Fall is optimum tree- and shrub-planting time. Planting instructions usually end with the advice to water the new tree or shrub well and then apply an even layer of mulch to conserve soil moisture and regulate soil temperatures. This is great advice—except for when you're planting in a garden with voles.
Voles are small mouse-like animals that enjoy eating many kinds of vegetation. They will gnaw on the bark of young trees and shrubs, creating damage that can leave the plant prone to diseases and stress.
To help prevent vole damage to newly planted trees and shrubs, avoid mulching right up to their trunks or stems. Leaving the ground bare will discourage shy, timid voles because they prefer to tunnel under mulch instead of moving out in the open where they are easily preyed upon by larger mammals and hawks.