Papillon
Newly Registered
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Aug 17, 2008 12:46 am
Location: Spicer, MN

Something is eating all our potatoes - help!

We live in central Minnesota and tried to grow potatoes for the first time. They have been growing great and seemed to be generating an amazing harvest for us. About 1 month ago we started harvesting new potatoes and everything looked still perfect. Then slowly we started seeing some potatoes been chomped by little rodent teeth (just a guess based on the looks of the damage). This week I have been looking around the whole potato patch and it looks like now we have a potato disaster in our hands. Virtually every potato tuber has been chewed to some degree. Some entirely leaving just a little peel hanging form the vine, some have been eaten hollow leaving almost all the skin intact, and the rest of them have been eaten just from one side. We have not seen any unusually high number of rodents around - only a vole or two every now and then, but I never thought a couple of voles could do this kind of damage. I think we are talking about hundreds of pounds of lost potatoes.

Any ideas about what might have caused this? It is too late to do anything about this now, but we want to try to prevent this before next season. :cry:

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

So sorry about your spuds. :(

Give your county extension office a phone call on Monday. They're familiar with the critters in your area that eat potatoes underground: gophers? woodchucks? rats? special digging deer??? subterranean bunnies???

It may be necessary next year to take precautions (hardware-cloth lined raised bed?) against the varmints, but first it's necessary to identify them.

Good luck with the extension service!

Oh, a thought: maybe your county government website has a link? It's *just* possible (but not likely) that that website has a general advisory about varmints.

Good luck!

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

cgiglio01
Full Member
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:44 pm
Location: NY

voles eating potatoes

Hi,

I've been there! For the last two years I've had voles living in my compost bins! They ate my pole beans (they would nip the base of the plant and kill the whole thing. They also ate some of my potatoes. Little teeth marks on about 40 % of them. This year I did two things. Well nature did the 1st. Snakes! I found two snakes near the compost bin, both with big lumps in them...assuming it was one of the offending voles. I also got a battery operated stake that makes a high pitched beeping noise every 15 seconds. I haven't seen one since and I've had beans and potatoes this year with no teeth marks.

Other things that help get rid of the voles:
Keep weeds/grass very short around your garden so they don't have good cover when running around. I used straw mulch in the potato bed and that can be a negative since it acts as a cover for them as they travel in the garden. Also, encourage snakes, hawks, and natural preditors.

Good luck!

Papillon
Newly Registered
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Aug 17, 2008 12:46 am
Location: Spicer, MN

More advice needed please!

Time to awake the old topic again. The last season's tater terminators were confirmed definitely voles. And yes, they destroyed most of our potato harvest. We trapped about 15 of the little beasts, but there seems to be hundreds of them around our acreage. in another six weeks it is time to plant again, but we still have not found any solution to prevent the same from happening again. We also have several garter snakes living in our yard and several owls and hawks who seem to be catching couple voles every day, but considering the apparent level of infestation it probably won't make any difference.

Now we need good advice. Does anyone know how to prevent the vole damage to potatoes?

cgiglio01
Full Member
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:44 pm
Location: NY

voles and potatoes

Hi,

So far so good with my beeping stake and the batteries lasted all through the winter. The voles are gone. If you don't have luck with that, you could go another way...physically blocking them from getting to the potatoes. You could get 1/2 inch hardware cloth and put it right around your whole potato bed. Dig down 5 inches, place the fencing and wrap it around the whole bed. Or, do you have raised beds? A wood or stone wall around the bed might do the trick? Might seem like a drag, but sounds like that's the only way to keep them out?

Papillon
Newly Registered
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Aug 17, 2008 12:46 am
Location: Spicer, MN

Sorry, ignored to mention that we tried your advice on these beeping sticks as well last summer. Bought two of them and they made absolutely no difference. A couple of times I could watch a vole run around the sticks almost touching them.

Anyway, some "new" things we are considering for this season:
- No straw cover on potatoes. Last year we used straw to save us from weeding the rows, but supposedly it also gave voles a nice opportunity to hide under.
- Enclosed glue traps
- If there is any way to poison them without hurting our favorite "pets" (praying birds and snakes) we would probably try it but I doubt there is.
- All your latest new suggestions: maybe we make one raised bed and one with hardware cloth and report the results back later. So you think 5" is deep enough to stop voles? How about the raised beds then, how high walls would stop the beasts? It seems that they could easily climb on rough cut lumber??

I love eating freshly dug potatoes and I have finally a perfect soil to grow them, so I am going to make it work no matter what. So everyone, more ideas please I will try them all and report back during the season what seems to work or not.

Papillon
Newly Registered
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Aug 17, 2008 12:46 am
Location: Spicer, MN

Unfortunately here in central MN our wildlife (redtail hawks, great horn owls, foxes, coyote) are not very compatible for keeping an outdoor cat.

cgiglio01
Full Member
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:44 pm
Location: NY

more potato ideas

Hi,

sorry, the beeping stick didn't work.

I also moved the bed last year, to the farthest bed from my compost bins (where they were residing), maybe that confused them a bit. And I exposed all their trails (removed weed, leaves), they don't want to be seen from above.

I just saw these on the Gardeners Supply site: https://www.gardeners.com/Potato-Bin/36-629,default,pd.html

You grow the potatoes in a porous bag, maybe you can do that right in the garden? Also, not sure about the 5 inches down with the hardware cloth, but "cynthia_h" mentions lining the whole bed with the hardware cloth. So you'd have to dig up all the dirt, lay the cloth, then fill it back in, then wall it up with the cloth. That would definitely do the trick, but sounds like a pain for sure.

Sorry, I know how frustrating those little buggers can be. Good luck!

tntrouse
Full Member
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 6:53 pm
Location: Lincoln, NE

To veer in a completely different direction, have you considered trying potatoes in a trash can? This above-ground method would ensure the little buggers weren't able to get your crop. If you're not familar with the procedure, just google it and you'll find tons of examples.

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