Garden pests: ‘Tell-tale’ signs that you have rats in your garden – how to avoid

Rats can transmit diseases to humans and pets through bites, scratches, urine and droppings, so if gardeners have got a rodent problem – it needs to be sorted. For those who keep finding rats in their garden, this is bad news for vegetable patches. Rodents can damage your fruit, vegetables, seeds, bulbs, plants and more. Experts at Gardeners’ World have shared their advice for removing these “vermin” in a few simple steps.

The gardening experts said: “Rats are usually unwelcome visitors in our gardens – they are generally considered vermin and can spread potentially serious diseases, including Leptospirosis, which can lead to Weil’s disease.

“They can set up home beneath decking, in sheds or greenhouses, and compost heaps.

“Rats are mostly nocturnal so you may not see them, but there are other tell-tale signs to look out for.

“You may spot their tunnels (6-9cm in diameter) or their ‘runs’ – tracks alongside walls, fences or buildings that are up to 10cm wide.

“You might also notice their cylindrical droppings (around 15mm long and 5mm wide), gnawed wood (especially where food is stored), or parallel teeth marks in crops.”

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However, like all living things, rats need food, water and shelter to survive. Remove at least one of these from gardens or allotments and they are less likely to stay.

Compost bins are a major factor in encouraging rats into gardens and gardeners can make changes to these to deter rats.

Make it uninviting – don’t add food scraps and keep it moist (which rats don’t like) by including plenty of green and brown materials.

The gardening pros added: “Watering the heap regularly can also deter them. Fixing chicken wire around the base of the bin can also help, as it prevents rats from being able to dig beneath the bin to climb inside.

“Turn the heap regularly but bear in mind that other wildlife uses compost heaps too.

“If rats have made a home in your bin, don’t use the compost on edible crops.”

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“Keep grass short, clear cluttered storage areas, remove rubbish and reduce overgrown areas, especially near fences or garden buildings.”

The gardening experts shared that rats are “neo-phobic”, which means they have a fear of new things.

As they don’t like disruption to their territory, place obstacles in their runs and move things around in the garden frequently.

For those who have decking in their gardens, the access should be blocked as much as possible.

The experts said: “The space beneath decking is perfect for rats – it’s sheltered, hard to reach and food scraps can fall between the planks.

“Sweep up any fallen food after alfresco meals. Block access if possible or consider installing a patio instead, if the problem persists.”

Lastly, gardeners are advised to keep an eye on their crops, even though there is not much that can be done to deter them from the plants.

Rats will eat sweetcorn, pumpkins, squash, root vegetables and apples, so once harvested, store them somewhere secure.

If gardeners suspect that stored or growing crops have been nibbled by rats, don’t eat them.

Rats also eat seeds, so store them securely.

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