Rats are every gardener’s nightmare. These unwanted critters are not only difficult to trap; they also breed fast and destroy plants with vengeance. The upside is, with a few measures, you can get rid of rats in your garden. Read on for practical tips you can implement starting today.
Some basic tools you will need to remove rats from your garden are:
- Hardware or mesh cloth
- Rodent-proof containers
- Rodent-proof construction materials
- Large metal bins for trash and composite storage
How to keep rats out of the garden
Rats thrive where there is food, water, and a place to hide. Eliminate these three things and you will quickly reduce the rat population in your garden. Try these tips:
1. Remove fruit and vegetables off the ground
Ripe and fallen fruit, veggies, and nuts provide rats with an easy feed. Leaving produce on the ground to decompose will attract rats from neighbouring areas in addition to the ones in your garden.
Avoid giving these pests easy access to food by regularly picking up produce off the ground and storing safely in the house or a rodent-proofed shed.
2. Make your compost area inhabitable
The garden compost pile is another major prime source of food for rodents. Rodents eat vegetables but they thrive on animal protein and fat. A purely vegetarian compost pile will not feed a huge rat family. But, throwing fats and meats into the pile will attract rats overnight.
The compost pit is a crucial part of your garden’s ecosystem as it is a rich source of manure. Keep a close eye on the compost area and if possible, cover it with a tight-fitting rodent-proof lid.
Try installing chicken wire underneath the composite pile to make it hard for rats to access. Like other pests, rats do not like distress so try turning the pit regularly to make this area less familiar and uncomfortable.
Rats can be vectors of serious diseases such as leptospirosis. If your compost has a rat infestation, it is best not to use the manure on fruits and vegetables that you plan on consuming.
You should also be careful with your trash bags. We recommend placing these in metal bins instead of leaving them out in the open where the decomposing food scraps can attract rodents.
3. Avoid feeding other animals
Rats will be attracted to scraps of food meant for birds and other pets in your household. Cat and chicken litter as well as dog faeces are also a delicious diet for rats. Try feeding your pets during daylight so you can see and get rid of any food scraps.
Be sure to also remove uneaten food immediately and store pet food in containers with a tight lid. Clean after your pets to not only keep your garden comfortable and hygienic but also to starve rats of the pet faeces that they so love.
A common belief is that wild cats can help to deter rats but in a garden with a large rat colony, cats can only do so much. Rats breed and multiply rapidly with a single female breeding a dozen pups a couple of times a year. Meanwhile, a cat might only catch one every other day and will not help much with controlling the rat population.
4. Eliminate hiding spots
Rats thrive in warm hidden areas and a garden full of bushes, grass, and plants is the perfect habitat. Due to their poor eyesight, rats use whiskers to explore their surroundings and depend on props such as walls and curbs to get around.
To keep rats away, trim your plants at least 20 inches from walls and other structures in the garden such as fences and buildings. Trim tree branches and the undergrowth of bushes to keep rats from hiding under there.
Without any sprawling vegetation to hide under, rats will feel too exposed to predators and will not want to stick around your garden anymore.
If you have things like garden tools, wood, and other paraphernalia stored at a corner of your garden, consider placing these on a raised platform about 15 inches above the ground to keep rats from hiding under the warm pile.
5. Place barriers on their usual pathway
Rats travel along a straight line and leave noticeable smudge marks for other rats to track and follow. The rodents will notice any unusual barriers or disruption to their usual pathway and will avoid that area.
One way to do this is to pour vinegar along the rat tracks to deter them. Biodegradable soap can also serve as a substitute to scare away garden rats.
Alternatively, you could install a mesh cloth along the foot of walls or fences up to 15 inches deep into the ground to keep rats from digging holes. Rats can burrow holes up to 6 inches deep but the presence of the cloth barrier will deter the rodents as they don’t usually want to spend too much energy creating a home.
6. Remove sources of water
Rats need water to survive. Garden creeks, taps, hosepipes, and ponds offer ideal breeding grounds for these pests. If possible, eliminate non-essential water sources and solve drainage problems that can cause flooding and stagnation.
7. Trap and poison
Ideally, you should not have to use pesticides in your garden but if you have a rat infestation, trapping and poisoning might be the best option.
You can use either a live trap or a snap trap, or opt for rat poison—each of these options has its pros and cons.
Poison is very effective at getting rid of a rat colony but the poison can be a problem if you have pets and children and if you plant fruit and veggies for consumption.
Live rattraps take a little longer to work because rats are very good at avoiding new barriers. The trap will work as soon as the rat gets used to it but you will still have to kill the rat yourself.
It also takes some time before capturing rats using a snap trap but the good thing is that the trap will kill the pest instantly.
Cutting out any sources of food and water will go a long way in ridding your garden of rodents. However, general maintenance of the surrounding environment will prevent subsequent rat infestations. Here are a few extra tips:
8. Maintain basic hygiene
A cluttered garden shed or nearby garage is a sure way to attract and house rodents. Try to keep any storage spaces clean and organized. Be sure to store all food items in rodent-proof containers as well.
9. Update decking with removable panels
Decking is a nice way to spruce up your garden from where you can enjoy your meals. But, rats will easily hide and breed underneath the platform feeding on food scraps. Consider replacing fixed panels with removable ones so you can regularly inspect underneath.
10. Learn how to track rat pathways
To effectively deal with a rat infestation, it is a good idea to figure out where these rodents are coming from and to identify their habitat. Rats can dig many deep holes in the ground with each hole housing as many as 12 rats at a time.
The easiest way to track a rat’s pathway is to use fluorescent dust. Just sprinkle this non-poisonous dust along walls and fences and at night, use a UV torch to inspect the trail of fluorescent dust to check the rat’s activity. This will point you to holes and other areas in the garden where the rats might be living then you can take the necessary measures to get rid of them.
11. Block access pipes
From broken airbricks to service pipes, holes in the garden shed, and gaps under doors, rats will squeeze through any access point to get far away from human contact.
If there is an easy way for rats to get in the house and out into the garden and vice-versa, getting them under control will be quite difficult.
So, you want to block all areas that provide a passageway for the rats to move in and out of the garden. Use sturdy, long-lasting material that the rats will not easily gnaw on.
Rats can wreak havoc on your treasured garden and an infestation can feel overwhelming. We recommend that you first identify their hiding places then take action to block any points of access.
More importantly, you should eliminate food and water to prevent subsequent infestations. Maintaining overall hygiene will help to keep rats and other rodents at bay.
Have you dealt with a rat infestation in your garden before? How did you go about it? Let us know in the comments below!