Although we mostly think about insects at the mention of garden pests,rodents are the curse of many gardens.
Rats and mice not only destroy your hard work by eating plants in the garden, they can also infect your garden with several pathogens. Salmonellosis, for instance, can be spread by rat faeces in or near vegetable gardens. They can make their homes under decking, in sheds or greenhouses, and even in compost heaps.
Look for the following signs:
· Plants disappearing overnight: New plantings, seedlings, and sprouts often disappear overnight without a trace. Rats and mice disturb plants from below,often pulling at the roots or gnawing at them from below.
· Droppings:Rats, mice and other creatures leave their droppings behind. Rodent droppings look like black grains of rice.
· Tunnels in the ground: Rats, mice and other rodents often carve tunnels in the ground, connected by small entrance and exit holes.
Here are 10 steps you can take to keep rodents out of the garden:
1. Remove their shelter: Rats and mice like to make nests in brush piles, wood piles and tall grass, so it’s a good idea to periodically move wood piles.
2. Keep the garden tidy: Tidy gardens are less likely to attract rats as they provide less cover. Keep grass short, clear cluttered storage areas, remove rubbish and reduce overgrown areas, especially near fences or garden buildings.
3. Protect your compost bin - Make your bin or heap uninviting: Don’t add food scraps and include green and brown materials so it’s moist. Put chicken wire underneath to prevent access. Turn it regularly but bear in mind that other wildlife may use your compost heap too. If rats have made a home in your bin,don’t use the compost on edible crops. For mice infestations in compost piles, turn the compost weekly and spray it with a garden hose.
4. Eliminate their food sources: If your bird feeders are attracting rodents into the garden, you may need to take them down for a few weeks, just long enough to give rodents the message that their free meal is over. Prevent bird seed spills by filling your feeder carefully and storing bird seed in closed metal bins that rodents cannot chew through.
5. Remove water sources: Unlike mice, rats can’t survive without water. If possible,remove water sources from your garden, including dripping taps. Secure drains and add baffles to drainpipes.
6. Improve sanitation near your garden: If you keep dustbins or recycling bins near the garden, be sure to keep them clean. Wash them down with the garden hose once a week and use a household cleaner to scrub the inside out. Leftover food particles or scents on the bins may be luring rodents into the garden.
7. Seal holes: Mice can squeeze through holes the size of a 5 pence piece! It’s important to seal up any entrances into sheds or outbuildings to prevent mice and other rodents from finding a comfortable spot to make their home.
8. Move things around: Rats are ‘neo-phobic’, which means they have a fear of new things. They don’t like disruption to their territory, so place obstacles in their runs and move things around in the garden frequently.
9. Block access to decking: The space beneath decking is perfect for rats as it’s sheltered, hard to reach, and food scraps may fall between the planks. Be sure to sweep up any fallen food after meals outside. If a problem persists, block access or consider installing a patio instead.
10. Get a pet: Obviously, we’re not suggesting you go and adopt a new puppy just for the purpose of catching rats (especially as rats can carry disease) but, pets can be a good deterrent. They are a disruptive force in the garden, making the rats less likely to stay.
If you have put in place as many preventative measures and deterrents as possible and STILL have a problem, then it’s time for pest control.
First, identify where the rodents are living and feeding routes they take between. Rats breed fast and are wary of new objects, so controlling them can be difficult.
Traps and poisons are sold at garden centres but must be used correctly.Ensure any traps won’t endanger pets, children or non-targeted wildlife. While they may be unpleasant, they do work to reduce or eliminate rodent colonies efficiently.
In addition to more traditional mouse traps, live traps are now available,but these must be checked regularly in order to know when the trap is getting full and in need of emptying. Always be sure to release the rodent(s) far from your property, and be mindful to keep them away from the property of others,too!
For any traps and poisons, always read the label before use, and it is often better to contact your local council or professional pest controller for advice.
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