Everything listed under: Biosol

  • A Very Brief Overview of Mountain Vegetable Gardening

    In Truckee, our "average last date of frost", the day when the chance of frost drops below 15%, is July 15 and our "average date of first frost" is August 15. It is important to aways have floating row-cover "frost cloth" on hand. It is a spun-bonded polyester fabric developed for frost protection in the late 70's and it is much better for plants than sheets or plastic sheeting. It allows air, water and light through it while trapping warmth. 

    Our brief gardening class handout explains a little more:  High Sierra Organic Gardening

  • "Shoulder Season"

    "Shoulder Season" in the travel industry came to mean the periods between high season and low season. In Truckee, since we have high season and high season, it should maybe be called "waist" season. The lake seems to experience this between seasons lul more than Truckee does these days. In the nursery, our busiest season is spring. We rapidly ramp-up from late April until early July when our business slowly tapers off into fall when, because FALL IS FOR PLANTING, we have a little bump in activity that quickly fades into the shoulder season: October and November when folks are otherwise occupied (gathering acorns or maybe wood). We reduce our hours and close on Sundays (we have to gather acorns too).  We still have planting projects and many landscapers are still active until the soils freeze or deep snow makes it impractical to dig. We plant a lot of bulbs and wildflower seed and the shoulder season is the best time for non-irrigated restoration / revegetation work.  The autumnal thermal overturn is just around the corner when soils begin to freeze and stay frozen (the perfect time to spread Biosol...everywhere). 

    "Ecology books speak of the "autumnal thermal overturn" when the average air temperature stays colder than the average soil temperature.  We hope for a good deep frost before the snows come because it is makes digging harder for voles.  'If ice skating is good the voles won't be as bad next spring'.  Deep in the soil the earth is consistently warm and once the blanket of insulating snow covers it, the soil begins to thaw allowing roots to continue expanding".  Wildflower seeding on top of the first 3" of snow is a technique that has worked very well for many."

    Winterizing the gardens and tying-up young plantings also occupies a bit of time in the shoulder season. Fall lawn care is essential. We stake and wrap the lower branches of trees and shrubs for the first 2-3 winters to protect their important "photosynthetic potential" (energy producing leaf surfaces) that feed the trunk to improve caliper and help develop good taper.

    Now is still a great time for planting all sorts of plants, we usually have some daily or weekly specials we post to FB or the chalkboard based on something we notice that we have a LOT of or that's just cool or interesting.  We ave begun to put the nursery away for the winter, tucking the pots into shade, giving them an anti-transpirant and tossing around plant-skydd animal repellent. Rob and crew will be out wrapping trees and shrubs once leaves fall and after that, we'll go cut a few Christmas trees.

  • October 2016

    We are always testing, questioning and learning. Thank God. I recently saw a post from the Nevada Landscape Association saying that it is good to use soluble high-nitrogen fertilizers on lawns at this time of year.  Is that right? "It depends". 

    12Lb Biosol

    Our recommendations for lawn-care come from a perspective of creating a healthy natural ecosystem, not unlike a natural grassland or meadow. We add composts and manures, promote healthy soil and use fertilizers that actually feed the soil microorganisms first, who, in turn, feed the plants.  That is how it works in natural systems.  

    In spring, we aerate (poke thousands of holes) and top dress with Topper (a fine, mature compost) and add G&B Lawn Fertilizer (a slow-release organic fertilizer teeming with beneficial soil bacteria and fungi) that settles into the holes and feeds the soil.  We mow high (3-4") to allow more grass blade to photosynthesize and turn CO2 into carbohydrates that strengthen the grass plants and also to feed the soil microorganisms. The microorganisms are, in-turn, eating the organic fertilizer and lawn clippings and giving water, nitrogen and dozens of other macro and micro-nutrients to the plants while gladly gobbling the carbohydrates the plants are giving them.

    I HAVE occasionally used urea on my lawn, a very soluble and very powerful high-nitrogen fertilizer (46-0-0) that will green-up a lawn in 48 hours (or less).  When used carefully, it actually feeds the soil while directly feeding the plants (I've even added it to compost to speed the bacterial decomposition). Reecent studies show that an application of high N fertilizer late in summer (Fall in warmer climates) helps cool-season grasses (like ours) store energy in their crowns that help them survive long winters. Too much soluble fertilizer will kill the essential soil microorganisms, so be cautious.  I use urea at 1/4 of the recommended rate. 

    Slow-release chemical fertilizers are not the same as slow-release organic fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers have tiny nutrient molecules that dissolve in water and move wherever water goes, including down past roots and into our ground water. Organic fertilizers are made of ground-up organic materials like feathers, fish bones, and manures and they are enormous compared to nutrient molecules.  They cannot travel very far in the soil because they are just too big.

    In fall, we add BIOSOL to our gardens for spring and beyond (there are some immediately available nutrients as well).  Many clients have found that applying Biosol to lawns AFTER the soil freezes (early to mid November) helps deter voles from creating their runs under snow while devouring your turf. Biosol contains nearly 25% humic acids, mineralized organic materials. The best composts have humic acids that aid in building rich, healthy soils. 

    We LOVE BIOSOL. We use BIOSOL. We are very pleased to introduce the 12 Lb. Biosol Bucket.  These will be regularly 27.99 but through November (while supply lasts) they are 24.99. You can refill them for 20.00 when you run-out (...and the bucket keeps your Biosol dry).  The 50 Lb bags are still 59.99... of which we unloaded 8 more pallets (16,000lbs) last Thursday (...and 4 went straight to conscientious local landscapers).

    *When we use BIOSOL, we add some inoculant in the form of G&B Lawn (beneficial bacteria and fungi plus raw organic materials).  Biosol works as well as it does, in part, because it promotes soil biology so it works even better in our poor soils when we help reestablish microorganism populations. 

  • October 2015

    https://www.facebook.com/VillagerNursery  If you're not on our Villager newsletter list.  October specials: http://conta.cc/1PuK0Bw

    October is like April in some ways. It's a genuine gardening month and a chance to get a head-start with excellent sunny days and warm weather but it frequently turns to winter and on Halloween (like Easter) it's usually pretty hard on he kids. November, like March can go either way.  March has the advantage of longer days for getting hardy veggies going early but November has much warmer soil for keeping roots growing and the shorter days equate to less evapotranspiration and less stress on the above-ground portions of plants while root growth progresses in ernest.

    Plant bulbs now.  We hand select our favorites for their beauty, interest, persistence and repeat performance. Almost ALL of the bulbs we offer you are deer and rodent resistant perennials and we have bulbs that bloom in late February through bulbs that bloom in early August.  You can plant hardy spring-blooming bulbs any time between now and ... February but it's a lot more trouble planting them under several feet of snow or in frozen ground (both of which I've done... more than once). If you're considering planting wildflowers, remember to also plant wildflower-type bulbs and be sure to plant some 4"-pots of native wildflowers at the same time to really get a jump on establishment.

    Fall is for planting. Fall is NOT for pruning. I think the common misconception comes from the warmer climes of CA & the southwest where there really is no winter and fall and spring overlap in December and January (imagine pears with fall color and spring blooms at the same time as frequently happens there.) Woody plants store their winter reserves of food in their stems, branches, trunks and roots (plants are alive and respiring all winter). Fall pruning steals-away the energy they have saved.  Pruning cuts made on dormant wood in fall do not seal over and the fresh-cut tissues dry-out and die-back in our long winters.  There is also a much greater chance of infection from fungal disease when cuts are made in fall. Cuts made in late winter / early spring seal-over as top-growth begins (and the stored energy in the stems has been used to maintain vigor).  That said, if you have a funky branch that the snow is going to remove if you don't... absolutely, prune it now.

    We don't LOVE tree wrapping. We do it because it is inexpensive insurance against breakage and toppling in the first winter or two after planting and it can protect at-risk trees or shrubs for many years where snow is stored, thrown or shoved. It is best to prune well the first few years in order to develop plants that will tolerate our potentially very heavy snow-loads.  We'll have a couple more classes this fall / winter. Follow our Facebook page for far more frequent updates and information.

    Take advantage of the newsletter coupon for Biosol.  If you've never tried it, it is expensive, it smells and it's crazy-good for improving soil, feeding beneficial soil biology and for feeding plants over a very long period. We use it alternately (Biosol fall) with Dr.Earth or G&B fertilizers because they'll also inoculate your soils with fresh microorganisms. It's probiotics folks and it's been going on in farming for millennia.  The Sierras are only 3-4 million years old, an infant range, our rocks need a lot of help supporting plant life.  Oh, and please, don't forget to mulch, on top, to hold moisture, protect roots & microbes, and provide a long-term source of carbon for the soil.

    Indian Summer  (The Sweet-Spot for planting EVERYTHING!)
    Oct. Hours: Mon.-Sat.  9:50AM-5:00PM & Sunday10:00AM-4:00PM
    If you need help with products, plans, bids or consulting, please  contact us with your questions or for an appointment.  You can also call and leave a message at 530-587-0771


  • Late Season News / Sales / Coupon

    Check-out the most recent e-mail news with late season nursery sales and a Biosol coupon @ http://conta.cc/10TRZSk

    Check-out the Facebook page for more info and a Biosol give-away @ http://on.fb.me/1x6vLY


  • Extending Our Harvest Season

    Frost is imminent but you do not have to yield your still producing or ripening vegetables to it.   We LOVE our 1.5 oz. Frost Protection Fabric, a medium weight, breathable, permeable, UV treated spunbonded polyester fabric designed to protect crop plants from freezing, drying and extreme temperatures. Usually referred to as Floating Row Cover, it creates a warmer microclimate by capturing heat of the the day - and then slowing the loss of stored heat at night so it raises minimum temperatures, without suffocating, crushing or burning plants the way plastic could.  If days are warm, it is better to remove the fabric during the day and to cover well before nightfall.  Its light density and permeability allow air, water and sunlight through so plants can flourish beneath it even if left on for weeks.  Remember: there is no such thing as cold, just less heat.  The trick is to collect the day's heat and trap it for the night. 

     Protect tender flowers from the frequent the late frosts of spring. Even use it over apple trees and lilacs to save the buds (more). Use it in summer to protect plants from hail storms (leave it on for days).  Use it for flower boxes, vegetable gardens, row crops, fruit trees and flowering and fruiting shrubs (in a pinch, it can be used as filter fabric or a liner for moss baskets).

    In the past few years MANY gardeners, with full-sun gardens have been using the row-cover all summer (like a greenhouse cover) with excellent (actually far superior) results. The fact that the 1.5oz fabric cuts ~50% of the sunlight is more a benefit than a disadvantage in our high elevation gardens.

    In Autumn, your vegetable harvest time and blooming plant season can be extended by a month or more.  When it gets really cold, double up the layers and leave a string of C7 or C9 Christmas lights on around your plants at night.  We tested dozens of brands and weights and have been delighted with the durability and effectiveness of the one we now use.  Our bulk rolls are 12' wide by 300' long but we sell any length.  Our pre-cut packages are 12' x 10'.

    1.) Drape over the plants to be protected.  Support with stakes over (not touching) the plants if hard frost is expected.

    2.) Remove when weather improves. In early spring and late fall, garden plants thrive under the row cover for weeks on end.  After use, store out of direct sunlight (we use clean / new garbage cans to store ours... keeps out sun, rain and rodents).

    BTW, there is evidence to show that fertilizing your plants with seaweed gives them an extra measure of frost resistance (as well as providing micronutrients, improving flavors, strengthening stems and cell walls, and helping plants fight insects and diseases).  Kelp Meal, Maxicrop, etc... can be used ANY time of year. It is usually my first feeding of the year and often my last as well... (besides the BIOSOL on the lawn in November).

  • Thank Heaven, a little more winter!

    I'm not going to lie, the nursery has better "numbers" in drought years. It's not just because we ardently promote drought tolerant landscaping nor the fact that we are avid native plant promoters; it's just that our season is longer, the snow melts sooner, and people have more time to spend in their gardens.  That said... NONE of us at Villager want dry winters.  We love wildflowers and lush meadows and obviously fear the threat of fire.  So... we are happy that winter snows have made a nice late showing.  Himmel sei Dank für Schnee!

    I often explain to clients that tossing wildflowers, like hydroseeding, is termed "Spray and Pray" because we spread the seed and pray that weather conditions will be favorable for both germination of the seed and for seedling survival.  Folks that planted seed this Feb and March (my favorite time for s&p), should be delighted come May as the warmed soil combined with all this moisture are making for excellent wildflower success.

    And for real success... We received 8000lbs of Biosol this week, at the request of dozens of clients (before winter returned).  We have about 7400lbs remaining in case your garden melts-out.  We started-off loving all-organic Biosol for its apparent vole-repelling properties but have continued to use it vigorously because it makes vegetable gardens, trees, shrubs, perennials, bubs and, of course, lawns, lush, healthy and strong throughout the growing season.

  • Happy Halloween and Biosol is Back in Stock!

    We bring in tons of material late to encourage fall planting because it is GOOD FOR YOUand then we put much of it on sale to reduce our overwintering efforts.  Also, plants are always happier in the ground than in pots and WE LIKE HAPPY PLANTS.
    SO - until we finish putting plants away... in the next couple of weeks... the Final Sales are:
    ALL Outdoor Bulbs: 20% off* (*of ¢ or $/ea price),
    Hardy Trees* and Shrubs are 20% (*except spruce we JUST brought in for Living Christmas Trees).
    4' & Qt. Hardy Perennials are 50% off,
    ≥ #1g Hardy Perennials are 40% off,
    All the bagged composts, manures and potting soils are "buy 4-get 1 free",
    We have a pallet and a rack full of "orphan" plants of all sizes for cheap,
    Pottery over 14" dia. and all redwood planters: 30% off,
    Outside Garden Art: 30% off (gift ideas?)
    & Pumpkins are $3.99 (1 free to anyone under 6  from 10/28-10/31 while they last).  Happy Halloween.

  • Fall is in the Air, Nursery-Wide Sale 9/13-9/22 2013 !

    Fall is in the Air

    Nursery-Wide Sale 

    9/13-9/22 2013 !

    DETAILS: sale flier here and newsletter here

    "Seconds" - We're bringing out healthy plants with a crook or a sealing scar or a broken top that are not quite retail salable but will grow with compost and fertilizer. These orphaned plants are CHEAP!

    50% Off Fruit Trees is a SMOKIN’ deal!  Apples, Pears, Cherries, and worthy of their blooms alone, Hardy Apricot and Peach.

    20% off (and no tax) on prolific Currants, Gooseberries, Hardy Grapes, Raspberries and Blueberries and will produce more fruit per square foot than any other plant.  The JostaBerry and TastiBerry (gooseberry x currant hybrids) are specialty plants we grew specifically for Truckee.

    20% OFF Tough-as-Nails Trees and Shrubs - The whole LOT!

    75% Off Annual Color: Stock, Geranium, Cali, Petunia, Nasturtium, Tender Grasses, etc...

    40% Off Perennial Herbs and Vegetables like Thyme, Asparagus, Sage, Mint, Lovage, etc...

    50% OFF Packaged (not Villager brand) Seeds:  Lake Valley, Renee, etc..

    30% Off Bulk Wildflower Seeds: (not packaged) >4 oz.

    30% Bulk Grass, Pasture, Clover Seeds: (not packaged) >5 lbs.

    Bearded Iris $2.99 (reg 4.99)

    Hyacinth Bulbs for indoor or outdoor 10 for 8.99 (reg. 1.29ea.)

    Early Indoor Only Paperwhite Narcissus 10 for 9.99 (reg. 1.39ea.)

    Inside the store: 10% off fertilizers, repellents, pesticides, herbicides.

    Inside the store: 50% off Hydroponic specific nutrients and Indoor Lighting and Growing Systems.

    The newsletter has a coupon for $$$ of of Biosol.  Sign-up to receive VERY infrequent news and notices. Sign-up if you want the newsletter coupons.

    40% OFF Beautiful Hardy Flowering Herbaceous Perennials like Coneflower, Daylily, Sedum, Lupine, Daisy, etc........

    Buy 4, get 1 FREE  on Potting Soils, Manures & Bark

    30% OFF Redwood Planters & Trellis’

    30% OFF LARGE  Pottery

    30% OFF Outdoor Art

    Parking Lot “Orphan Plants” Clearance

    All sales limited to stock on hand and no double discounts. Discounts off regular retail prices....

  • "BIOSOL ! You can grow grass on a lift-tower with that stuff !"

    Biosol Forte Label.pdf

    Biosol MSDS.pdf

    Biosol Studies link


    Villager Nursery's FAVOITE fertilizer.  Biosol is our favorite winterizing fertilizer.  We use Biosol in the Villager Demonstration Gardens, and in all of our commercial and residential landscape projects.  Biosol helps Truckee Shrubs, Trees, Perennials and Bulbs thrive.  The Villager stocks Biosol year-round.  

    Biosol is an incredibly long-lasting fertilizer with amazing soil improving characteristics as well.  It is primarily cooked Penicillium that was cultured on and digested organic cottonseed and organic soybean meals.  It was essentially a waste product that was once used for aquaculture.  What it lacks in pleasant aroma (it lacks pleasant aroma) it more than makes up for in its amazing performance in ANY part of the garden.  

    Put Biosol on lawns in Fall.  Now.

    Biosol is an essential with any restoration, wildflower or lawn seeding.  Mix your grass and wildflower seeds with Biosol and Kellogg's Topper and broadcast just before we're expecting a huge snow.  So many folks over the years have said to us.."I know Biosol, we used to use it at (insert any ski area in the northern hemisphere here) and we swore you could grow grass on a lift tower with that stuff!"


    Here are a couple of pertinent links:

    Winterizing your Mountain Garden.pdf

    Tree Winterizing Instructions.pdf

    Tahoe Arts and Mountain Culture

    In spite of the moisture we received last week in the form of snow, the soils are still quite warm and this is the best time of year for planting.  The beauty of the snow (besides the literal beauty) is that it   s l o w l y  infiltrated our parched soils. It was a nice, slow, deeply penetrating watering.  Perfect for native and landscape plants to increase fall root-system expansion.

    October IS Planting Season.  Once the leaves fall, woody deciduous plants (trees and shrubs) begin expanding their root systems.  Our soils are warm, we'll get a little precipitation, the summer's worth of photosynthates are shuttled and stored in stems, trunks and roots. The root systems use this stored energy to grow. Most conifers ("evergreens") produce the majority of their root expansion very early in spring (March, April).  AND perennials planted THIS fall will rise aggressively larger and will grow and bloom in their appropriate seasons next summer.  We always remind clients that with perennials, you areplanting-for-NEXT-year, and when you plant in fall, you don't have to wait as long for spring. There is really no other time to plant bulbs so... for the next month... Dig, Drop, Done. Bulbs are the easiest perennial color in your garden.  We have a great selection of animal-proof Narcissus (every shape, size and bloom time) as well as wildflower-like alliums that are almost never touched by critters.  Bulb Class Hand-Out

    - If you missed the last newsletter, register for our occasional newsletters here for more specials coming soon.

  • Freeze-Drying Winter '11-'12

    January 2007 was similar to this December-January '11-'12. That cold dry year the ice skating was spectacular voles damage was minimal and many plants suffered.

    The process of preparing for winter in hardy plants goes something like this: Plants sense shortening days and cooling temperatures and produce chemicals to start the processes of dropping leaves or closing stomata (the holes they “breathe” through). Food is moved to the roots and important compounds in leaves are recycled and stored away. When freezing begins, water moves out of the cells and into the intercellular spaces (between the cells). This water freezes, but the cell’s contents, with higher concentrations of sugars and salts, have much lower freezing temperatures (like salt water or anti-freeze). As temperatures drop, more water moves out of the cells and solute concentrations in the cells increase, and freezing temperatures drop further. The cell membrane, which is inside the rigid cell wall, actually pulls away and makes room for the ice crystals between the cells.

    If temperatures drop too quickly, water cannot move out of the cell fast enough, ice forms inside the cells and in pores of the cell membrane. As you might imagine, jagged ice crystals inside the cells rip them apart and if enough cells die, the plant dies. This is damage we see frequently suffer in spring.

    This winter, before it finally began to snow, the days were sunny the nights were very cold, the north-east winds were blowing and several things happened.During the warmer sunny days, plant tissues warmed up enough to thaw and begin photosynthesis. Cells woke up and filled with water. At 3:00 PM in mid January, the warm afternoon sun had the plants thinking it was spring, just before the sun went down. The air temperatures were already below freezing and without the sun on the stems, leaves or needles, the temperatures plummeted and many plants suffered – This damage often shows-up as “freeze-cracking” , split bark or tissue damage on the southwest side of trees.

    In many other locations the dry wind and sub-freezing temperatures caused the ice between plant’s cells to sublimate (change from solid to vapor). When the ice around the cells was gone, the cell membrane was exposed and the little moisture remaining in the interior of the cells dried up – This is “freeze-drying”.

    This winter, some plants just dried-up. The soils became so dry that even roots died. I lost 2 of 7, 14 year-old currants. Sometimes there is no telling why some one plant dies and another survives. In the wild it is the same story, one manzanita is dead and 3 feet away another is fine and 12 feet further another is dead and so-on. It could have been one branch of a pine 30' away provided a few extra crucial minutes of shade in mid January or the one plant's roots just happened to be under a large rock... it is fascinating and frustrating at the same time.

    In home landscapes, many people may have saved their plants by watering in January and people with 3-4" of mulch throughout their garden suffered far fewer losses than most. NEVER underestimate the wonders of mulching.

    In the nursery, we lost huge numbers of plants in pots this winter. We tuck the plants together for the winter and put shade around them to trap snow but this winter they froze and dried. You cannot water a frozen container plant because the water freezes and suffocates the roots so we tried to lightly mist them and just raise the humidity but it was largely ineffective. We really need a cheap used snow-making gun for winters like this one (many larger nurseries in the mountain west have them.)

    We don’t have a huge variety of broadleaf evergreens that grow well here but there are a few. Manzanita, Huckleberry Oak, Live Oak and Ceanothus and Mt. Mahogany are some of our broadleaf evergreen natives. Many of these suffered this winter, especially those exposed to the north-east winds (see photo of fried manzanita and dead squaw-mat).  I have not seen damage on any Mountain Mahogany.

    I’ve also seen damage on Native Incense Cedar, Giant Sequoia, Lydia Broom, Hardy Holly, Hardy Rhododendron, Dwarf Alberta Spruce (it often suffers sun scald), Cotoneaster and Bear-Berry Manzanita.

    We are still waiting to see what has survived but many are pushing some new growth. Meanwhile, we've fertilized with Biosol and Dr. Earth and with seaweed to stimulate roots.

  • 35 Anniversary Customer Appreciation Sale

    35 Anniversary Customer Appreciation Sale 

    from the 10th to the 19th of September had some smokin' deals sign-up for the Newsletter to receive a notice of any future specials, sales, discounts, coupons or timely information about mountain gardening. Copy of recent newsletter here.

  • Papa's (Biosol's) Got a Brand New Bag


    Last night the first Biosol of the season arrived.  Actually that's not true.  We used to offer Biosol only in the fall because we were primarily using it to repel voles from lawns in winter (under the snow) and then we saw the results (in amazing lush and strong growth) and we started using it year-round with great success.  So we brought in a few pallets in May this year and we ran out so...  The first Biosol of the later part of the season has arrived and it has a cool new blue bag, great instructions and a BioPreferred label.  It is still the same mixture of bacterial and fungal mass - it has additional iron and calcium and a little more nitrogen that it may say and now it's in a pretty blue bag.

  • Voles in Mountain Gardens

    "Hi Eric- Just a quick question regarding those nasty voles that played havoc on a lot of our neighbors grass this year. I was nominated to email you from our homeowners association and ask what is the best procedure to use in getting the grass back to its original state. Should you rake the dead grass? Is there something to use to prevent this in the future? Any information you can give us would be appreciated.  Thanks" April 2010.  ...from our friend Susan.  She's the 5,343rd person to ask those questions this spring and there are many who ask every year.

    This will require more than a brief blog can cover so I'll put up a lawn-care info sheet in the next day or two.  (see reference).  Voles are not moles.  Moles eat insects.  Voles are not mice but they are called meadow-mice.  They look like hamsters or small gophers and are as destructive and far more numerous.Vole

    Voles are meat.  (Microtus montanus-Mountain Vole / Microtus longicaudus - long-tailed vole / Lemmiscus curtatus - Sagebrush Vole).  (See also lemmings) The role of a vole in the ecosystem  is to convert plant material into meat.  Every native and non-native carnivore in our forests, fields and skies eats voles.  Owls, hawks, ravens, eagles, herons, gulls, snakes, martins, weasels, badgers, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, and many more I'm sure, all eat voles. 

    Voles spend much of their summers in tidy runways through tall grasses, often near water but they are present everywhere. They are fast diggers and burrow underground but are happy to use tunnels left by moles, gophers or ground squirrels.  Voles love the condominium-like dwellings created in man-made rock walls.  The females mature to produce more voles in less than a month, up to three times a year and they have 4-8 pups in every litter.  They have the "highest reproductive potential" of any mammal. These two sites have loads of useful information:  U.C. Davis I.P.M.  or   Cornell / Clemson et. al The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management  Voles experience wide population fluctuations depending on predators and weather.

    Voles will eat just about any plant material, leaves, bark and roots. In winter, voles thrive, unmolested, in the subnivean environment (the world under the snow).  The longer the snow-cover the more they eat (we always say that when ice skating is good voles suffer). Under cover, voles burrow with ease through the granular snow at the soil surface.  They eat lawn grasses, perennials, bulbs, and the trunks of shrubs and trees when they bump into them.  Roses are a favorite food.  When our snows melt, the old tunnels, packed with vegetation become apparent.  maple, manzanita, rose

    There's not much you can do for a woody plant or perennial that's had it's roots eaten but lawns usually recover well.  Most of our parks and golf courses have voles, probably millions of them.  I'm not sure but several tens of thousands per acre would not surprise me at all.  (at some locations in Nevada, populations have been estimated as high as 25,000 voles/acre)

    The beauty of lawn as a ground cover is that it is durable and resilient. Bluegrass is, by far, the most aggressive weed we have.  It will spread underground during winter.  Voles USUALLY clip the grass very short without killing it so most of the time lawns recover from vole damage to look great by mid-May. We rake off the dead grass and pine needles so the lawn can see light and receive air, we top-dress with dark finished compost to absorb warmth, hold a little moisture and nutrition (Kellogg's Topper) and we give it a little water when it needs it.  As soon as you put down Topper, the lawn looks great.  The dark brown layer of mulch contrasts with the emerging green grass and you will FEEL better.  If there are spots that don't seem to be recovering by mid-May or within a couple of weeks after snow-melt, then go ahead and mix a little 80/20 lawn seed with Topper and Dr.Earth lawn food to sprinkle in those areas.  In the warmer days of May the perennial rye seed will germinate quickly while the bluegrass seed takes its time.

    I often put smoke bombs down the open vole holes before filling them with sandy topsoil.  Mousetraps beneith a piece of plywood over bricks and above their holes, baited with peanut butter has worked well.  The most effective trapping technique we've seen uses a bit of rain-gutter and mouse traps (Vole Trapping). Aeration of laws in late fall may be a deterrent.  The ONLY large-scale success I've seen in repelling voles from lawns is using  Biosol organic fertilizer in late fall.  Biosol is labeled as an organic fertilizer for every imaginable manner of crop, landscape and restoration work.  It is not a repellant. Ask any ski area revegetation specialist and he'll tell you that "you can grow grass on a lift-tower with Biosol".  For some reason, about eight of ten clients who use it according to the label have a significant reduction in vole damage.  And even when there is significant vole damage, lawns with a fall application of Biosol recover very quickly.  

    We had more plants eaten by voles and rabbits this past winter than we've ever had before.  Plants that we've always thought of as "immune" to voles were devoured.  I've got to run outside now to rake up a few more piles of grass and pine needles before the next set of snow storms.   Spring will be here eventually.

Contact Villager

Villager Nursery, Inc
10678 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161-4834
Central Truckee, exit 186 off I-80
(530) 587-0771

Founded 1975, Incorporated 1990

California Nursery License 1975
No. C 3976.001, Co.29CA
Contractors License 1977
No. 413907-C27 LS
ISA Certified Arborist: Eric Larusson
No. WE-7983A

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