chewed tubers. Left with the choice to either settle for new potatoes or no potatoes, we continued to dig up the entire patch. More chomp-ridden potatoes appeared. About 5 out of 6 on average were intact. So the 7’ x 10’ potato patch that would have yielded at least 100 lbs. of mature potatoes instead gave us only about 20 lbs.; a huge disappointment. At the very center of the potato patch we hit the vole nest and 4 or 5 of them scurried out in all directions. At the risk of sounding gruesome, I’ll just say we eliminated those.
What to do? Some online research revealed some interesting and bizarre methods for vole control, including flooding, sonic repellant, and digging/collapsing their burrows (all ineffective), trapping (limited effectiveness), repellants, car exhaust, container gardening, predator introduction (cats), and eliminating mulch (all effective). Since flooding every burrow with car exhaust is impractical at best, and the whole point of gardening in beds is to avoid resorting to containers, we’re left with repellants and the elimination of mulch (no pets allowed, so forget about cats). The hot, dry weather we’ve had has made the application of mulch a practical necessity, but unfortunately it’s a vole’s best friend whether it’s sheet plastic, straw, chopped leaves, or wood mulch. The moist, soft soil and overhead cover from predators it provides is vole heaven. On that issue we’re left with the choice of either removing mulch and watering daily, or leaving it in place and accepting crop losses. If you keep your mulch it’s a good idea to regularly pull it aside and check for vole activity: the raised, spongy soil that is evidence of their shallow runways, 1”-2” entry holes, plants mysteriously uprooted and flopped over dead, damaged root crops or nibbled fruits, and underground clusters of nesting materials of dried grass and twigs.
Repellants that effectively exclude voles are made with castor oil-impregnated pelletized clay or recycled cellulose. Castor beans are pressed to extract castor oil which is used for many purposes including medicinal, pharmaceutical, and as a food additive. Ricin, the toxic component of the plant does not partition into the oil because it is water-soluble. Therefore, castor oil does not contain ricin provided that there was no cross-contamination during the production process. These repellants are most effective if used before vole damage is apparent, so if you think you’re safe because you haven’t yet seen any vole damage, now is the time to apply repellent. As your neighbors apply repellent to their beds, voles will move to adjacent untreated beds. For those of us whose beds have already been invaded, apply a tablespoon of castor-based repellent into every 12 inches of burrow, scatter pellets on the surface as directed, and water in. Repellents are available online and in local gardening centers and are labeled as mole, vole, and gopher repellent. Look for castor oil content on the label. Don’t make the mistake of only applying repellent around the bed perimeter. If voles are already present in the bed this will keep them there.
Use trellises, cages, or other supports to keep vegetables off the ground. This may keep fruits from being nibbled but provides no protection to the plant itself if its roots or stems happen to be tasty.
Quarter inch mesh hardware cloth can keep voles out of raised beds if it is applied during construction. Since voles do not tunnel deeper than 12” (unless they are using abandoned mole runs), hardware cloth set at a 12” depth as a bed perimeter liner and stapled to the inside of the wood will keep voles out, provided that they do not already have existing tunnels under the new bed location. Voles are not good climbers so this method provides effective physical exclusion if mesh-protected beds are not adjacent to unprotected ones that give voles lateral access.
The addition of pea gravel to soil can also be effective, but is not a solution that most vegetable gardeners prefer, although this can be an acceptable solution in perennial flower beds at home that seldom need digging. It is also worth considering for all shrub and tree plantings. Their extensive root systems as well as their permanence are very attractive to voles because they stabilize the soil so their tunnels won’t collapse. Leaf debris that typically accumulates under shrubs provides cover from predators, as does the canopy. Vole nests beneath shrubs have been known to persist for many years as generation after generation of voles remain in their safe ancestral home.