9 ways to keep your garden free from rats

A tomato thieving rat.
PAT THEUNISSEN

A tomato thieving rat.

I've been blaming the blackbirds and thrushes for decimating my tomatoes but it seems that rats are in residence too. A brazen rat made off with a whole tomato in broad daylight and then came back for more. There's been some tunnelling activity in the compost bin as well.

Apart from spreading disease rats can be a real nuisance in the garden; stripping sweet corn cobs; chomping into walnuts and macadamia nuts; chewing stored produce; and predating nestling birds, lizards and weta.

Rats are looking for water, food and places to hide. Reduce the chances of a rat invasion by removing these attractions.

9 TIPS FOR A RAT-FREE GARDEN

1. Traps kill instantly. Peanut butter, bits of fat or cooked meat are recommended baits. Place traps under cover out of reach of children and pets. Check and reset regularly.

2. A refillable bait station will keep poison bait secure, free of moisture and out reach of children and pets. The enclosed space within the bait station encourages rats to eat more as they feel secure. Keep replacing bait until there's no more activity.

3. Rat-proof compost bins with a layer of chicken wire under the base and across the ventilation holes.

4. Lay bait in firewood stacks and tidy up any rubbish that could be rat nest sites.

5. Trim rank grass and overgrown shrubs.

6. Stop rats climbing fruit and nut trees by placing a broad strip of smooth, unclimable metal sheeting around the trunk. Check a couple of times a year to ensure the metal sheeting does not strangle the trunk as it grows.

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7. Store pumpkins, fruit, potatoes, kumara, bulbs, seeds and other produce in rat-proof containers.

8. Bring birds into the garden but don't supply water for rats by using pedestal bird baths that rats can not access.

9. Chicken coops are a magnet for rats. Keep the area clean, cover feeders at night, clean up spilled food, use a treadle-style feeder, which requires the chicken's weight standing on a pedal to open it and don't leave eggs overnight.

 

 - NZ Gardener

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