Rats are every avid gardener’s worst nightmare. These pests have a habit of damaging fruit, vegetables, bulbs, plants, shed doors and wires, and also burrowing into your good soil.
They pose an even greater risk, though, as they are also capable of spreading a number nasty diseases. And they can eat away at your compost and even at times find a way to get into your house to search for extra food.
While spring-back rat-traps and poison are the traditional methods for getting rid of rats, they can often do more harm than good, because there’s always the chance native wildlife, pets and small children could ingest the poison. They also offer only a temporary fix by getting rid of a problem rat or two, rather than fixing whatever it is that attracted the,
Always look out for rat signs in your garden like upturned earth, half-eaten fruit and pellet-like droppings so you can deal with the problem quickly with these deterrent methods.
Keeping your garden clean and tidy is the first step you can take to deter rats. By removing weeds and trimming plants there is less cover for rats to hide under. This will make your garden less attractive to a rat that needs a a safe hiding spot.
Make sure you pick your fruit and vegetables regularly and get rid of any over-ripened or spoiled fruit. Old fruit left in the garden is the perfect food source for a rat and will attract them to your garden again and again.
Sealing gaps and blocking nooks and crannies in external walls is also important for both protecting the inside of your home from rats and minimising sheltered areas for the rats to nest in.
What makes rats such an annoying problem for gardeners is that they love burrowing into garden beds and feasting on the roots and bulbs of certain plants. In particular, they enjoy the stem bases of well-established, mature plants, with parsley, silver beet and beetroot being particular favourites.
To stop rats from doing this, you can use a layer of netting just under the soil to prevent them burrowing. This is a lot harder in a well-established garden as you will have to cut holes in the netting to accommodate the plants that are already present.
For a new garden bed, it’s a great solution. Lazy rats will often give-up once the netting is installed. A particularly determined rat will, however, chew though the lattice and continue establishing its tunnel network, so will require further deterrent methods.
Rats react to scents they do not like so place a few homemade scent bombs around the yard to deter them from returning.
To make the bombs, try dipping some cotton balls into a peppermint concentrate and placing them around the garden. You can also use a mixed solution of 1/4 glass of water and one glass of ammonia and place this liquid in open containers in problem areas.
This is one of the best ways you can stop rats from returning to your garden. Rats need three things to survive: water, food and shelter.
Take care to make sure your outside bin lids are closed and secure, as the scent of rotting leftovers is sure to attract rats as well as a number of other pests.
If you have a composting container, make sure it’s secure, especially at night when rats tend to come out and feed. Rats love compost so it’s important to be vigilant and make sure you bury your organic materials deep within your composting bin.
Rats also love snacking on bird seeds and pet food. To stop them consuming food for birds, you can buy possum-resistant bird feeders that are also effective in stopping rats.
An easier way to stop this problem is clearing away the bird seeds at the end of each day. You can even bring your bird feeder in at night to take away the food source completely.
As for pet food, you simply need to be vigilant and clean out your pet bowls before it’s dark. Rats will have a go at pretty much any food, even crunchy pet biscuits, so it’s important to remove these at night. Your pet may need to adjust to the new feeding routine to allow you to do this.
As for water, rats love anything that pools water. This can include bird baths, empty pots, water bowls, containers and water from dripping taps, so put your empty pots away and try to remove as many sources of water you can find.
Understandably, you may need to leave pet water bowls out, but if you eliminate the food and shelter sources in your backyard it’s unlikely the rats will choose your backyard as their home anyway.
Everyone knows rats hate cats, and they hate catnip as well. Planting catnip strategically around your garden will deter rats from making their happy home in your garden.
If you own a cat it will welcome the addition of the plant, but be warned that catnip is known to attract cats – they enjoy rolling around in it, playing with it, chewing on it and rubbing up against it – so it could result in a few trampled-on garden beds or droppings from neighbourhood pets and strays. It is up to you whether you want to take this course of action!