Eek!  A Rat!

The lovely ladies who work in the office beside my garden came and told me late yesterday that they had seen a rat as big as a cat scamper brazenly across the deck in broad daylight.  Now I’m hoping this is more of a fishing type story.  You know the kind  – “you should have seen it –

it was this >……………………………………………………………….<  big!”

It is all a bit of a wilderness
To be honest I haven’t helped myself. I’d pretty much given up on the mowing in some areas, because it was too hot. I’ll bet this is where they hang out when they aren’t eating my stuff.

Having said that, I’ve had my suspicions for a while, but didn’t want to admit it to myself.  This year has been hard enough with illness in spring, a festive season at a critical time, rust in the garlic, blight in the tomatoes and now RATS!!!  There’s powdery mildew too, but that is the least of my worries and I tend to find it doesn’t kill my plants – just slows them down and when the weather cools down again the plants perk back up.  Sometimes it is possible to worry too much about the small things in a garden.  If only I just had small things to worry about.

Rat hole
I suspect this this the lair of the rat – right smack bang in the middle of my cucumber bed, with gherkin carcasses lying about the entrance like bleached bones in front of a dragons den.

If this was my first season gardening I would be so despondent and would probably throw in the trowel, and head for the nearest produce store for my leafy greens.  It doesn’t feel like an enjoyable hobby, it is a full scale battle and every day I go out there and wonder ‘what next?’  But I’m still getting a harvest and at the end of the day there is always next season.  Although I haven’t written this one off just yet, there is still fight in me.   I worked hard on this garden, I won’t give up easily.

Rat damage to my pumpkins
Not my pumpkins…. but look at the size of those teeth marks. I’m not in a hurry to run into him!

Fortunately my first growing season ever was one of those elusive perfect seasons, where everything grew well, the harvest was spectacular, the weather was ideal and the pests stayed well away.  I was smitten and so a little hiccup like this disaster of a season isn’t going to defeat me.  I’m a gardener and I’ve gardened in the rain before – that’s how tough I am.  I will continue to search for a repeat of that perfect season, I know it is out there.  Bring it on!

creature damage to tomatoes - birds
So this is what is looks like when a bird steals your tomatoes… see the beak shaped holes? I see it all the time if I’m not quick.

So now I have to decide what to do about these bloomin rats, because there is sure to be more than one.  Hubby the Un-Gardener said he could get a gun.  I said no.  He is a city slicker at heart, and to be honest him taking pot shots around my garden is more likely to result in exploding pumpkins, pierced irrigation hoses and numerous near misses.   But he wants to be the farmer-type person like all our friends and neighbours.  I won’t be solving my rat problem with a gun.

creature damage to tomatoes - rats
This damage is different to bird damage… and evidence I have a problem that needs immediate attention. I will not lose my crop to this creature!

I’m not sure the catch and release option is ideal as no one wants someone else’s rats and to be honest the thought of a cage of rats in the back of the car as I travel great distances to relieve my situation makes me feel a little squeamish!

I could set a trap and have the greedy little bug-gers break their necks as they are drawn to the peanut butter disguised device with a false expectation of a gardener endorsed treat, like a house warming gift.   Then BOOM!  Surprise.  “you’re not welcome here.”  But then I’d be confronted with the fact I’d actually had a hand in their demise and would have their stiff corpses to deal with in the morning.  I’m a peace loving gardener.  I bring things into life.  I don’t kill things, well except weeds, slugs, snails, caterpillars and aphids…. Ok not so peace loving, but there is a line in the sand somewhere.

Even my pepper plants are a little lackluster this year… They are normally way bushier than this. Not my best year, but it could be worse.

I could poison them – like a silent assassin.  Offering them delightful treats – then they get a tummy ache and go off and die.  I don’t get to see a thing.   But then this is rather guilt inspiring.  What if something else eats the dying rat and gets sick?   We don’t have too many creatures like that around here that eats rats, and the thought of whatever big sharped tooth creature that would be is the stuff of nightmares.

But I need to make a decision, and soon.  Last night we had our very first corn cobs for tea and it was so very good.  Then I tossed and turned all night with the thought swimming in my head that rats could be out there right now, eating my corn!  This fills me full of anger.  It is my corn and I will eat it.  The rats need to go.

Come again soon – Good things do happen in my garden too.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

20 thoughts on “Eek!  A Rat!

  1. Living on a farm and having a lot of stock feed laying around rats are a part of life around here unfortunately. We have a wonderful cat that used to keep the numbers down but she is a little old now and prefers food out of a bowl not on the run. I haven’t seen any evidence of then this year but it’s early. I do know how you feel with regards to the killing thing:( it’s really not a nice thought but the way l look at it to feel a little better is, when the weather starts to get cold the rats start looking for somewhere warm to hang out your house looks lovely and cosy to nest for the winter. Rats can fits through anywhere. These two facts alone are just to much for me, so they have to go. I have in the past baited them as you say quiet assassin but I do have a small sticky nose dog these days so would be a little concerned to do that now. I do wish you all the best with your problem and hope you can sort it before they find your corn:)

    1. My wee cat is also a bit old for hunting down rats, which is a shame as in her youth she’d have probably had them before they unpacked their bags. I think there is definitely an urgency to deal with them before the weather cools.
      Cheers Sarah : o)

    1. Thanks Linda for your advice. Rats are such a universal problem. It seems most people have run into them in their gardens at some stage – and if they haven’t then they know someone who has or they may some time in the future.
      Cheers Sarah : o)
      Cheers Sarah : o)

  2. Sorry Sarah but I think bait is the way to go.

    I know how you feel about killing a living creature but if one rat has been seen then you can be sure it’s not alone and if you think that one female can have upwards of 10 kits in a litter and rats become fertile at around 3 months ……… it wont be long before you’ve got a serious problem (trust me, we have first hand experience of this from a neighbour not dealing with a rat sighting immediately a few years ago). Also remember that rats can carry pretty nasty diseases, as well as give a horrible bite and hold onto that thought as you deal with the problem, it’ll make it much easier to deal with and lessen the guilt factor x

  3. I dealt with rats stealing my tomatoes last summer. I caught a couple with peanut butter bait, but the problem was not solved until I put out the poison. They are an unpleasant old problem, but when they show up we can’t wish them away. I did see a dead blue tailed skink the week I had poison out. But I still have the little bug eating lizards and I have no more rats.

    1. How much simpler would it be if we could wish them away. But it is a problem that needs to be persevered with until the end. It could be worse – I could have bears, deer, raccoon or moles!
      Cheers Sarah : o)

  4. Rats is no joke. Unless you want to breed rats, you’ll have to take action. I vote for traditional traps, baited with peanut butter. Because of cats and other critters, I cannot vote for poison.

    1. It is such a dilemma because I want to do the right thing, but at the same time I don’t want them in my garden and I certainly don’t want them hanging around the chicken coop or making themselves cosy in my compost. This is definitely one of the more disagreeable aspects of gardening.
      Cheers Sarah : o)

  5. What a great write up, even if it is about rats! I can see your dilemma though. We had a rat in the garden who used to visit the bird table, she/he would feed on whatever I put on there, it was so funny to see her. The large dog next door killed her and ate her I think….. not a nice thought either but like you I do not want a rat among my vegetables 🙂 Wishing you luck to resolve this dilemma.

  6. We managed to co-exist with rats. They’re everywhere. The challenge with poisoning them is that, aside from it being a cruel death, the poison is passed on to owls,hawks and other birds of prey.

    I’ve had some success with covering my pumpkins with pantyhose/stockings. They don’t like the texture. Another thing worth trying is to spray the fruit with a mix of Ivory soap, something non-toxic when washed away but unappealing to the nibblers in the garden. Hot pepper spray might work as well, as long as it can be washed off. Good luck!

    1. Hi Alys. The thought of rats kinda always makes my skin crawl. Mice are annoying but rats seem to make me think of the plague or something. I hate the thought of them in my garden.
      Cheers Sarah : o)

      1. I know a lot of people share your feelings and concerns. We had a friend with pet rats in high school so I think it made me more familiar with them. Unfortunately, our cats like to catch them and bring them indoors alive. Oh, the stories I could tell.

Leave a Reply