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A Disappointing Harvest

October 27th, 2010

Last Thursday when we went to my parent’s house I harvested our sweet potatoes. It was a disappointing harvest because the voles had chewed on almost every single sweet potato, especially the nice big ones. They pretty much ate through our entire crop, which was really nice this year because of the hot summer.

Since sweet potatoes will cork over their wounds, I think managed to save enough that we’ll be able to enjoy them on Thanksgiving. Sadly sweet potatoes won’t be on the menu much this winter.

Have you had trouble with voles eating your harvests?

16 Comments to “A Disappointing Harvest”
  1. kristin @ going country on October 27, 2010 at 8:21 am

    No voles, but our potatoes were in the ground too long after they were ready to be harvested and worms of something got into most of them. They’re still usable, but I have to cut away a lot of each potato. Irritating.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  2. Dave on October 27, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I despise voles! Their holes are all over the yard and I suspect they’ve nibbled on the roots of many of my vegetables.

    Reply to Dave's comment

  3. MAYBELLINE on October 27, 2010 at 10:17 am

    I had never even heard of voles until recently. Clearly, I have much to learn.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  4. Amy @ Homestead Revival on October 27, 2010 at 10:44 am

    I don’t have voles, but gophers and ground squirrels. They do just as much damage. I caught on to their antics early enough in the summer and I purchased Mole Max and sprinkled it around – basically this is a granular form of castor oil. It doesn’t kill them, but rather repels them because you water it in and it is a bit oily and they don’t like it. So I lost some potatoes in the beginning, but then the critters packed up and left. So far they have not returned, but since it’s my first time using this product, I’m not sure how long it will last. In the meantime, I brought home 3 additional kittens to work the area.

    Reply to Amy @ Homestead Revival's comment

    • Susy on October 27, 2010 at 11:42 am

      Last year we had castor beans planted in the garden which is supposed to repel them. I must remember to plant them again next year.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Denise on October 27, 2010 at 11:22 am

    what is a vole?

    Reply to Denise's comment

    • Susy on October 27, 2010 at 11:43 am

      A vole looks like a mouse, but burrows underground like a mole. They are often mistaken for mice or moles. They eat roots of plants and your veggies. Often people think moles are eating their crops, but it’s actually voles and not moles since moles mainly eat worms and grubs.

      here’s a link for info & photos:

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. amy manning on October 27, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I’ve had voles or gophers eating my potatoes. Haven’t harvested the sweet potatoes yet, so I can’t say if they’ve eaten them. Would like to hear about any pest control remedies if anyone knows of any.

    Reply to amy manning's comment

  7. Karen on October 27, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    So sorry for your loss. We built a vole box like in Eliot Coleman,s book and
    that helped our vole problem. We also had a black snake in the garden lurking around too. Yikes! Summer pests.

    Reply to Karen's comment

    • Patrice Wassmann on October 28, 2010 at 6:36 pm

      The black snake is great garden friend!! It eats the voles! Learn to love snakes!

      Reply to Patrice Wassmann's comment

  8. Ginger on October 27, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Voles or gophers ate all of our beautiful beets this summer.

    Reply to Ginger's comment

  9. Patrice Wassmann on October 28, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Yes, Little buggers got into our potatoes. They didn’t damage all of them fortunately. I guess I need a few more cats….

    Reply to Patrice Wassmann's comment

  10. Richard Loader on November 1, 2010 at 4:01 am

    Voles! – a major problem in my UK garden. I’m sure we have literally hundreds of them and they are very damaging to Carrots, Beets, Potatoes, Parsnips, Peas (the stems) and sometimes Squash.

    I’m sure they are responsible for a lot of damage that Mice and Rats used to get blamed for. They even cause problems establishing young trees because they undermine the roots and cause them to dry out.

    I have to grow at least double most root crops to ensure I get enough for me and to feed the Voles.

    We run a wildlife friendly garden and I’m waiting for the Owls to get control of the Voles but they don’t seem to make much impressions. We have Vipers in the garden but they only eat a few Voles a year.

    Voles are a big problem for me – interesting that it’s a problem in the US too.

    Reply to Richard Loader's comment

    • Susy on November 1, 2010 at 9:07 am

      I always hope a big black snake will move in. I found a baby a year ago (which means mama is nearby) but I have yet to see a big one.

      I think Miss Mama is doing a fine job here in our garden, my mom’s garden is a different story. I’m sure part of our problem was the hot dry summer.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. Harvesting Carrots in Winter | Chiot's Run on January 4, 2011 at 4:47 am

    […] voles in The Winter Harvest Handbook. This was the first year we’ve ever had trouble with voles, remember my sweet potatoes? They also ate a lot of my winter beets and were moving in to the carrot patch. I was planning on […]

    Reply to Harvesting Carrots in Winter | Chiot’s Run's comment

  12. […] Last winter I found some ‘Hawaiian Sweet’ purple sweet potatoes at the farmer’s market. I purchased a few, some to eat and some to use for growing slips. I cooked a few for eating, they were good – much different in taste than a regular sweet potato. They have more of an earthy flavor than the regular sweet potato flavor. This spring I put a few of them in water to start growing my slips. Starting your own sweet potato slips is quite easy. All you have to do is place sweet potatoes vertically in a jar of water and wait. You want the bottom of the potato in the water and the top out of the water. Ideally you want at least 2 inches of the potato out of the water. Use some of the nicest potatoes from the previous year’s crop, none that are shriveled. Place the jar in a warm spot, sweet potatoes prefer warmth since they’re tropical plants. Change the water occasionally to keep it fresh. Once the vines are about five inches long pick them off and put them in water. One potato will produce a lot of slips. You can keep pinching them off and more should form. They’ll sprout roots quickly and you can plant them in the garden when the soil warms. Around here that means around the first of July. There’s no need to hurry to get them in the soil early as they’ll languish if the temperatures are too cool, especially at night. Ideally you want to start your slips about 12 weeks before planting outside. I didn’t think these potatoes were ever going produce slips, they sat in their jar of water for about 6 weeks. Just about the time I was going to compost them I noticed a few little buds forming. I have since read that purple sweet potatoes take much longer to sprout. I’ll be planting these along with a few other heirloom varieties that I purchase from Sand Hill Preservation. Let’s hope we can keep the voles out of them this year! […]

    Reply to Grow your own sweet potato slips | Chiot’s Run's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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