Three ‘effective’ methods to deter rats ‘naturally’ from your garden

Gardening expert gives tips on deterring pets and pests

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Rats are considered vermin by the majority of people, so it’s no wonder they are one of the most hated of garden pests. This is mostly down to their ability to spread potentially disease – and those creepy long tails. As rats are nocturnal, gardeners are unlikely to see them in the day. Gardening experts at international retailer Primrose have shared how to tell if there are rats in the garden and natural ways to get rid of them.

If a rat has taken shelter in the garden, there are three particular tell-tale signs households may discover, according to the pros. 

The first are runs and tunnels against garden walls and fences, the second being rat dropping and the third gnawed wood.

The most common way to get rid of rats from gardens is the use of rat poison and traps. However, rat poison is toxic and may pose danger to wildlife, pets and humans. 

Additionally, neither traps or poisons are sustainable ways to deter rats from  gardens. The experts explained: “Both merely get rid of them. If you want an effective, sustainable and natural way to deter rats, prevention is the best answer to deter rats naturally.”

How to deter rats naturally

1. Remove food sources 

Rats are attracted to gardens as they contain bountiful food sources. Luckily, there are a number of steps gardeners can take to ensure their garden doesn’t become, or stops being, so attractive to rats. 

The experts warned: “Compost bins are a treasure trove to rats so ensure your compost bin is secure and move it away from possible routes of access, such as fences and walls.”

For gardeners who love feeding the birds, there’s a good chance rats may be getting into bird seeds and nuts. The gardening pros recommended purchasing a squirrel-proof bird feeder, as this “will block off rats”, and using no-mess seed mix will ensure there is no discarded food left on the floor that may attract rats. 

Gardeners should also ensure they collect fallen fruit from any fruit trees soon after it falls, otherwise rats may start to feast on the harvest. After collecting them, store them somewhere secure where rats will not be able to access them.

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2. Block off any forms of shelter

Rats make home under existing structures, such as garden buildings and decking. To prevent this, it is advised to block entry to areas beneath these – no matter how narrow the space. 

However, before doing this, ensure there are no rats living underneath the structure that is being blocked off, as “they will die an unpleasant death”, warned the experts. 

Households should also have a general clear up in their garden, getting rid of any debris and cutting back overgrown vegetation. This will provide rats with less cover. Even keeping the grass short will help. 

Take this opportunity to move things around in the garden. The pros explained: “Rats are neophobic, and this disruption of their territory will confuse them and encourage them to make home elsewhere.”

3. Natural deterrents 

Essential oils 

Rats have one of the best senses of smell in the animal kingdom, trumping that of dogs, according to the experts. 

They claimed: “When used in concentration, essential oils can do wonders in deterring rats from your garden due to their potency. 

“Peppermint oil, citronella and eucalyptus essential oils in their pure form are all smells that rats will dislike. 

“A few drops of these oils in their pure form around the areas you know the rats have been should do the trick.” Alternatively, soak cotton wool in essential oil and place in rat traffic areas.

Hot pepper 

Similarly to essential oils, the experts said: “Rats’ high sense of smell means they can’t stand hot pepper or anything very spicy like it”. 

To make homemade natural rat repellent spray, start by mixing cayenne pepper or chilli flakes with water.

Heat the mixture vigorously to infuse the chilli, then allow to cool. The longer the solution is left, the more potent the chilli will be.

For those who have used chilli flakes, sieve them out. Add a little castile soap (which is biodegradable) and pour it into a spray bottle. Finnish by applying the spray liberally to areas where there is evidence of rats.

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