Mice, Voles, Rats & More

You may notice small holes like this one popping up around your veg plot – rodents get busy at this time of year as they search for food, creating tunnels and holes as they make new paths.

Compost piles, sheds and greenhouses all offer perfect shelter for rats too, making your veg patch look very attractive to them indeed.

Tell Tale Signs of Rats/Mice/Voles:

Rats: Tennis ball sized holes and tunnels into sheds/greenhouses – they tend not to be very subtle and the holes are easily spotted!

Mice: Holes are smaller, more like a golf ball and often in banks, or down the sides of raised beds.

Voles: You might notice ridges appearing in raised beds where they are tunnelling just below the surface (it’s easy to assume the tunnels are being made by moles, but if there are no mole hills nearby, it is more likely to be voles at work.)

What damage will they do?

We tend to find that voles are the most irritating at this time of year as they uproot plants quite easily by tunnelling underground. You might need to stamp down on their tunnels and firm plants back in again! Mice are quite partial to a nibble on newly planted peas too.

Beyond that, you’ll find more problems are caused later in the season when it comes to harvesting – you may pull up a beetroot or a carrot and find that they have been eaten from underground, or you may see little bite marks in squashes and courgettes.

How to keep numbers down?

The best way to keep numbers down is to minimise attractive shelters and available food. Here are our top tips for keeping numbers down:

  • Turn compost piles regularly. Rodents don’t like their homes being disturbed so this will help to discourage them from settling in.
  • Make sure anything that is even remotely edible in the shed is kept in a metal bucket or similar. That includes harvested pumpkins and potatoes etc that you may be storing in a shed, as well as more unusual things like, for example, liquid feed which can attract them.
  • Sweep up shed floors and remove any straw/wood shavings/ sheets of cardboard that can be used to make nests.
  • Clean up underneath bird feeders – fallen seeds and nuts are an easy food source for rats and mice, so keep these areas clean. The same goes for chicken feed – try to keep it clean and put any food away at night.
  • Remove garden clutter – again, you’re trying to reduce the chances of them setting up home, and sheltered spots underneath general “clutter” would make a good home for a rat.

Many gardeners swear by spraying plants with peppermint oil – you could certainly give it a try, but we haven’t had a huge amount of success with it and find that trying to get the plot less rodent-friendly as above is a better approach if you don’t wish to use traps etc.