Reprinted with permission, South County News/The Daily News, Longview, WA
Gardeners like Woodland’s sandy soil because digging is easy and rocks are seldom encountered. Moles like it too. That became obvious after I landscaped a few years ago. Almost before I had time to stand back and admire the yard, brown mounds of dirt started popping up, making my lawn look like a page out of a connect-the-dots book.
It’s hard to shake a finger at the pesky mammal because even though the hills of dirt can ruin the appearance of a yard, the moles are seldom seen. They stay underground most of the time, cruising their tunnels looking for worms and larvae, with their broad and powerful front feet allowing them to move through the dirt as though they’re swimming.
Most people aren’t willing to forgive moles for ruining their yards, even when they’re told that moles eat lawn pests and improve soil aeration and drainage. Cody Arocho, customer service specialist for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, referred me to the agency’s website www.wdfw.wa.gov to learn the differences between pocket gophers and moles, and the laws pertaining to trapping and lethal control of these mammals.
Everyone seems to recommend a different mole deterrent to add to the runways. The list is long: Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum, Ex-Lax, hair, broken glass, castor oil, Marigolds, pickle juice, mothballs, household lye, flooding, fumigants, hard pellet poison baits, razor blades, spearmint leaves, barbed wire, Euphorbia plants, thorned rosebush canes, gas cartridges, and smoke bombs.
In stores, you’ll find commercial products to eradicate moles: there are poisons and vibrating or ultrasonic devices, pinwheels, and traps. Still, moles continue to tear up lawns while foraging through their tunnels for insects, larvae, small slugs, and other soil invertebrates. To date, no chemical or physical repellents, baits, or live traps have proven to consistently eradicate moles. My cat, though, has caught a few. He brought two large moles into the house last year. I screamed when I saw the first one in our bathroom, and it was still alive until my husband rescued me by attacking it with the toilet plunger. A few days later, the cat brought me a second mole…this one was dead… and placed it on the living room floor as my birthday gift.
I’ve tried many of the mole-eradication methods listed above. For awhile, I thought some of them worked, but actually the moles had just blocked off their tunnels and moved to a different part of the yard. The here-today, gone-tomorrow behavior of the moles helps lend credibility to the non-proven measures.
I’ve read about constructing underground barriers to keep moles out of small areas, but that method sounds expensive and labor-intensive. I decided, instead, to cover my backyard with concrete pavers. “There,” I thought. “Try pushing those out of your way.” Now when I look at my backyard, I don’t see mole hills, but I don’t see green grass either.
Moles continued to raise cosmetic havoc with my front yard. I wanted a green lawn, and was determined to keep the insectivores from dotting it with hills of dirt. I said to my husband, “I have one last plan. If it doesn’t work, we’ll cover the front yard with pavers too.” After knocking down the existing molehills, we spread a grub-control product over the yard before covering the entire lawn with weed fabric. We then topped the weed fabric with new sod. That was 2 ½ years ago. With the exception of a few mounds that pop up around the edges, I still have a green lawn without molehills.
When I walk across the lawn, I notice a slight rolling effect created by underground tunnels. The grass isn’t as thick as I would like; but it is green. I know I’m breaking the rules for growing a nice lawn, but this is my last chance to win the battle. If the moles win, I’ll remove the grass and put in pavers, and there will be a lawnmower for sale at my house.