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Rats in the Garden

A concerned gardener wrote in this week:

“Rotten rodents! …I have some rodent, maybe squirrels but more likely rats, that help themselves to whatever is young and tender in the garden. They have just decapitated all of my new little lettuces and broccoli. In the summer it was the new string beans that they decimated. How do I get rid of them?”

When someone uses the word “decapitate” I think of rats.  I have had a similar problem at my community plot, where broccoli plants have been eaten off right in the center, up from the ground about 6-8 inches.  Likewise, over the summer, my tomatoes were being eating in a particular way, differently than how birds nip at them.  These were being eaten a little bit every day (from the ground up), with the skins left behind littering the ground beneath the tomato.  It looks more like a woodland creature is venturing into the garden than a rat, but that is indeed how they forage.

There are several options that might help your situation:

Firstly, you will want to adjust your surroundings – they like to live in dark places, so remove any wood piles, ivy, etc.  If they have no home nearby, they are likely to move elsewhere.

Next, if you have an outdoor cat, let them have access to the garden.  Predators are a helpful at keeping rats and other rodents away.

Some research shows that simply the presence of predator urine helps to keep them away, but other sites I’ve seen indicates that rats become immune after awhile.  Still, it’s worth a try if you don’t mind spending a little cash on this:

Shake Away Rodent Repellent

Trapping is the most effective way to get rid of rats.  There are several options for poisons and traps out there:

Hardware Stores – they sell Vector traps that are legal to use in the US.  More info on how to properly trap a rat can be found here:

Tomcat Bait Station – is another option.  It keeps bait away from pets and people.  You can find this at Planet Natural:

Another article I found on getting rid of rats is available at

And just in case you think you might have squirrel problems, here is a link to a previous blog entry about them:

Squirrels: Cute and Fuzzy, or Destructive Rats in Pretty Coats

I hope this helps you tackle the rat problem in your garden. Thanks for writing in and keep us posted on the results.

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