Monitoring and taking inventory of your extended winter harvest should become a daily habit. There’s nothing better than foraging and harvesting fresh ripe vegetables the day you prepare them for eating.
At our farm, the inventory of cold season varieties are leeks, onions, kale, carrots, beets, brussel sprouts and swiss chard. Our swiss chard is still fresh and alive and can withstand colder temperatures when properly protected and cared for.
You can imagine the disappointment after many months of care and effort, discovering a vole and rabbit problem with our swiss chard, carrots and kale. All these plants were intercropped and planted in a mound of carbon nitrogen layers for a natural decomposition breakdown to support healthy organic matter and nutrients to the plants. The downside to this due to the lack of protected barriers, is that they were exposed and because of the mild temperatures, these rodents and rabbits are helping themselves.
Wire chicken mesh can help deter the rabbit issue and it’s interesting to note that the rabbits only nibble on the outside leaves of the kale conserving the plant for future meals and prefer to dine at the edge of this garden mound for a quick getaway.
On the other hand, voles will burrow underground and will destroy the root of the crop quickly and then move on.
Keeping your garden as clean as possible at this time will allow predators to see them and keep them under control. Voles can also be caught by a conventional mouse trap using peanut butter as bait. To prevent other animals or birds by being caught we use a recycled ice cream pail, drilling holes in the bottom of the pail (for venting) so we can place it over the plant where the vole burrows are present. We also place a stick through the top and into the ground, securing the pail from moving and hiding the trap.
When you catch a vole and reset the trap, wear gloves because they can carry a number of disease organisms transmitable to humans. Remove and compost any crop that looks like it might have been chewed by the rodent. Harvest the balance of the undamaged crop leaving the occasional vegetable as a trap crop for future trapping purposes. Keep consistent and monitor the location, resetting traps. Voles can have up to five litters of 3 to 6 babies per year. When the balance of the crops have been harvested, these rodents will become part of the natural food chain preyed upon by hawks, snakes, weasels and domesticated cats.