Q: There are so many mole runs in the yard this year. What can we do to get rid of them without using chemicals or killing them?
A: Following are a few ideas of how to rid your property of them safely — maybe not always successfully, but safely. Also, I've included the last resort suggestion at the end:
• Moles are active day and night throughout the year, but once the soil thaws in spring they become more active near the earth's surface which explains all those runs you and a lot of us are seeing in our lawns and gardens.
• Most of their activity is in the early morning during the spring when the soil is soft and damp from the dew or after rain showers. But don't be fooled, they may also be at work day or night according to how busy your property is with children, you in your garden, pets roaming around in the morning hours.
• When hot dry summer weather arrives, they go to burrows that they've made that are deeper (and cooler) in the ground.
• Their nests are four to 16 inches below ground, and will probably be in protected areas under such things as trees, stumps, large rocks, even fence rows.
• Nests can be identified as slight enlargements of the tunnel and these are padded and made comfortable with grass and leaves. They forage for food from the nest areas which explains some of the winding, crisscrossing runs you are finding on your property.
• Since their nests are in protected areas, trapping them along those borders is often successful.
• If you decide to use mole traps it will require patience since you will be working by feel so be careful to follow the directions to the letter and success just might be yours.
• Many folks use grub bait on the lawn thinking that if we eliminate grubs from our lawns and gardens the moles will go elsewhere. Grubs as it turns out is only a small portion of what moles eat. They also like earthworms and other animals that live in the soil.
• Since you indicated you didn't want to use the harsh methods such as spearing the little guys there is another non-toxic method that might work for you.
• With your shovel, locate the nest if you can, then shove the blade of the shovel into the run blocking the moles ability to get back into the nest after foraging.
• Some mole hunters get so good at this, they are able with another shovel to see movement of him trying to get back in and scoop the little guy right out of the ground.
• Some folks have dogs and cats that help eliminate moles. They see the movement and smell their musk and dig them right out of the ground. If you find you have such a dog, let him or her run the area and see how it goes.
• Maybe the best way to eliminate them if you have a lot of mole activity every year would be to locate and block the soil with fencing planted deeply along those fence rows and other areas so they can't build their nests.
• There are of course toxic chemicals on the market. Also methods of all sorts that some homeowners have tried that were mainly unsuccessful but many of which were harmful and dangerous for an untrained person to use.
• Rather than try any of those suggestions from a friend or neighbor, I would recommend hiring a professional and letting them handle it safely.
Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. She also answers gardening questions with horticulture educator Ricky Kemery noon-1 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday of each month on "The Plant Medic," a radio show on 95.7fm. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel.