What can be more frustrating than entering your greenhouse only to be greeted with pots broken on the floor, dirt everywhere, and unrooted plants all over the place? My precious cacti have been victims of a rat raid a few nights ago. How to avoid this from happening again?
To prevent rats from entering the greenhouse again, it is necessary to 1) seal off entry holes in the greenhouse, 2) keep the surroundings neat, 3) remove water sources, 4) secure compost bins, and 5) ideally get a pet. Rats are attracted by 1) food sources such as fruits, vegetables, and compost, 2) water, and 3) stockpiles stored in a greenhouse.
Do rats infiltrate your greenhouses too and leave traces of harmful droppings? Well, you’re not alone in this vermin fight. I went through the same pain as you, and here is what I did to solve it.
Greenhouses are the ideal hideout and nesting place for rats as they provide warmth and ample variety of food sources. They are attracted to fruits, vegetables, water, and piles of all sorts of tools left inside the greenhouse.
To prevent rats from entering your greenhouse, you need to determine what draws them inside. When the rat problem has been identified, act promptly to eliminate the reason for them to be there or create a shielding between it and them.
So what can attract rats into a greenhouse?
Rat food sources such as fruit-bearing plants, vegetables, and compost bins left in a greenhouse attract rats through their smell that builds up inside the greenhouse, making it easy to identify. Bird seeds from feeders are excellent in attracting rats too.
Rats have powerful olfactory senses that can detect over 2000 distinct odors. Once they smell any appealing odor such as food and stinky garbage, it will entice them.
Compost bins that are left open are hospitable to rats giving them the chance to stay and scavenge for food.
Rats are attracted by leaky pipings, water buckets and puddles, and other stagnant water sources. Ponds and swamps around the area are also an excellent target of rats for water supply.
Rats like freshwater sources. They need water daily, and they prefer to hang around these sources.
Piles of woods, debris, card boxes, and dense shrubs welcome rats for habitation. Stockpiles of rubbish provide rats for cover and protection from predators.
Rats like to hide in inconspicuous areas to seek warmth and shelter against harsh weather, especially in winter. It is ideal for them to build habitat under those stationary areas.
Recently, rats invaded my greenhouse and wreaked havoc on my potted cacti and seed-grown Gymnocalyciums. There were no water deposits or foods available inside my greenhouse, so I suspected that the rats were just looking for shelter against the heavy downpours. As cheeky as they are, they expertly found a small slit from the screen fence as their portal inside my greenhouse.
To deter rats from entering the greenhouse, it is necessary to 1) seal off entry holes, 2) keep the surrounding clean, 3) remove water sources, 4) secure compost bins, and 5) get a pet.
Greenhouses provide the perfect condition for plants development, but at the same time, they also offer shelter and protection for critters like rats. Preventing rats from getting in your plant house can be tricky since it requires constant awareness.
The effective practice for dealing with rats is to use rat poison. Nevertheless, I would not recommend using toxic products anywhere near the produce you are growing. So we’re going to focus on other ways for now.
I was a poor victim of rats, and several of my cacti suffered from the attack. With my experience and those of even more experienced gardener friends, I was able to come up with a preventive plan.
Block any holes to prevent rats from entering the greenhouse. These critters can squeeze in through small apertures.
Rat proofing your greenhouse is the first step to control rat entry. If your UV plastic greenhouse got holes, seal them right away before rats discover them. Greenhouses with metal or wooden fences cover slits or holes with a mesh screen, coarse steel wool, or crumpled aluminum foil so rats can hardly get in.
Sometimes they burrow on dirt floors, so the best way to plug entry holes in the ground is to stuff it with concrete mix, sheet metals, or any sturdy materials that they cannot gnaw.
Remove piles of abandoned equipment and rubbish inside and around the greenhouse. Keep the trash can lid, and compost pit closed so rats will not be lured.
Maintenance and sanitation will do a lot to control rats and mice from visiting your plant house. Do not store pet foods and avoid placing garbage bins inside your greenhouse. A quick daily visit to your greenhouse every day will ward off rats away and limit their activity to stay inside.
Clean up debris like dried leaves and fallen fruits. Keep grasses low, trim shrubs regularly, and minimize overgrown vegetation outside to deter rats from hiding beneath them. Piles of firewood and stacks of abandoned furniture provide an opportunity for rats to dwell inside the area. Compost bins and trash cans must be of sturdy materials with tightly sealed lids.
Tidy and clean greenhouses are unwelcoming for rats, and you can detect them instantly if they decide to come back.
Do not allow rats to have access to water sources. Preferably, do not place faucets or water barrels inside the greenhouse. Ensure outdoor taps and pipings don’t drip.
Rats cannot survive without water for months, so they need a steady water supply. Another easy way to prevent them from going in is to remove any possible sources of water which they can access easily. Water buckets, taps, and stagnant puddles inside the greenhouse invite rats for a drink.
Elsewhere, secure water pipes and faucets from the leak. Ponds near your greenhouse should be free from long grasses, bushes, and rocks. Rats do not like open spaces, so they tend to hide beneath the overgrown to drink in the pond. Removing those obstructions from the pond will expose the rat if they want to quench their thirst.
Place compost bins away from the greenhouse. Also, compost bins must have a tight-fitting lid so that rats cannot get in. Compost entices rats as it can be a good food source and excellent shelter.
Inside the compost bin are numerous things that a rat will easily eat. In addition, it is an excellent bedding material. As the compost deteriorates, it generates heat, and rats love warm places. A rat can live in luxury inside the compost bins.
But how do we keep them out? Compost bins must be tightly sealed. Make sure you use sturdy containers that rats cannot gnaw on and make holes for the entrance. When you pile the compost, make sure to pack it down in a heap around the sides evenly so the cover will now turn up and leave any small opening for rats to get in.
Pets like dogs and cats can help scare rats away from the greenhouse. Despite not being a solution that many might consider is probably one of the most effective.
Having a dog or a cat outside could lessen the chance of rats staying in your garden. These pets can deter rats away, making them less likely to stick around. It may sound like a good idea, but don’t recommend free-roaming animals inside the greenhouse. You must consider the mess it will cause when the chase occurs and the risk of your pet getting infected with the disease from the rats.
For me, I would not want my dog roaming around the garden as I have some succulents and cacti outdoors. So I tried placing my rottweiler in a cage just a few feet away from the greenhouse. Rats can smell the presence of dogs nearby. It may not be as effective as letting them in free-range, but at least rats will be scared at the bark of my Rott. Again, make sure to keep dog foods stashed away, or else you’ll lure rats into your greenhouse.
Rats can be very devastating once they start infesting the area. Aside from spreading diseases like Leptospirosis, they can wreak havoc in the greenhouse, biting seedlings/ fruits, gnawing electric wires, pipelines, wooden fixtures, and throwing plants on the floor during their moving.
Recently, my greenhouse was visited by rats, and true enough, they raided my seed-grown cacti and left them scattered on the shelf. It left me with so much work to do, from cleaning up the mess and repotting the uprooted cacti. Some of my cacti have bites that are quite peculiar to rats’ teeth (parallel and long).
A friend complained that rats infested his greenhouse, gnawing on the pipelines and electric wires inside. Portions of the fence and shed doors have scratches and bites too. I look for a possible reason why rats choose to eat them though they are not food. The fact is that rats chew on something hard material to keep their front teeth short and sharp.
Another severe damage that these cheeky little crawlers can cause is to transmit diseases such as leptospirosis. Breathing in dirt contaminated with their droppings and urines will cause several serious health problems such as Hantavirus and Hemorrhagic fever.
Rats are omnivores, meaning they eat anything they find appealing, both animal and plant matter. Rats love to eat corn, potatoes, squash, carrots, eggplants, and tomatoes. They also consume stored bulbs, seeds, and ripe fruits, compost material and pet food.
Some plants such as amaryllis are being targeted and munched by rats; at the same time, it is a deterrent to them.
Rat diets also include animal fat, carbohydrates, and protein. So compost bins that contain food scraps like meat, grains, eggs, and seeds are alluring to rats.
Pet foods are an excellent food source for rats. When you feed your dogs, cats, chickens, birds, or rabbits inside the greenhouse, chances are you are offering rats some food. You must clean up feeding areas regularly to avoid attraction for rats. Aside from animal foods, rats also feed on animal wastes such as pigeon feces.
Rats and mice are nocturnal creatures with almost the same appearance. The differences between the two are their droppings, gnaw markings, sizes, and tails.
The best way to distinguish if your unwelcome visitor is either a rat or mouse is to consider the following features:
- Droppings – Rat droppings are glossy black and 10-20 mm long with blunt ends like a banana. While mice poop appears small, 1-2 mm long, smooth with pointed tips.
- Gnaw / Bite Markings – Rat’s teeth are typically long, 5mm long. Mice have smaller and scratchier bite marks.
- Sizes – Rats are bigger than mice with weights ranging from 150-300g, 16-40 cm in length. However, mice are more petite, weigh 12-45 g, and measure 2-10 cm body length.
- Tails – Rats have thick and hairless tails, while mice have long, thin tails covered with hairs.
- Rats scavenge fallen fruits, pet foods, and scraps in the garbage/compost bins. They are attracted to areas with a water supply and hang out on stationary piles, debris, and overgrown vegetation.
- The following methods are proven effective in repelling rats away from your greenhouse; sealing off entry holes, keeping the surroundings neat, removing water sources, securing compost bins, and getting a pet.
- Damages caused by rats include the spreading of disease in your garden, structural damage, biting seedlings, gnawing electric wires, pipelines, and wood fixtures.
- “The world through a rat’s nose,” by Anne of anne_rats Rat Behavior.Org
- “Avoid an invasion of pantry pests,” Michigan State University
- “Rodents,” Pesticide Education, Michigan State University
- “Disease directly transmitted by rodents,” Centers For Disease and Control Prevention
- “A healthy diet for rats,” Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- “What is the difference between a rat and a mouse.” Rentokil Initial PLC
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