Coping with Mice and Voles
Mice and voles eat seeds and newly germinated seedlings. The especially love those meaty seeds like peas, beans, corn, and squash. If you've planted seeds that just aren't coming up in the timeframe you expect, dig around where you planted them to see if they're even still there. If they're not there, or if new seedlings have been nipped off as if cut by scissors, the culprit could be mice or voles.
Rodents are so tricky! Farms across the country have been reporting larger mice and vole populations than usual. We've had a lot more vole damage at our farm too, and in our case milder winters are to blame. In organic farming, the use of poisons is prohibited because those poisons will make it up the food chain, into the bellies of birds of prey. As organic farmers, here are a few things we try to do that you could do in your garden as well:
1. Reduce habitat, especially overwintering habitat, in and around the garden. This includes things like leaf litter, compost heaps, pots, tarps, etc. that voles can shelter and nest in.
2. You can try to start more of your seeds indoors or in a greenhouse and give them a head start. Voles seem to love seeds and brand-new seedlings, but not taller and less succulent older plants. Even peas and beans could be started inside and transplanted if mice pressure was bad enough.
3. Over-plant, meaning plant more seeds than you need. This is our main strategy, especially with peas and beans. They can't get every seed, so over-planting ensures some will survive.
4. We have trouble with voles eating squash seeds. These we cover with a cup while they are sprouting as outlined in this funny yet informative video: https://www.youtube.
5. Create perches and nesting habitat for birds of prey like hawks, owls, and falcons as outlined in this wonderful guide from Oregon State University: https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/ec1641.pdf.