Those pesky critters

3 years ago I had a great pumpkin harvest.  I got about 6 big Bohemian pumpkins.  They grew easily and ate well.  My only issue with them was the size of the vine (huge).  Last year I tried to grow pumpkins in an unsuitable position(not sunny enough) and the crop failed completely.  This year I decided to try one golden nugget pumpkin plant in my main bed as they are a comparatively compact variety.  The plant hadn’t been doing super well as its main stem had been damaged by wind about a month ago but it had still managed to set a couple of pumpkins.   I went outside about a week ago to be greeted by this sight:

Eaten Pumpkin

A couple of days later it looked like this:


Then the other fruit was eaten in much the same fashion.  A week ago I had two developing pumpkins.  Now I have none.  I’m pretty sure I know the culprit.  I’ve seen a very fat rat in the garden lately.  Do these look like teeth marks to you?


Although I’m sad to lose my pumpkins I am more concerned about my tomatoes as the creature/s have started on them now and my beautifully formed (but still very green) Rouge de Marmande tomatoes are disappearing.  I’ve set a couple of traps – the kind that traps the animal inside of a box (for disposal of later) but the are proving ineffective.  I have used snappy traps in the past but we managed to catch more birds than rodents which was distressing.  I am not a cat lover so that is not an option.  Any other good ideas?

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34 Responses to Those pesky critters

  1. Daphne says:

    Well with mice Coleman suggests building wooden boxes with a mouse sized hole in the side to put the traps into. Mice and rats love holes. It would keep the birds out of the traps. I’d probably try bird netting several layers thick. All rodents seem to hate that stuff. I used to use it to keep the chipmunks out of my tomatoes at my last house. We have so many cats here that there are no chipmunks. So I rarely have to use it, though have on occasion with the groundhogs and squirrels.

    • Liz says:

      I do like the idea of putting the traps into something that only rodents would access – excellent plan – thankyou!

      • Danielle says:

        Liz, do you have lizards in your garden? My concern with Coleman’s suggestion is that a lizard could also crawl through the hole and get caught in the trap.

        Netting sounds like a fantastic idea; I’ll definitely keep that in mind if I have any issues this summer.

        • Liz says:

          I’ve never seen a lizard, except for one very small gecko and that was a long time ago. I’ve been trying to avoid the netting for asthetic reasons but I think your right – its probably worth a go.

  2. foodnstuff says:

    How maddening! They certainly look like teeth marks and if you hadn’t seen a rat, I’d have suggested a possum. They get stuck into my oranges sometimes.

  3. Michelle says:

    Oh my, I know the signs of rat damage too well and that’s what you’ve got.

    I have a couple of suggestions. One, if you can manage your schedule thus, set some snap traps at dusk and check them absolutely first thing in the morning. The rats are nocturnal and the birds are active in the day so you can avoid catching the birds if you can check and spring the traps if necessary at first light. I caught a lot of rats that way last year. I also took the precaution of setting the traps under a couple of boards and nursery flats that I propped up over them to make it less likely that the birds would stumble into the traps in case I slept in.

    Two, an easier but unsightly method is to loosely wrap the baby squashes in some lightweight row cover, making sure to leave no gaps for the rats to get in and using enough fabric to allow the squash to grow. You can make a big bag around the squash and gather it together around the stem and loosely tie it with some twine or other type of tie. That protected most of my squash in my “year of the rat” last, um, it’s now two years ago. I was able to uncover the squash when they reached mature size but before they completely hardened. The rats seemed to have lost interest by then, or perhaps the ripening tomatoes were more tempting…

    And, btw, my rats weren’t put off by bird netting, they just munched right through it.

    Good luck! It breaks my heart to see what the critters are doing to your garden. If there’s one thing that can bring out the homicidal urge in me, it’s rats destroying my garden. I still curse them every time I look at what used to be my strawberry bed… Grrr

    I can’t believe that you are only calling them pesky…

    • Liz says:

      Thanks for all your advice it’s very much appreciated. I save the stronger language for the actual creatures themselves but much like my 3 year old they are ignoring me. i like the idea of setting the traps at dusk and releasing them at night I reckon that could work and I think I will the putting them inside other boxes etc that the birds will probably stay clear of. If I lose the odd blackbird trying to get rid of them it probably isn’t such a bad thing either…

  4. Bek says:

    Oh no. How frustrating!! I’ve never tried this, but I remember reading somewhere that someone who had their corn seeds eaten by rats/mice put patchouli oil (now I remember, it was in Minding my Peas and Cucumbers by Kay Sexton – I just looked it up and its 20 drops of patchouli oil in 20ml water) on their newspaper pots and it deters the critters long enough for the seeds to germinate and start growing. Maybe it will work on the tomatoes???

  5. The trouble with rats is they are resourceful and intelligent. Just on thing – don’t want to freak you out – but make sure you wash your hands well when you have been handling things in the garden as rats carry Weils disease (Leptospirosis).

    • Liz says:

      I’ve resisted the temptation to google the disease as the idea of having something else to be nervous about is too much. Having said that I do appreciate you raising my awareness about it.

  6. Dave says:

    Thankfully I have not had rats in the garden..yet. It sounds like you have some good advice on what to try though. Voles can be a problem here, and I’ve yet to trap one of them.

  7. Jo says:

    It’s so disappointing when you lose a crop like that. I have to say that it does look like teeth marks. I would suggest putting the trap underneath something where the birds can’t get to it. Do you have a shed in the garden with a space underneath? Hope you manage to get rid of them, it would be heartbreaking to lose more of your veggies.

    • Liz says:

      They are eating the tomatoes now and frankly that is the final straw. I bought some bait today and will look into getting some more strategically placed snappy traps tomorrow.

  8. Mark Willis says:

    I’ve recently had some trouble with mice, and got rid of them with poison. You can put this is some very small spaces where birds would not be able to go. I’d also suggest diversionary tactis – lure the rats away from your precious squashes (and towards your traps / poison) by tempting with them something really tasty (but cheap) – e.g. cheese or peanut butter.

    • Liz says:

      Irritatingly they are ignoring the peanut butter preferring the green tomatoes – grrr. I have taken your advice re the poison though and bought some today. Not sure how comfortable I am with it but then I’m not comfortable with them eating my tomatoes either.

  9. Sarah says:

    That’s just so frustrating – we’ve had problems with rats being attracted into the garden by the hens food, but so far there’s been no damage to the veggies. Hope you manage to sort out the rats before they do too much damage to your tomatoes.

  10. Jodie says:

    mmm…. We have a friend who was a pest controller (incidentally he was dating a vet- one kills animals, one saves animals) he says only way is strategically placed baits where they are living (ie. away from where any other animals can get them as suggested by Mark are the only way to go)…..
    I know I have rats…. (or should I say the neighbours have rats- as they come over the fence!) and I know that its worse since we got chooks-this is despite having rodent proofed the feeder- the chooks are messy eaters and plenty ends up on the ground. Its also despite the fact I have a cat (who mostly sleeps inside at night) but occassionally picks off a litter of baby rats having just left the nest. But I am in denial- because I hate the thought of killing small fury animals! . I am pretty sure the rats got stuck into nibbling my snowpeas and my raspberries. I will be certainly keeping an eye out on the tomatoes…. it might be the last straw.

    • Liz says:

      My rats come over the fence too – although I’m not really sure where they ive – maybe my garden, maybe elsewhere. I’m not big on the killing of small furies either and when they confined themselves to the compost I was relatively comfortable with a shared existence but now they’ve started eatin my best developing tomatoes they’ve pushed the relationship too far I think. For me I think now is the time to deal with them, especially as our chook pen is almost finished and as you point out that is sure to add to the problem.

  11. Balvinder says:

    Well, I haven’t have any experience of dealing with such problems but it is sad to loose your crops to rodents.

  12. Ann says:

    I have rats in my vegie garden too but they seem to have confined themselves to my 2 compost bins, they are in there nearly every day. Someone said that if rats tunnel into your garden then they are native rats – mine are definitely tunnelling in under the fence and also into the compost bin. Do your rats leave tunnels? I am curious to know if there is a difference between the behaviour of common rats and native rats.

    • Liz says:

      Mine do definitely tunnel under the fence but I’ve also seen them go over it. I will have to do a lot more research on rats – I didn’t realise we had native ones. Mice yes but I hadn’t thought about native rats. Are they protected? Endangered? Mine were in the compost and not really doing much damage but recently they have stepped up their activity throughout the garden hence my frustration.

  13. Nina says:

    Eeww, yuck! Poor you! I know I get rats and mice from time to time and I know they love to squeeze into my tiny shed (they are contortionists, no doubt!) and make it their home. I get the ‘throw packs’ of poison and use it fairly regularly. My shed is so jam-packed with junk, I can barely get in, so the throw packs are ideal!

    I haven’t noticed that they have been eating the veggies, yet. Some radishes had bits missing but the holes looked beak-shaped, not tooth-shaped.

    • Liz says:

      I tolerated mine when they were just in the compost but as soon as they moved on I’m starting to get ver upset with them.

  14. kitsapFG says:

    Pesky Rats! Listen to Michelle’s advice… she is the garden rat expert. ;D

  15. Nick says:

    Do you have squirrels? That’s what we have to contend with here. I made peace with mine at the end of the season by giving him a few tomatoes to eat in his own spot, and he generally seemed to leave the rest alone. It worked better than anything else I’ve tried, including scaring him off, spraying with the hose, downstairs neighbor dog, etc.

    • Liz says:

      We don’t have squirrels and whilst I find them cute I think I would hate them in the garden. I deeply regret plugging the route into the compsot bin as ever since the critters have discovered the veggies.

  16. Louise says:

    That is really annoying! I am afraid I have now advice. I do have a cat who only catches very small mice. Her visiting ‘boyfriends’ however used to leave her decapitated rats as ‘love tokens’. That controlled them. It was worth putting up with the feral males ‘love calls’ to have the rodents eradicated. Good luck Liz, looks like others have some good suggestions for you.

  17. I have heard there is are 2 rats for every person. Not very comforting it has to be said. I have a rat that has eaten a hole into my worm farm so I have had to put a brick up to cover the hole. I am not so sure the rat didn’t eat my worms as they seem a bit inactive, I’m hoping it is the heat rather than a rat who likes worms. Good luck with ratty

  18. Diana says:

    On No very damaging what the rats has done. Hope you found some good solutions.

  19. Ann says:

    Some interesting comments on protecting tomatoes from rats on Gardening Australia’s forum page:

    Has anyone tried the mothballs as suggested?

    • Liz says:

      Loving the link – Thankyou! I’m going to get some tomorrow! Also salami for the traps and milky way bars because well why not try really.

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