Voles, or meadow mice, are small brownish rodents that feed on landscape plants and vegetable gardens. They also chew the bark of fruit trees at or just under the ground, an activity that can eventually kill the tree. Their populations can increase rapidly, which may result in substantial damage to gardens and trees. While total elimination may not be achievable, there are several do-it-yourself things the gardener can do to control the problem.
Fruit trees and small plants can be protected by placing a barrier around them. The barrier can be made of any material that the vole can't easily chew through, such as plastic, hardware cloth or sheet metal. Large soda bottles with both ends cut off can be placed over plants, but must be buried about 6 inches into the ground to prevent subsurface feeding. Fencing can also be used. It can be relatively short -- voles are poor climbers -- but must also be partially buried.
Trapping with regular "snap" mousetraps can be an effective means of control if the population is not large. Voles live mainly in burrows, but use runways through thick cover to reach feeding spots. Placing unbaited traps perpendicularly across the runway will kill voles as they run across it. Traps baited with peanut butter can also be placed near the openings of burrows. Trap an area until no more voles are caught and then alter the habitat so they don't return there.
Baiting with an anticoagulant is useful for larger outbreaks. A waterproof tube about 5 inches long and 2 inches wide makes an excellent bait container. It keeps the bait dry and prevents non-target animals from taking the bait. Anticoagulants are available at co-ops and hardware stores. The voles must feed on the bait for five days, so this can be a time-consuming procedure. Place bait in the runway or near burrow entrances.
Voles prefer heavy vegetation as cover. Removing this cover will help reduce the population. Additionally, keeping grass closely mowed will discourage voles from crossing yards. Voles dislike feeding in the open, so clearing areas around trees and plants is also effective. Generally, the wider the cleared area, the more effective it will be. Tilling is also effective in clearing cover, destroying burrows and runways and establishing a buffer area.