Growing a garden involves a lot of hard work, determination, learning, and patience. So, when you start to see the fruits of your efforts blossoming, it can be very irritating to find rats, mice, and voles gobbling them up. So, how can you keep these rodents out of your garden?
Here are 15 ways to keep mice, rats, and voles out of your garden:
- Keep the garden clean.
- Stop mulching.
- Harvest fruits and vegetables more often.
- Move things in your garden around.
- Destroy or remove rodent hiding spots.
- Remove any water and food sources.
- Seal off compost bins.
- Grow plants or flowers that deter rodents.
- Use rodent repellents.
- Block access points.
- Install a stout fence.
- Place wires and hardware cloth under the soil.
- Place traps around the garden.
- Get a cat.
- Call a professional.
These techniques are suitable for organic and non-organic gardens and focus on making the environment uninhabitable for the rodents so they don’t intrude in the first place. By understanding these techniques, you can keep rodents at bay and stop what could turn into a full-blown infestation. In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss these methods for keeping mice, rats, and voles out of your garden in more detail.
1. Keep the Garden Clean
A dirty garden is an attractive garden – to rodents.
If your garden is messy, with old furniture, wood piles, and garden clippings, it’ll attract rats, mice, and voles into the space.
This is because all that junk provides ample hiding spots for the rodents.
If you want to make your garden less appealing to pests, you need to put in the effort and keep it clean, neat, and tidy.
Also, as you clean your garden, ensure the grass is trimmed and well-maintained.
If the grass gets too tall, it provides shelter for the rodents by shielding them from the prying eyes of potential predators. As a result, the little creatures feel more confident, increasing rodent activity in your garden.
Another disadvantage of keeping tall grass is that it’s difficult to spot nearby nests or hideouts the critters might have built.
2. Stop Mulching
If you’re growing or maintaining a garden, people might have recommended a practice called mulching.
Mulching is a gardening technique that involves covering the soil with a layer of organic garden waste – like old leaves, wood chips, straw, crop residue, and other biodegradable material. The technique helps preserve the soil’s moisture content and prevents weed growth, making it a widely popular gardening practice.
However, too much mulch can dirty up the garden and provide a potential nesting ground, thereby attracting pests like rats, mice, and voles.
If you notice that your garden is getting frequent visits from rodents, it’s time to stop mulching despite its benefits.
Instead of mulching, you can consider spreading gravel or small stones over the soil. It won’t be as effective in soil moisture preservation, but it will definitely stop weed growth and discourage the spread of rodents.
3. Harvest Fruits and Vegetables More Often
Rodents like rats, mice, and voles aren’t interested in nibbling down the leaves or stems of your plants as much as they want a taste of your delicious harvest. A garden bearing fresh fruits and vegetables is very alluring to these little creatures.
So what should you do to protect your fresh produce?
Simple! Harvest the fruits and vegetables quickly, and don’t let them dangle near the ground once they get too big or ripe.
If you notice rodents in your garden, you should make it a habit to harvest your crops as soon as you see them mature.
Also, carefully plan out what crops you want to grow and where you grow them so that a cluster of fruits and vegetables doesn’t mature all at once.
The ample food source will attract rodents to that particular section, which raises the number of pests in your garden and increases the likelihood of the crops being eaten or damaged.
Aside from seedlings and crops that disappear overnight, here are other signs that you have a rodent infestation in your garden:
- Rodents visibly moving around in your garden.
- Rodent footprints or bite marks.
- Rodent droppings.
- Small holes, tunnels, or mounds in the garden.
If you notice one or more of these signs, it’s a surefire signal that rodents are lurking around. Knowing which type of pest is causing problems is important, as that allows you to take the proper measures to deter them and keep your garden growing healthily.
4. Move Things in Your Garden Around
Keeping your garden free of furniture or other household appliances isn’t always possible.
For example, you might keep the compost bin or garbage bin in the garden for easy access. There could be a bench, chairs, or table in the space for people to sit and relax during the weekends.
Now, all this stuff can provide shelter to the rodents and thus attract them. And this is more likely to happen if you rarely use the furniture in your garden.
You see, most rodents are neophobic – which means they fear and avoid new objects or environments. As such, if you frequently use the furniture in your garden and move it around, the rodents will come to realize that those places aren’t safe for settlement and will avoid them.
Consider moving your compost bin or recycle bin back and forth between two corners (or more) every week. And, when cleaning them, make sure you do a thorough job. This simple activity will deter rodents from settling there or nearby.
Again, if you keep furniture in your garden, make sure that you use them. Rodents fear humans and will stay clear of places that have frequent human activity.
5. Destroy or Remove Rodent Hiding Spots
Rats, mice, and voles will generally avoid a clean, well-maintained garden that has a lot of activity. But even still, some daring rodents can come crawling in if they identify potential hiding spots where they can hang around till the coast is clear.
It’s important to know the common places that rodents can hide or build their nests and remove them from your garden.
Here’s a quick run-down of the most common hiding places that rodents love:
- Bush piles
- Wood piles
- Compost piles
- Recycle bins
- Garden sheds
Bush piles and wood piles, if left unchecked for a while, will serve as an ideal nesting ground for rodents like rats and mice. As such, you mustn’t procrastinate and dispose of them as quickly as possible.
Next comes managing compost piles. Most people recommend leaving compost piles uncovered so that they can access sufficient air and water for the composting process. However, an exposed compost pile is like an all-you-can-eat buffet for rodents.
I suggest coming to a compromise and using a properly sealed and aerated compost box like the DF Omer Garden Composter Bin from Amazon.com. It’ll ensure the composting process isn’t interrupted because of lack of airflow but also keep rodents out.
When it comes to garbage and recycle bins, make sure to empty them at least once a week. Also, use bins made from hard plastic or metal. In addition, make sure that they come with a strong lid and a tight seal.
I recommend using repellents and traps for garden sheds to deter the rodents. I’ll talk more about these in an upcoming section.
6. Remove Any Water and Food Sources
If you’ve successfully removed or sealed off all potential hiding spots from your garden and you still get frequent rodent visits, it’s time to target their food and water sources.
To start, make sure there aren’t any leaking pipes or dripping taps in your garden, as these are where rodents get their water.
Next, clean and empty your pet’s water and food bowl (if it’s kept in the garden) at night, especially if they’ll be sleeping indoors with you.
Moving on, if you harvest rainwater in your garden, make sure it’s stored in a container made of a hard material that rodents can’t gnaw through.
In reference to removing potential food sources, always clean up after yourself if you’ve been eating something in the garden. Dropped food crumbs are sometimes all that a rodent needs.
And regarding cleaning, remove dropped fruits, seeds, your pet’s fecal matter, and other litter from the garden.
Also, rodents have a great sense of smell, and if you store certain food products like seeds or your pet’s food in the garden shed, the critters can easily find them.
It’s best to store these food products inside, but if you must have them in the garden shed, store them in a robust metal container with a tight seal.
7. Seal off Compost Bins
Rodents love compost bins as they serve as both a food source and shelter. As such, if you need to keep your garden pest-free, you must focus on sealing off your compost bin, making it as inaccessible as possible.
By design, a compost bin might seem secure. But if it’s made of a light material, the rodents can easily chew through it – especially if it’s an aerated compost bin with ventilation holes covered by a fiber mesh filter.
I strongly recommend getting a good quality compost bin that won’t be easy for these pests to break into.
Next, install a chicken wire fencing around the compost bin. Make sure the wires go at least one foot (30.5 centimeters) underground to discourage rodents from trying to dig their way through the fence.
Finally, increase your interaction with the compost bin. Water it regularly and turn it every now and then. Increased activity will deter rodents from prospecting the bin as a potential hiding place.
8. Grow Plants or Flowers That Deter Rodents
Rodents are coming into your garden because they’re attracted by one or more of the fruits and vegetables you’re growing.
Likewise, if you grow a crop or plant that the rodents hate, they’ll leave your garden alone.
It’s a very simple and effective strategy and something you should try out if you have extra space for planting a few more crops.
Here’s a list of all the various types of plants that repel rodents:
- Castor beans
- Crown imperial
- Grape Hyacinth
All these plants let out a strong odor that’s unappealing to rodents and will ensure they stay clear of your garden.
If you don’t have enough space for all these crops, focus on planting peppermint. It’s an excellent all-rounder rodent repellent that should help keep rats, mice, and voles at bay.
Just make sure that you strategically place the peppermint plants throughout your garden so that the scent covers a vast area to deter the critters.
9. Use Rodent Repellents
Rodent repellents are the closest things you can get to an organic “pesticide” for rats, mice, and voles. Non-organic pesticides or chemical poisons aren’t the safest way deal with a rodent problem.
Non-organic pesticides can harm more than just the critters: your pets or children can become seriously ill if they come in contact. In fact, these pesticides are a danger to all sorts of life forms that come into your garden, including beneficial animals like birds and frogs.
Also, you’ll need to apply the pesticide in and around your garden, which can contaminate the soil and crops with harmful chemicals.
Eating crops that have been sprayed with non-organic pesticides or grown in pesticide-laden soil can cause health issues.
Scent extracts from flowers are an organic alternative to dangerous chemical pesticides and are the most basic type of rodent repellent. For example, you can apply castor oil or peppermint oil on the leaves of your plants, and the smell should be strong enough to deter many rodents.
Alternatively, you can make a homemade solution and spray it on the plants, which should cover more ground and get the job done more quickly.
For my favorite concoction, I mix one cup of rubbing alcohol with one tablespoon of peppermint oil and put the solution inside a spray bottle. Spraying this directly on the plants helps keep the rodents at bay.
The only problem with these liquid or spray-based repellents is that you’ll need to reapply them regularly, or they’ll stop being effective.
So, is there any passive form of repellent where you don’t have to put in too much work?
Well, rats, mice, and voles are all mammals, just like us. And like us, you can scare them using audio or visual stimuli that’ll stop them from entering your garden.
For instance, you can set up motion-activated water sprayers and noise makers or put faux predators in the garden, and all of it can scare the rodents.
Among these passive repellents, my favorite is the Trelfi Solar Mole Repellent Ultrasonic from Amazon.com. It lets out a low-frequency sound that can deter rodents and snakes without causing them any physical harm. It’s also completely solar-powered and waterproof, so you can plant one inside the soil and forget about it as it does its job.
10. Block Access Points
You’ve done almost everything you can to make your garden as uninviting and inhospitable as possible to rats, mice, and voles. But if the rodents still come, allured by the freshness of your crops, you need to start fortifying your garden.
To help you out, here’s a list of potential access points from where rodents can enter your garden:
- Holes in the walls, doors, or floors around your garden.
- Spacing underneath the garden deck.
- Sewage piping.
You’d be surprised how small a hole it takes for rats, mice, and voles to crawl through. As such, if you have any small cracks or openings on your garden fence or the walls, doors, and flooring around your garden, you should seal them off.
Next, rodents love the garden deck as it offers a great hiding place and ample space to build their nests. However, you can prevent rats from entering the space by installing chicken wires around its base.
Finally, rats can easily commute through sewage piping that leads to an open drainage facility. You can’t control whether a drainage facility stays open or closed, but you can ask a plumber to install a rodent blocker on the piping to block access..
11. Install a Stout Fence
Even after blocking all the access points, rodents can still get into your garden by gnawing away at your fences or other wooden structures to create new holes.
In that case, the second line of defense is to enclose the garden area – the space where all the vegetables and fruits are growing – with a stout animal fence. I prefer making a fence using hardware cloth, but you can make one out of wood if you like.
Just remember that the rodents can still bite holes through wooden fences. However, this won’t happen overnight. Keep an eye out for signs of biting or rodent droppings near the garden fence to know if pests are planning a break-in.
If you want a permanent fencing solution and don’t mind spending a considerable amount of money, you can consider installing an electric fence. That’ll surely deter all pests from trying to come close to the garden.
However, electrical fencing can be dangerous to yourself, your kids, and your pets if mishandled and isn’t always the best solution.
12. Place Wires and Hardware Cloth Under the Soil
If you make it difficult for the rodents to access your crops directly, they might try to bypass the obstacles by digging underground routes.
That’s why, when putting up your fences, it’s important to ensure that at least 10-12 inches (25-30 centimeters) of the fencing material – preferably chicken wire or hardware cloth – extends underground. This technique will deter any critters from trying to dig past the fence.
And while you’re at it, you can also place gravel or small stones and pebbles around the fencing. Not only will it elevate the overall aesthetics of the garden, but it will also make it difficult for the pests to dig holes.
13. Place Traps Around the Garden
If the pests are so persistent that they ignore the deterrents and bypass the fencing, it’s time to set a few traps to catch these enthusiastic critters.
Rodent traps are one of the most effective ways to eliminate rats, mice, and voles from any space. The problem is that they can make the place extremely messy.
There are two main types of rodent traps.
The first type uses a spring-powered contraption to kill the rodent as soon as it traps it.
The eXuby Large Powerful Rat Trap from Amazon.com is a good example. The trap instantly kills rats and similarly sized rodents. It barely takes a few seconds to set up, it’s reusable, and the contraption allows for hands-free disposal. However, as an extra precaution, always wear gloves when handling dead rodents.
However, aside from the moral question of killing animals, these traps will also create a mess and pose a danger to your pets and small children.
The second type of rodent trap, known as a live trap, follows a more humane approach where it simply traps the critter inside a chamber or on a piece of sticky paper. You can then dispose of the pest in a distant area, away from your garden.
The Kat Sense Covered Rat Trap from Amazon.com is a great example. It allures and traps the critters in a small tunnel.
These traps are safe for your pets and little kids. They also don’t make too much of a mess. But it can be a real chore to carry the critters out of your garden and release them. What’s more, if you let the rodents out too close to your home, they’ll easily find their way back into your garden.
So yes, rodent traps are effective but come with their own set of drawbacks.
As such, I strongly recommend you go through the previous methods to keep as many rodents as possible out of your garden. And for the new persistent pests that make their way inside, you can use traps to catch and dispose of them.
If you’re keen on using traps to handle a rodent problem, here are a few tips to make them more effective at getting the job done:
- Lure the rodents in with tasty bait. For a spring trap, place a scoop of peanut butter on the inside to attract the critters. You can also leave a trail of oats around the trap – but be mindful of unsuspecting birds that might also be attracted to the bait and get caught too. Covering the traps with cardboard should minimize the chances of little birds getting snagged.
- Lay enough traps. The more traps you use, the higher your chances of catching any rodents running around. A dozen traps should do for a small garden, while 50 or more are enough for a large garden. For each spot that you choose, set at least two traps rather than just one.
- Set the traps in strategic locations. Take a step further and lay the traps in areas with high critter activity, such as access points and hiding spots that the rodents use. Another strategic location to place the traps would be in and around the tunnels and pathways the rodents might have created in your garden.
- Place the traps close together. Rodents (especially little ones like mice, rats, and voles) are extremely agile and can easily jump over a single trap. Lay two traps with no more than one inch (2.5 centimeters) of space between them to catch a clever critter that tries to leap out of the trap’s way.
14. Get a Cat
If traps don’t help reduce rodent numbers in your garden, this natural solution surely will.
Cats are natural predators that almost instinctively hunt rodents like rats, mice, and voles. Moreover, these small rodents are hardwired to steer clear of cats. Even the smell of a cat is enough to deter rodents and ensure they don’t come within a mile of where the cat’s living.
That said, getting a cat just to keep rodents out of your garden can be a bit of a stretch. After all, cats are a lot of responsibility, and you must invest time in attending to their needs.
If you like cats and have always wanted to get one as a pet, you can consider getting one right now to solve your rodent problem. Alternatively, if you’re more of a dog person, canines are also effective in chasing away rodents – just not as much as their feline counterparts.
Whichever animal you get, a cat or a dog, ensure they don’t get bitten or scratched while hunting these rodents. If they do, consult a vet immediately.
Rats, mice, and voles carry several diseases, and you don’t want your pet contracting them, now do you?
15. Call a Professional
If you’ve exhausted all the methods mentioned above and still can’t clear your garden of mice, rats, and voles, you likely have a heavy infestation in your garden or somewhere nearby.
In situations like this, it’s time to call for professional help.
Remember, the problem with rodents isn’t just about your garden getting devoured overnight. These pests carry different diseases, and having a nearby rodent infestation means trouble for you and the people in your neighborhood.
Mice, rats, and voles can spread diseases to you, your pets, or your children via bites or scratches. But the most common way these rodents spread diseases is through their feces.
For instance, the Salmonella bacteria commonly reside in rodent droppings. Suppose the rodent leaves its infected droppings near your crops, and you unknowingly water the area the next day (or even the day after). The bacteria can spread into the soil or directly onto leaves, fruits, and vegetables.
Crops like lettuce and spinach are most susceptible to this kind of transmission.
If you eat these infected crops, you can end up with Salmonellosis, symptomized by severe stomach ache, diarrhea, fever, and chills. Salmonellosis can also affect your pets if they eat contaminated fruits and vegetables.
Besides Salmonella, rodents often carry ticks and fleas, which can spread to your pets. Also, fleas and ticks can carry illnesses like Lyme disease, which causes fever, fatigue, and body aches.
Rodents present a far greater risk than the physical damage they do to your crops. If you notice too many rodents or if the critters are uncontrollable, don’t hesitate to call the exterminators.
They know exactly where the critters hide and have all the necessary equipment to allure and dispose of them quickly. They’ll also install safeguards and educate you on the necessary steps you need to take to prevent a future infestation.
To keep mice, rats, and voles out of your garden, keep the place clean and tidy, so there are no hiding spots or sheltered areas to attract the rodents.
You should also stop mulching, harvest the crops as soon as they mature, remove any water or food source for the rodents, and seal off compost bins, to make the garden an inhospitable place for the little critters.
However, if the pests still come into your garden, you can consider using rodent repellents, putting up a garden fence, placing traps around the place, and even getting a pet cat.