Thinking of doing a spot of gardening this season and turn your lifeless backyard into a relaxing and idyllic retreat? Perhaps you’ve already started planting seedlings, refreshing old pots, supplementing nutrients, and keeping pests away from budding fruit and flowers. For a passionate gardener, there’s almost nothing that could ruin the dream of luxurious, thriving, colorful, and textured gardens in the summer – unless it has sharp teeth, a long tail, gray fur, and an insatiable appetite for devouring anything green.
The rat, because he’s the potential destroyer of everything you’ve built so far and able to trash your dreams of lushness and growth in a second, is a common occurrence for Canadian homeowners during the warm season. A recent news report revealed that backyard composting bins in the parking lot under the north end of Burrard Bridge in Vancouver have been attracting rats on the premises of a local daycare.
According to YMCA spokesperson Kelly Walker in an interview for CBC News, the bins containing gardening compost attracted a horde of rodents that soon made their appearance on the playground of Beach daycare, preventing the children from playing outside. Walker said the bins containing a combination of food scraps and waste have been removed, and exterminators have been called in to deal with the infestation. Snap traps were installed and checked on a daily basis to make sure there would be no danger whatsoever for the children at the daycare.
Asked about the reason rats invasions in the area have become a pressing problem in recent years, Environmental Health Inspector Shelley Beaudet responded: “Maybe one of the reasons why there’s such a boom in Vancouver is we have some really green people that live in this city and there’s not an abundance of poison that people might use domestically that they might use in other parts of Canada or the rest of the world.”
So going green and eating healthy does, after all, have downsides, some of which you would have never guessed. But, just because your healthy and green lifestyle has fans among rodents and other pests doesn’t mean that you should deny yourself the peace and tranquility a summer garden can bring. Here’s what to do to see your plants blooming and your burrowing, disease-carrying, pestilence-spreading enemies at bay.
Rats are an inevitable part of our environment, and having them in your garden is not the end of the world. In fact, just by following a few basic rules when preparing and storing the compost for your garden plants, you can avoid transforming your bins into feeding stations for the nasty rodents.
First things first: Go ahead and take a look at your bin right now. Do you make a habit of throwing cooked food, egg shells, raw food scraps, grass clippings, and other food waste into an uncovered bin/heap that you then leave unattended for days, even weeks? Congratulations, you’ve turned your property into a magnet for vermin, and there’s a good chance they will get to do significant damage before you even notice their presence on your property. To make your compost bins/heaps unattractive for rodents and mice, do the following:
• Sink the compost bin into the ground by approximately 15 cm
• Place chicken wire underneath the bin
• Add bricks around the bottom rim
• Purchase a plastic base for the bin to sit on, in order to deter rodents but allow drainage and access to beneficial worms and insects to the compost
• Keep contents moist
• Plant mint nearby
There are also several steps you can take to prevent future rat infestations on your property. First of all, eliminate all sources of food and water: pick up fallen fruit or nuts from the ground and remove all standing water from plant saucers, old tires, birdbaths, etc. Also, keep foliage away from your house and other structures to discourage rats from forming nests. Don’t forget to cover holes and repair cracks in fences and walls surrounding your property – although rodents are resourceful creatures, limiting the number of access points is one way to keep things under control.
Remember that rats and many other pests love clutter, so by keeping piles of debris and other items on your property, you’re giving them a warm home and a perfect place to hide. If things do get out of your control, call in your local pest control professional and have him install snap traps and other useful strategies to exterminate rats and prevent them from entering your property in the future.
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.