Soil and Mouldywarps

Moles at work!

Mouldywarps at work!

You can see who’s been busy at work round here at the moment, the tow path looks like a dot-to-dot puzzle right now.  I can understand why, if you have a neatly trimmed lawn you might not welcome these little visitors. I’d be lying if I said I never daydream of pottering about my beds of roses and perennials surrounded by a sea of perfectly tickled turf, but I can’t help admiring these industrious little creatures either.

Moles are members of the Talpidae family, in old English they were known as Mouldywarps, a fantastic name don’t you think?  It derives from the Norse, ‘muld’ meaning soil and ‘varp’ meaning throw.  They are, of course, after worms which apparently they can paralyse with toxins in their saliva, this enables them to save their dinner for later on.  They store the worms in special larder burrows.  Moles do not eat plant roots although their activities can sometimes disturb them.

What I admire moles for, however, are the beautiful little mounds of perfectly crumbly, fine friable soil they create.  I’m going to experiment with these and shovel them up into containers in which I might try growing  carrots as these would struggle in our soil.  I might also fill a few seed trays and see what results I get, it will save on buying (and inevitably lugging) large bags of compost.

Our soil before

Our soil before

For the time being I’m prepared to share the love (and the worms) with these little creatures but if they’re really getting to you there are now a number of environmentally friendly repellent devices you can use to keep your grass molehill free.  My favourite are the solar powered sonic devices which you just stick in the ground, they don’t harm the moles but the sonic waves do deter them from mining on your patch.

Our soil after

Our soil after

While I was busy taking pictures of molehills I was prompted to take a look at our soil.  As you can see it’s not quite in the playdough league but it does form a reasonably pliable lump.  It most probably is in the silty, clayish loam category.  It is good nutritious stuff, the main problem is that it is just so wet and cold for much of the year.  Obviously we can improve texture and drainage by digging in lots of compost, especially once my blue bins start doing their stuff, but I think we can wave goodbye to lavender and any other plant that complains about wet feet!   I had to pay Goldilocks 50p to pose with our soil, it’s a good job the nearest sweetshop is a two hour round trip!

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