5 DIY Tips: How to Control Rats in Garden Areas


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Homeowners are understandably concerned about the possibility of a rat entering their house. More time is spent figuring out how to get rid of rats in the house, then worrying about the yard. But by learning , the risk of rats hanging around and eventually finding their way into the home is minimized. There is the additional concern that rats can spread disease to humans and pets. Here are a few do-it-yourself tips you can try to humanely deter rats from your yard and garden.

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1. Take Away Their Shelter

Trim low-lying branches and twigs off the ground so that rats don't have a place to hide. Keep firewood stacked well away from the house and the garden, and elevate it at least 12" off the ground. Eliminate yard clutter. The fewer hiding places you provide, the less attractive it will be for rats.

If you happen to come upon one of their nests, scatter the materials and if possible, close off the area with heavy metal mesh so that the rats cannot return to rebuild.

Pictured: Prevent rats from dining at your bird feeder by using a squirrel-proof feeder, like the Brome 1057 Squirrel Buster Standard Wild Bird Feeder. If it's squirrel-proof, it's likely rat-proof, too.

2. Remove Sources of Food

All garbage should be securely stored in animal-proof garbage cans or containers with lids (if the lid isn't secure, use bungee cords to secure them, or use straps specifically made for garbage can lids). Dispose or arrange for garbage pick-up regularly. Remove any fruit or nuts in the yard. Use a squirrel-proof bird feeder and immediately clean up any spills.

Take care of the compost bin which can be a delightful source of food for rats. Use a sturdy compost bin with a locking lid, rather than a compost heap. Do not add greasy or fatty foods, dairy, eggs, or meat to the compost. Add a heavy mesh screen between the soil and the bin to help prevent rats from burrowing into the bin.

Use only finished compost in the garden (compost that has completely broken down - screen out all materials that are not yet ready).

3. Remove Any Sources of Water

This includes removing buckets or pails, old tires, empty flower pots, or any other container that could hold water. If you have low spots in your yard where water tends to collect, make sure to also fill those in. Making your yard as uninviting as possible to rodents will encourage rats (and other pests) to move on.

4. Plant Catnip

Rats are supposed to really hate this plant. Plant catnip around areas in the garden that you really want to protect. You can even plant a border of them to help keep rats away.

5. Add To Your Toolbox of Deterrents

Pictured: Repellents like the Gardeneer By Dalen Natural Enemy Scarecrow SOL-R Action Owl can make rats uneasy so that they'll leave your yard.

Use other types of repellents to try to scare away rats or make life uncomfortable for them. For example, try: blinking lights like the Nite Guard Solar NG-001 Predator Control Light; put up an owl garden statue (some will even turn their heads, 'hoot', or have lights flash on/off in their eyes); or use something similar to a scat mat for pets - these mats have little flexible spikes on them that make it uncomfortable for pets to walk on, without actually hurting them. The spikes would have to be much closer together for rats, though.

If you have a dog or a cat, they are also highly effective rat deterrents. Or build your own live rat trap by putting a few ripe, fragrant pieces of fruit in the bottom of a tall sturdy plastic or stainless steel garbage can. Put a ramp up to the top so that rats can easily climb in. They won't be able to climb out again once they've fallen in. If you intend to live trap them, check the traps frequently (at least every couple of hours, ideally) -- it is very stressful for wildlife to be trapped and they can die.

Some people consider using snap traps or poisons in the yard, however these methods can result in unintended consequences. Other animals, pets, or even young children could get into them, instead of the rats that it was intended for. Deterrence is the best policy -- and catching the issue as early as possible helps to prevent it from becoming a much larger problem.

Preventive pest control is also the most humane pest control method available! By taking away the things rats find more attractive, you will also be minimizing the incentive for them to enter your home - and that includes figuring out how to control rats in garden areas and outdoor spaces.