Directions for the Gardiner: On Moles and Worms
Maggie Campell-Culver is a contributing editor to The Oxford Companion to the Garden, and is the editor of OUP’s forthcoming edition of Directions for the Gardiner and Other Horticultural Advice, which was written in the late 17th century by John Evelyn. In the post below, Maggie Campell-Culver gives us some tips for dealing with moles, the 17th century way.
If one is plagued with mole hills appearing in the garden, feelings towards the dear little furry creatures who make them are out of all proportion to their appeal or size – a sort of explosive hatred overtakes one and you could quite easily kill them with your bare hands!
There is something almost mythical about moles. All you see is the huge eruptions either covering a lawn, or travelling along the edge of a bed (ours here in Brittany seem particularly to enjoy edges), never a sight or sound of the animal itself. So how is that John Evelyn never mentions moles in any of his horticultural manuscripts?
Is it because they were not so numerous during the 17th century, or that gardeners were more tolerant of the havoc caused by their under-mining’s? Or was it rather more sinister than that? Worms are mentioned in Kalendarium, Directions for the Gardiner, and even in Acetaria, and it is their destruction which I think holds the clue to a mole free life.
A mole weighs about 80 grams (3½ ounces) and a worm approximately 6-12 grams (¼-½ ounce). A mole needs to eat some 50 grams of worms a day, which means that one mole consumes some 5 to 8 worms a day. That really adds up over a year.
John Evelyn recommends that from February through to August worms should be gathered ‘in the evening after rain’, which sounds like a more diverting evening than watching television. In August the big guns enter and Evelyn states that a concoction of tobacco leaves macerated in water should be sprinkled about to destroy both weeds and worms which he succinctly writes ‘should cure them for years’.
So now we know the answer to having a mole-free garden – kill the worms!