Rats can cause havoc in the garden. And with an estimated 3.1 million rats in the UK, you’re bound to encounter at least one of the furry creatures in your home or garden.
They’ll happily gnaw through any fruit and vegetables they can get their mitts on. Your compost heap is ideal as their next home. Not to mention borrowing tunnels in your soil.
While you can get rid of rats in the garden using poison, most aren’t safe to use around children, pets and wildlife. So it’s best to use a natural method to deter rats!
How do I spot rats in the garden?
Even though rats are largely nocturnal, there a few tell-tale signs you can look for.
Firstly you might notice their cylindrical droppings, gnawed wood, or parallel teeth marks in crops. You might also spot tracks, especially along walls and fences or tunnels, which can be up to 9 cm in diameter.
Rats thrive when we have plenty of food, water and shelter. Remove just one of these and they’re less likely to want to stick around.
1 Keep on top of your garden
A tidy garden is less likely to be a rat magnet. So trim your lawn to remove rat friendly shelter and food. Regularly sort and clean your shed and any other outdoor storage you might have.
Combat any overgrown areas, especially near walls and fences. Finally, remove any rubbish and garden waste.
Cats love to kill rats, while dogs are likely to scare them away. Of course, we’re not suggesting you should get a pet purely for rat control, however, pets can be a fantastic deterrent.
Pets are highly effective as they disruptive rat’s natural patterns, making them eager to move on to a more habitable and quieter garden.
3 Protect your compost bin
Rats love compost bins as they provide plenty of food and warm shelter. One of the easiest ways to stop them entering is to lay chicken wire underneath.
Another way to make your compost heap uninviting is to not add food scraps and increase the moisture content by adding plenty of green and brown materials.
While you want to be careful of other wildlife who might be inhabiting your heap, turning it regularly can disrupt rats, making them want to move on.
If you do have a rat problem, then temporarily stop add edible crops to your compost heap or bin.
4 Stop feeding wild birds and animals
A downside of bird feeders is they can spread food everywhere, which can attract rats. Using squirrel proof feeders can help to reduce the amount of fallen food.
If you suspect an infestation of rats in the garden, then it’s best to temporarily stop feeding birds and hedgehogs until you can bring the situation under control. Also, ensure all bird and animal food are stored in secure containers.
5 Access denied!
Tiny holes in walls, fences and building allow rats to gain access to the garden. So it’s best to ensure any potential holes are blocked.
Decking is also ideal for rats. It’s sheltered, has plenty of food and is hard to reach. Plus if you regularly dining alfresco, you might be encouraging rats with food scrapes. It’s best, therefore, to sweep after dining and regularly check for and block holes.
If you have shed, then it’s a good idea to add a metal ‘kick plate’ to your shed door to prevent entry.
6 Fix any water leaks
Rats, unlike mice, need water to survive. Having a leaking tap, cracked drainpipes or open drains will provide a steady flow of water, which will keep rats alive and causing havoc!
If you can remove any water sources in your garden or at best limit access and ensure pipes, taps and drains are in good shape.
7 Disrupt by moving object
Rats fear new things or ‘neo-phobic’ as it’s called. Any disruption to their territory is therefore unwelcome and should force them to find somewhere else to nest. So regularly move garden furniture, plant pots and ornaments around.
8 Look after your crops
Rats will munch on pretty much any fruit and veg they can get their little mitts on. Sadly, there’s little you can do to keep rats off your crops.
Ensure when you’ve harvested any produce, that it’s securely stored. Rats will also eat seeds, so make sure they are securely stored too. If you suspect that stored or growing crops have been nibbled by rats, don’t eat them.
9 Peppermint oil and Catnip
It’s well known that Rats can’t stand the smell of peppermint oil (available on Amazon). It’s a highly effective way to get rid of rats in the garden.
Add 100 per cent pure peppermint oil to moisten cotton balls and place them around the garden. Also, place some in the garage and shed. You’ll need to top up the oil every few days.
Catnip can also be effective and is available from local garden centres and online. Be strategic with your planting to ensure good coverage. Pay attention to any signs of rat activity like nests and pellet droppings.
10 Soil netting
While adding netting just under the soil to an existing garden will take significant effort, it should prevent rats from burrowing and eating roots and bulbs.
However, it’s not the most effective solution to get rid of rats in the garden as determined rats will still manage to chew through the netting. So you’ll need to inspect your soil regularly and may need to add more soil netting.