Beneficial animals Harmful animals

Moles in the Garden: How to Get Rid of Them or Not

Early spring and sometimes autumn, after heavy rains, mark periods of high activity for moles. These insectivorous animals (no, it’s not moles that eat your plants), which spend most of their lives underground, have to come up close to the surface when their deep tunnels fill with water. This is when they begin to tunnel just below the surface, causing visible inconveniences for gardeners, such as mounds of earth and tunnels that deform the soil, damage lawns and flowerbeds, and make mowing difficult. Solutions against moles vary, but many are temporary, as moles tend to return to their deeper galleries as soon as the soil dries out, giving the illusion that certain treatments are effective when in reality, moles are simply acting on their natural instincts.

Des trous de taupes. Photo: Baloncici

If moles won’t leave your garden on their own, here are the three main strategies for managing their presence without resorting to harmful chemicals: trapping, using natural repellents and modifying the habitat. Each method is designed to minimize the impact on the ecosystem while providing effective solutions to reduce the inconvenience caused by these little burrowers.

The Role of Moles in Ecosystems

Before you do anything, ask yourself if these little critters are really harming your garden. Moles play a crucial role in ecosystems by improving soil health and fertility through their digging activities, which aerate the soil and redistribute nutrients. They also help control pest populations, reducing dependence on chemical pesticides.

That’s just it! If you see mole tunnels in your lawn, it may be a sign that there are plenty of grubs or other invertebrates in the soil, attracting these burrowing mammals. Eliminating them may cause other problems.

Photo: Beeki

In addition, moles are important for biodiversity, serving as food for a variety of predators and acting as indicators of soil ecological health. Despite occasional conflicts in gardens and fields, moles have significant beneficial environmental impacts, underlining the need for balanced management that protects both human interests and the vital ecological functions they perform.

Trapping

To trap moles effectively, you can opt to use specially designed traps. Here’s how:

Locating active tunnels: Identify the tunnels most used by moles. You can locate active tunnels by squeezing the soil to detect tunnels that are rapidly being rebuilt.

Trap installation: Place mole traps along active tunnels to block them. Be sure to carefully follow the installation instructions supplied with the traps for maximum effectiveness.

Example of a mole trap. Source: UKAL

Regular monitoring: Check traps frequently, at least once a day, to collect any moles caught and to reset traps.

It’s important to note that mole traps must be used responsibly and in accordance with local laws. In addition, the use of traps can be more effective when combined with other mole control methods, such as improving soil drainage or planting vegetation that discourages their presence.

Finally, if you’re having trouble trapping moles, it may be worth seeking the help of a wildlife management or pest extermination professional.

Natural Mole Repellents

Natural repellents can be used to deter moles from settling in your garden. Here are some natural repellent options and ways to use them:

Repellent Plants

Les jonquilles éloignent les taupes. Photo: Hilary Halliwell 

Plants such as crown imperial, wood hyacinth and daffodil are known for their ability to repel moles due to their odor, which disturbs them. Plant these species in areas where moles are active.

Here are a few plants that can help keep moles out of your garden:

  • Crown inperial (Fritillaria imperialis)
  • Daffodil (Narcissus)
  • Allium (Allium spp.)
  • Marigold (Tagetes spp. T. minuta, is considered a harmful invasive plant in some regions)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus, is considered a harmful invasive in certain counties in California and Hawaii)

Plant-Based Repellents

Castor oil. Photo: alexander ruiz 

Some herbal substances, such as castor oil, garlic pellets or chilli pellets, can be dispersed in the soil to give off an unpleasant odour to moles.

Sound pulse devices

These devices emit vibrations into the ground which are designed to disturb moles. Place them strategically in areas where moles are active.

Ultrasonic mole repellents. Source: Amazon

Using Soaked Burlap

Soak pieces of burlap in lemon juice or castor oil and place them in the mole’s tunnels to create a scent that repels them. Note that anything odoriferous deposited in a mole’s hole may encourage it to dig new tunnels in another location.

It’s important to note that repellents may not be 100% effective and require regular application. In addition, it is always advisable to combine the use of repellents with other mole control methods for best results.

Habitat Modification

To discourage the presence of moles by modifying their habitat, here are a few measures you can take:

  1. Improve soil drainage: Moles are attracted to damp, poorly drained soil. Make sure you improve drainage around your garden by repairing any water accumulation problems and adding drainage elements where necessary.
  2. Limiting over-watering: Avoid over-watering the soil, as this creates ideal conditions for moles. Use targeted watering to avoid excessive soil moisture.
  3. Avoid over-tilling: Over-tilling the soil can disturb the moles’ tunnels and cause them to dig new tunnels, which can exacerbate the problem. Keep ploughing to a minimum.
  4. Installing a mole barrier: To install an effective mole barrier, first mark out the area to be protected and dig a trench at least 60 to 70 cm (2 feet) deep around it to prevent moles from getting underneath. Use fine metal mesh with very tight meshes, and place it vertically in the trench, ensuring that it protrudes a few centimetres above the ground to block any passage. Or dig a trench about 15 cm (6 inches) wide and 60 cm (24 inches) deep and fill it with compacted gravel.
Fine metal mesh. Photo: Amazon.

Safety

When managing the presence of moles in your garden, it’s crucial to follow specific safety measures to protect both humans and the environment. Before using traps or repellents, make sure you read and understand the instructions to avoid accidents. Wear protective gloves and, if necessary, safety glasses when handling these tools or substances. Store all repellents safely, out of reach of children and pets, and inform people around you about their use to avoid incidents. Check traps regularly and use repellents as recommended to minimize risks and ensure effective, humane mole management while preserving local wildlife.

Photo: Tramper2

Conclusion

By combining these control methods, you’ll maximize your chances of discouraging the presence of moles in your garden. It’s also a good idea to regularly monitor your garden for signs of mole activity and act accordingly.

Bear in mind that moles also play a beneficial role in the garden, aerating the soil and reducing the populations of certain insect pests. So it’s important to consider the pros and cons before taking steps to control their presence.

Mathieu manages the jardinierparesseux.com and laidbackgardener.blog websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

2 comments on “Moles in the Garden: How to Get Rid of Them or Not

  1. Laurie Macdonald

    If the moles don’t eat plants do they eat my root vegetables ? Something is munching carrots from the bottom and leaving just the greens !

    • Mathieu Hodgson

      Voles are known for eating roots, tubers, and bulbs. They often use the tunnels created by moles to access your plants.

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