Gardening Basics

Cures for Mole Maladies

Paul James offers tips on how to invite moles out of your yard.

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Moles are nature's rototillers — they aerate the soil with their underground tunnels — but folks who like a nicely manicured lawn may want to eradicate them.

Identifying the problem

You can diagnose a molehill by its shape. Moles typically produce a volcano-shaped mound with a hole in the center. Were it gophers, the hole would be to one side and the dirt would be messed up.

One good thing about moles: They don't eat and destroy plants the way gophers do. In fact, the fluffy soil that moles create makes a great home for plant roots, but the mounds they produce as a result are a tad unsightly.

Addressing the problem: The heavy-handed method

One way to get rid of moles is to drown them out. To do so, insert a hose into one of the mounds. The adults will flee at the first sign of water. But if you're not up for killing baby animals, this method might not be for you — baby moles won't figure out they need to flee until it's too late.

Equally barbaric are some of the traps available in stores.

Addressing the problem: Paul James' way

For the record, Gardening by the Yard host Paul James is a big fan of sniffing out, rather than snuffing out, moles.

  • There are various mole-repellent products at the ready. One is castor oil. Even though humans can't smell it, it drives moles crazy and sends them scurrying elsewhere. Saturate the ground by spraying the oil. The grubs that moles love to eat will get coated in oil and make a revolting mole meal.

    Castor oil also comes in a granular product. Paul prefers it because he thinks it works a little more effectively, is easier to spread and lasts longer. It also deters voles, gophers and armadillos.

  • Another repellant: a mixture of bobcat and coyote urine. To use it, saturate areas where you see visible signs of moles. (And make sure to concentrate the spray on the ground, avoiding plants.)

  • Certain sounds can also reportedly keep moles away. One device transfers sounds and vibrations from the wind into the ground. It should send the animals scurrying.

  • Yet another approach to sending moles away is to get rid of their food supply. Apply a bacteria product — Bacillus papilli (milky spores) — to the ground. It will target only grubs. When they're infected, the grubs dissolve into a cottage-cheese-like goo. The spores then multiply and spread billions of times in the soil. Once established, it can last 10 to 20 years.

  • One last trick: a sponge. A sponge carrying between one million and 10 million beneficial nematodes, which are microscopic worms. Unlike the bad nematodes that do damage in the garden, these are good. And, like the milky spores, they attack only the grubs in the lawn.

    Soak the sponge and squeeze the nematodes into water. It's not long before up to 10 million wind up in the solution, which you then spray onto the lawn and plants. Nematodes are typically applied in the spring. Use them quickly — they usually don't have a long shelf life.

    mole trap — Victor

    caster-oil-based repellent ("Shot Gun Mole and Gopher Repellent") — Yard Lover

    granular caster oil repellent ("Mole Max") — Yard Lover

    coyote bobcat urine repellent ("Predator Pee") — Lexington Outdoors

    milky spore — Gardener's Supply Co.

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