Don't let this prolific pest prevent your garden from taking shape

4/15/2011, 3:44 p.m.

(ARA) - As the weather warms, gardeners are gearing up to shape this year's outdoor utopia. But spring also brings opportunity for a common garden pest - voles.

Also known as field mice or meadow mice, voles can foil a gardener's plans by snatching up bulbs before they have a chance to sprout, or by gnawing on roots and stems during a plant's developmental stage. It's easy to see why voles can cause headaches for gardeners once the rodents find their way into a yard or garden. Voles can reproduce at prolific rates - they can have as many as a dozen litters a year. Since voles are active year-round the problem can persist, as fruits and vegetables provide their main food source during the growing season.

Here are a few tips to protect your plants, vegetable gardens and trees from voles this season:

* Use an organic, nontoxic and biodegradable vole repellent. Tree World Plant Care Products offers an organic (OMRI certified) vole repellent that is extremely effective at deterring voles. Plantskydd Vole & Small Critter Repellent is a 100 percent organic repellent that guarantees voles will stop feeding in your flower and vegetable gardens. Its easy-to-apply granular formulation is an all-natural product that contains no harmful chemicals or toxins that can harm the environment. It is safe for use around pets and your family vegetable garden.

The granules can be applied around any area that's visited by voles and offers the added benefit of acting as an organic fertilizer - giving you bigger, healthier plants. And in the fall planting season, you can place granules of Plantskydd Vole & Small Critter Repellent alongside your tulip bulbs when planting.

* While landscape fabrics are popular and can be an effective way to prevent weeds from growing, they also provide perfect shelter for voles. If you have a vole problem, you may want to avoid using these types of fabrics.

* Excessive, loose mulch provides the perfect habitat for voles. Keep mulch to a layer of 1 inch or less in flower beds.

* Voles also use low-growing, dense shrubs as shelter. Consider incorporating more vertical growing shrubs or leave a good amount of open space between shrubs. This allows for easier hunting by voles' natural predators - owls, hawks, snakes and cats.

* To protect young trees, embed cylindrical wire mesh up to 3 inches below the soil to deter voles from gnawing at the roots of the tree. The guards should also extend up the base of the tree high enough where the voles cannot crawl over them. This means they should be higher than the snow in the winter, since voles don't hibernate and are active all year. Wire guard is not effective against all types of voles, as pine voles can dig far enough underground to get beneath them.

Any seasoned gardener knows many factors are out of your control that can affect the look and productivity of your garden. However, by doing what you can to prevent against a vole invasion, you can help ensure that your garden gets off to the right start this year.

For more information on vole prevention, visit www.plantskydd.com. To find a repellent dealer near you, visit www.treeworld.com.