The Q&A Archives: Rats

Question: I live in Baltimore City and we have a rat problem. What can I do to keep rats out of my garden?A raised bed is not an option for me.

Answer: Rats are very smart rodents, and quickly learn about traps, poisons, repellents and the like, and laugh them off. In your urban setting, where there's a huge population of rats and a perfect environment for them to thrive, you'll never compeletely eliminate their presence in your garden unless you have the place patrolled by Jack Russell Terriers (also known as 'Rat Terriers' - they work!). Only community sanitation improvements and reduction of shelter for the rats works in the long run. Perhaps you can rally your community to the cause!

If you are concerned mostly with your vegetable rather than the gardens at large, you can build a frame over the bed and enclose cover it with hardware cloth to exclude rats. It must be well secured to the base bed frames, and if they dig under the beds, should extend a couple of feet into the soil below.

There are a number of more detailed sources of information on rat control you'll may want to pursue: Cornell Cooperative Extension (ph# 607/255-2237) offers a bulletin (#163) "Rat & Mouse Control"; "IPM for Rats", in an issue of The IPM Practitioner (Vol.6, No.3) may also be helpful. Check with your library or contact Bio-Integral Resource Center at PO Box 7414, Berkeley CA, 94707; ph# 507/524-2567. Good luck to you on your rat control quest!

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