They rarely eat plants, but moles create tunnels that give more destructive critters easier access to your flowers and vegetables.
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martha stewart perennial garden
Credit: Ngoc Minh Ngo

Although not the worst critter when it comes to garden pests, moles are a nuisance. The ground-dwelling mammal, which is recognizable for its hairless, pointed snout and tiny eyes, rarely eats plants but is known for tunneling and uprooting flowers and vegetables. The tunnels moles create in turn make way for more problematic creatures (think voles and mice).

Determining whether your outdoor space has been infiltrated by moles is as simple as looking out for "raised volcano-shaped swellings in your yard," says Greg Niewold, gardening expert and president of Power Planter, a third generation auger company in rural Illinois.

"They prefer moist, loamy soil and are most active in the early morning or evening in spring or fall," he adds. "They also come out after rain." If moles are indeed in your space, here's exactly how to get rid of them.

Use plants or water to repel them

If you're looking for a natural way to keep moles at bay, Niewold says to choose plants that will make your yard inhospitable to these creatures. "Daffodils, marigolds, alliums, fritillaries, mole plant, and castor beans deter moles from gardens," he says. "They grow quickly, reduce soil moisture, and reduce ground pests." But, beware of castor beans around your children and pets, they are poisonous, cautions Niewold. Additionally, you can sprinkle granular repellent products around your lawn or garden (look for natural varieties made from castor oil). With these methods, "over time, the moles will learn to find a new home," he says. "Just don't tell your neighbors!"

And if you already have a mole problem? Niewold says you can get them to scamper away with a bit of water. "Simply poke a hose into the hole, and turn the water on for 10 to 15 minutes," he says.

Create underground barriers

According to Niewold, the best defense against moles is a good offense. "Dig at least 12 inches underground and burry a mesh fence," he suggests, adding that the bottom of this fence should be bent away from your garden in the shape of an L; this will send moles scurrying in a different direction.

Try live trapping

Moles are small at about seven inches long and four ounces in weight, and live trapping is the most successful method for controlling then, says Niewold. "Traps are usually set in spring or fall when moles are most active, with early spring being the most favorable time—this is when females are pregnant," he explains. "There are several types [of live traps] available, all of which should be placed near active tunnels and especially where they are known to feed."

If you still spot a mole or two in your garden, take heart, says Niewold. Tunneling moles can aerate the soil around your property, allowing for better root health and growth in your lawn and garden. They also eat white grubs and other undesirable insects (grubs eat the roots of grass and turn into beetles, which feed on roses, hibiscus, and other plants). "Plus, they leave behind free fertilizer as they go!"

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