How to keep rats out of vegetable garden?

peanuttyxxJanuary 28, 2012


After 37 years, I finally own a house and a garden in the city of Chicago. The problem is our yard, and the whole neighborhood, has TONS and TONS of rats - the size of cats. There are traps in our backyard and all over the neighborhood but they're of no help. I don't mind if rats get into my flowers this spring, but it gives me the heeby jeebies to think about them in my vegetables. They have burrowed into all of the soil. So I was going to get a raised garden bed kit and use that for veggies. Then I was thinking about putting wire mesh around it. But will the rats get in anyway? Anyone else have any ideas?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You have to bury the fence (chicken wire preferred) so they can not burrow under, and you have to have an electric fence, if possible two strands at 4 and 8 inches, with the ground directly connected to the chicken wire. I also have bricks inside the fence, all around the perimeter, to force even the smallest rodent up the fence and into the wires. Then, every month or so, smear peanut butter on the wires, to remind them who is boss. Keep your composting material inside trash bins.

It seems also that the situation is ripe for you and some neighbors to put up barn owl houses (with more of them, you may have a self-sustaining population). IIRC, they need to be high on a outer wall in a quiet part of the yard, and they need to be cleaned once a year in Fall. Obviously they may die from eating poisoned rats, but if you establish a population and let the neighbors know, they will solve your problem. I never had it as good, rodent-wise, as when I had a mama fox with kittens take residence at the end of my yard (once the rodent population collapsed, she moved on). Just yesterday I saw a small hawk catch a rat in the city, in an area with ten or so trees with a walkway between a parking lot and a market. They will become urbanized under the right circumstances.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 11:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

I'm afraid I don't have much advice to offer, but plenty of sympathy. Rats are very hard to control in an urban environment, that's for sure! I would suggest, if using mesh for anything to exclude rats, I would go for hardware cloth instead of chicken wire, those little suckers can squeeze through holes you wouldn't believe! Especially the juveniles. It sounds like there must be a major source of them nearby if tons of traps aren't keeping the numbers low. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 11:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here we have problems with field mice and pack rats. There has been more than a dozen times that a person comes out in the morning to find entire crops of pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, squash, and etc. ruined by these pest (they really seem to love the pumpkins and melons). We have done a few different things which has seemed to help. First off we have a chain-link fence around the garden to keep out chickens, dogs, and rabbits. We have found that it also help to keep out those REALLY big rats. Also because of the fence we do set out poison and the dogs, etc. can't get it. What we do so they can't take the bait bars out of the garden is get a large 3-4' PVC pipe that is about 3ft long, put a cap on one end and drill two holes in the cap. We get the bait bars that have a hole in the center, loop wire through the bar and put it into the pipe pulling the wires then through the holes in the cap and twisting it on the outside. This way the bar is on the inside of the pipe and they can't take it out, this also works well as if you don't have a fence cats/dogs can't get the bait.

We also have trained our dogs. When talking about rats when have to refer to them as the "R-word" because if we say rat the dogs will go crazy looking for them. We have a mixture of both large and small breeds and they are continually on the hunt (as soon as we put them outside, they are house dogs) and if we see a rat/mouse or are going to pick up a board, etc. that one might be under we call for the dogs tell them "there's a rat!" and they guard ready to dive in at the hint of one. When picking up lumber piles, etc. the dogs have gotten up to 2 dozen rats in one go.

It also helps a LOT to keep anything the can hide/live under picked up. I know this is probably about impossible for you living in the city since they could be living/hiding in other places around your neighbors (I am the only house on a 4 mile square).

Good luck, I know how challenging it can be to keep these terrible monsters back.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 2:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hate these things...unfortunately, weve not been successful in controlling them in our yard, mainly due to other neighbors not being as proactive. had to move my corn plot just because the rats.

the only thing weve had any success with is the poison blocks with a hole in the middle of them. i use old wire and wire them to the fence so the dog cant get to it. also, i wire it to the fence itself, not the rail. seems like the squirrels wont mess with it if its down the fence further. another thing ill do if i notice them running along the fence top is zip tie a rat trap to the top of it. no bait.

id love to have an owl in the yard to get them. had a possum visit once, and noticed a decline in rat like behavior, but thats about it.

one good thing i do like about their presence, is it indicates minimal snake behavior, and i am terrified of snakes.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 1:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I appreciate your frustration with unwanted critters eating your much anticipated and celebrated veggies. I suggest using a mechanical barrier such as the hardware cloth and electric netting mentioned until a natural predator restores balance. Using poison does kill the rats but it also kills any natural and possibly unseen predator population that you might have. Rats can reproduce much faster than owls, hawks, snakes and foxes. In the long run, poisoning actually makes the rat population bigger.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 6:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Putting hot peppers around your garden helps some to discourage them. I don't like poison either, but the electronic devices were worthless & I have a car in the shop compliments of rodents--chewed the wiring, holes in the hoses, etc. They can do an incredible amount of destruction rapidly. If my dogs get wind of 'em...but we know how sneaky they are. What about one of those rat zappers?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 3:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Get a BIG dog.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 9:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for all the advice! It seems like a lot of work but I also can't enjoy our back yard much because they're constantly running around. I may try a sample of all these tips and will report back.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 12:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I too have some very unsupporting neighbors and I use Tomcat all weather bait chunks.I use empty plastic buckets or gun powder jugs.I melt a hole in the bottom of the jug and place several bait chunks inside.I place these all around my garden near hiding places.You need to check and make sure you keep bait in the jugs.When you first start the bait may be eaten quickly but after a while you start to get some control.I buy the bait by the case.Four 4 LB plastic buckets for 60 dollars lasts me for 2 years and I use the empty buckets for bait stations.PJ

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 10:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Get a SMALL/MEDIUM dog. Most terriers were originally bred to hunt rodents and "vermin." They can be yappy and annoying, but the American Rat Terrier is a calmer, quieter version. And they hunt rats, really!

(Bull terriers were NOT bred to hunt rodents. They WILL hunt them, but also cats and small dogs, if not well socialized.)

If you do get a dog, make sure you keep it up to date on rabies shots.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 1:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, with 3 very prey driven terriers at home, I still have a rat problem in my garden....mainly cause they visit the garden when the dogs are sleeping inside. My entire garden last year was ruined. I just bought a rat zapper and hopefully I get get the population down with that. We have Ivy and unfortunately, the rats just love to hide in it. (Ivy belongs to the neighbors on both sides). The dogs get them here and there but not enough of them and there are too many hiding spots too high up for the dogs.

I wouldn't get a terrier for the sole purpose of ratting. They have very specific care requirements and you are comitting to a dog that can live 15+ years and can be destructive in your garden (they also love to dig), are known escape artists,are barky and have a high requirement for excercise. They are not for everybody.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 1:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Pellet gun.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 1:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
susan2010(6 Massachusetts)

Actually, a little dog, but a terrier, might be a better solution. They are tremendous ratters. It's what they were bred for.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 3:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Being a person that rescues terriers, I would hate to see someone purchase one for that sole have to also want a dog for other reasons and have that type of dog fit into your family and lifestyle as well.

Pellet gun is not a bad idea. My dad uses a .22 with pellets in it but I'm not rural enough for that.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 4:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My aunt lives in the middle of town and till a few years ago would pop the critter out of the dining room window.

She no longer gardens now.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 6:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A trap for trapping live animals, when you know you don't have a cat or dog, poison them in the morning. I can imagine you might get a lot of cats in those traps. Cat's eat mice, so you want a little help from cats, but not using your garden as a cat box.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 3:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I believe I have rat (rats) eating my squash. As soon as squash develops and loses flower, it disappears, bitten off at stem. I put chicken wire round plants, but same thing happened. Can rat crawl up wire? I now have chicken wire across the top also and have secured the bottom with bricks.
Don't know what else to do. Have cats but in house at nite. Afraid to put out poison cause of animals. Also have tomatoes which so far they've left alone. Am not feeding the rats; so if wire doesn't work guess will get rid of plants and buy at local farmer's market. If anyone has any other innovative ideas pls express. Am discouraged.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 10:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Chicken wire won't stop much, the holes are too big. Use the hardware cloth. In the future, you could bulid a raised bed square foot garden with hardware cloth on the bottom and sides! Wala, alcatraz garden! Then all you need is a cover of hardware cloth or deer netting. OR, you could dig a big hole where you have the garden (since chicago soil is so rich compared to my clay (I grew up there), SO, dig the trench, and then line the whole garden with hardware cloth securely connected, no holes if you overlap. Then fill in with your good soil. That is extreme, but hey. Or the electric route already mentioned. :-) I still believe in killing those rats. Too bad Chicago doesn't have a week of Bait the Rat. I bet if they did, they could eventually be gone gone gone. I caught a rat a few months ago, after it ate my african violet plant :-) Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 9:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Has anyone tried "repel all"? I started using it to repel chipmunks and I'm either lucky or it really is working because they've been digging everywhere else but in my veggie garden.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 10:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dancinglemons(7B VA)

I've used "Repel All" for squirrels and it works!! I do not have a rat problem however. In my city the government will come out and get rid of the rats for you. (Not inside your buildings but outside) Call your code enforcement office and inquire about rodent control.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 2:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

First congrats on the house! I wish I had a solution for you on the rats. They have been around for a long time I suspect best you can hope for is to beat he local population down.

Please keep us posted on your progress. good luck.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 5:35AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
lining bottom of raised bed for tomatoes
I keep reading advise about lining the bottom of raised...
Planting where dog used to poop
We haven't had a god in two years. Is it okay to plant...
Looking for Artichoke Plant Enthusiasts
I have eight years experience growing artichoke plants...
Pond Plant Girl
Unforecasted late frost
I'm pretty much a newbie. I transplanted a yellow...
Katie Gooding
Problem Peas - germination
Can anyone advise me on the best way of getting peas...
Steve Kind
Sponsored Products
Algreen Castilla 50 Gallon Rain Barrel - 81003
$115.75 | Hayneedle
nuLOOM Hand-hooked Indoor/ Outdoor Trellis Teal Rug (7' 6 x 9' 6)
Christopher Knight Home Cozumel Antique Copper Cast Aluminum Bench
28" Standing Garden Bunny
Grandin Road
Round Resin Daniel Planter Bowl - A416094
$130.28 | Hayneedle
Henri Studio Medium Rock Falls Fountain
Lamps Plus
Butterfly Garden Cocktail Napkins - BUTTERFLY GARDEN
$6.75 | Horchow
Safavieh Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Safavieh Rugs Courtyard Beige/Anthracite 5
$76.78 | Home Depot
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™