Rodent Wars: la segunda ola

Rodent Wars: la segunda ola

Back in October the Freedom Farm permaculture veggie garden came under major attack from mice (You can read about that here).

Our defences were tested but we fought back, and the combination of homemade chilli spray, high frequency noise maker and hungry campo cat have successfully protected the rest of the plants.

Now it’s time for the second wave. The areas of the garden that have been most heavily preyed upon by mice need to be replanted, and this time I intend for them to form part of our defences. Instead of planting them up with young and tender baby plants that I have raised up from seed, I’m planting that area with slightly more mature specimens and with a focus on stinky things mice don’t like. We’ve got mint, rue, marigolds, and a few small courgette plants that I had lying about in the nursery. It’s a bit of a hodge-podge but when you’re dealing with infestations of any kind a more varied selection of plants is more resilient than when they’re all the same.

This is a great opportunity to have a look at the way our hugel mounds are working. This particular mound, which was featured in my previous post, is 1.5 years old. The core is made from rotting hardwood logs, olive and almond, that we had on our property. Since last winter it has been covered in horticultural fabric to keep the weeds down but for the moment I’m going to keep the fabric off and let it breathe.

Munched by mice.

The middle and top layers are mostly the same stuff, layers of animal manure, soiled straw, olive leaves, and a bit of everything else. Usually with hugel mounds you would put a layer of topsoil on the top of the mound, but we don’t really have that luxury as our soil is heavy clay. In this situation you could buy in topsoil, but we’ve chosen not to do that, just to be patient and build our own.

At a first glance the mound doesn’t look very impressive, especially without its horticultural fabric – more like a hairy lump than anything else.

However, when you open up the mound what you find inside is a well rotted hummus that is completely different from the hard compacted clay that surrounds it.

It is enough to simply make a pocket with your trowel, pop in your your plant, and then tuck it in using the surrounding straw.

Let’s hope this stinky bed will be unattractive to mice and a great new home for these homeless plants that have been kicking about hoping to be planted somewhere.

It looks a bit sparse right now but we’ll add to it and follow its progress over the next few decades and see how it grows.
A hugel mound in action.
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