Everyone accepts the existence of and fights a battle with the neighbourhood possum; it’s a war that’s been raging for generations and it’s one that we need. However, we could do without rats.

As homes and gardens become more and more congested, rats have become dexterous, well-trained veggie patch assassins. It’s surprising how few people want to admit that the thing chomping on their parsley or uprooting and felling giant silverbeet (Swiss chard) is, in fact, a rat. Rats have always been associated with unhygienic conditions, but even the cleanest of homes and gardens are fighting this new battle.

Unlike the possum – that we can find a way to impede – our bag of tricks for this new competitor is in experimental mode. One method is to apply some simple garden procedures to create a neat, hygienic environment, making our veggie patches less appealing to rat attack.

Optimal Conditions

When it is warm and where there is food, water and shelter, also known as your veggie patch.


A seedling eaten down to its stem butt, a fruit that has done a Houdini, or mature plants that are littered over the patch as though a vandal has ripped them up and thrown them back down. Closer inspection will reveal the roots completely eaten out until the plant has been felled. Ring barking of citrus plants is another signature that will have you pulling your hair out.


HYGIENE Keep your garden as hygienic as possible. Pick fruit regularly and don’t let it overripen. Don’t leave mess in the garden – need to make the place as neat as humanly possible. That includes cleaning the BBQ of all those delicious-smelling meaty oils (for a rat, that is). We know that keeping things clean is a real task for a lot of people, but the threat of a plague of rats (rather than the usual jibes by your partner) should be enough to send you into action.

FORTIFICATION Next, fortify the patch. Simple netting will be a deterrent for the lazy rat, but those with a bit more determination will chew right through or burrow underneath - like the ones that tunnelled under concrete to find an entrance to our compost bin. For the netting to be truly effective, it will need to be wire mesh and will have to extend underground, too. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

SCENT BOMBS You can try any number of scent bombs that will work with varying success, depending on the tastes of your rats (yes, yours). Try dipping cotton balls into a peppermint concentrate (like the one you use for desserts) and place them around their housing spots. Another more effective scent is ammonia. Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid detergent, 1⁄4 glass of water and 1 glass of ammonia and place them where they frequent.

PREDATORS Finally, enlist some hunters. We’ve always found that our rat problem has hinged on the amount of time our neighbourhood cat has spent around our property. When she’s hanging out and happy, the rats seem to go on vacation. However, when she finds a better place to reside – as is the case now – they quickly return. If you’re not a cat person, perhaps consider that they are the number one predator for rats. Cats can be a powerful ally.


What will be will be! Pick fruit early, as rats – just like us – prefer ripening produce. Rats don’t like noise, so perhaps plan a summer of all-night house parties. We’ve also had moderate success using menthol scent bombs, locating them in potential nesting spots.


Get a pet tomcat, python or owl or book yourself a one-way ticket on Space-X

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