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Ides, voles and lemmings can destroy your garden

Ides, voles and lemmings can destroy your garden

Posted: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 8:00 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams

The Ides of March have, some years, a propensity toward ill. This is most often exhibited in those March winds which, in the extreme, bring death and destruction.
This year’s March ides, however, lapsed with hardly a ripple here, thank Heaven.
With my own inherent paranoia and fear of retribution for my many sins, I am looking over my shoulder as we speak for the sword of Damocles to fall in the form of that devil, the weather.
Remember the Easter freeze of 2007, when all-time lows were recorded three straight nights?
Every month has its ides. They occur on the 15th or thereabouts. March ides are the most noted, because of that famous quote at the hands of Shakespeare.
The Roman calendar, said to have been invented by Romulus himself, is no easier to decifer than Roman numerals. Quick now, give me the Roman numerals for 4,658,235.
At any rate, April ides are to be feared as ardently as any.
Why else is April called “the cruelest month?”
It is not unusual — in fact, is common — for a high pressure to ensconce itself to our north in mid-April and send northeasterly winds down its eastern flank, straight off the Bay of Fundy and right over our area.
These nor’easters hound everybody from fishermen to gardeners, to golfers to winter-bleached sunbathers.
The cruelty that April sometimes brings is not as severe as is often imagined.
When we are expecting 75 degrees, however, and it is 50 instead, it seems much colder.
My uncle, Bryant Williams, bought the only pair of insulated underwear he ever owned in Florida, of all places, when he and his brother-in-law, Virgil Clark, were on a winter golfing vacation. They expected just about that aforementioned 75 or 80.
Instead, a cold wind off the Atlantic kept temperatures at 50 something every day. He said he nearly froze to death before donning the insulation.
So, take it from Poor Willie and beware the ides of April.
It doesn’t take any ides, however, to deal death and destruction to your garden. To wit: the horrendous droughts of the past several years.
More to the present point, however, is the subterranean mischief wrought at the hands of underground herbivores.
Not moles, mind you (they are carnivores, living mostly on grubs), but voles and lemmings.
These little creatures are notorious for eating bulbs and roots of desirable plants. I have had a planting of 100 tulips wiped totally out during the course of a winter.
This winter and last, they have moved on to nandinas.
You (I) are walking over your garden and notice an awkward lean to a sizeable nandina. Giving only a slight tug, the top hamper comes right out of the ground, sans any root at all. Voles and lemmings, again. They have killed no less than 10 of my nandinas this winter alone.
It is difficult to ever see one of the things. They live underground, rooting around until they find some delicacy. Only at night do they appear above ground.
We used to have resident screech owls and they kept the numbers down, but they have moved on and the damage is increasing. Their presence is evident by exit holes, dime-size for voles and quarter-size for lemmings.
Voles are about three to four inches long and slender as a small cigar. Lemmings are a little longer, but far chunkier, and look like small gophers. They have more vociferous appetites than voles.
About the only remedy is poison. Rat poison in any form deposited in the holes will eventually get them. If pets are around, however, there is always the danger of accidental poisoning.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.

Published in The Messenger 3.27.12