You Bet Your Garden

Keeping vermin far, far away!

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September 22, 2012 — As cold weather approaches homeowners need to be careful not to accidentally invite vermin to nest nearby. Mike McGrath reveals how to keep the dreaded rat far, far away. Plus: Mike speaks with Bill Quarles of the BIRC about a troubling new trend in genetically modified plants and answers to all your growing questions.

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Question of the Week

Mike, we need your help! Last winter a pair of rats lived in our compost bin. When spring came we put wire mesh around the bottom of the bin and clumps of used cat litter around the area and they left. Now they’re back—in our compost bin and under a neighbor’s shed. Our township put out traps with rat poison and killed a couple of them in the spring. We want to get rid of the rats but don’t want to use poison. I think our cat would be able to get a few; do you have any suggestions about the rest? I checked in your archives and didn’t see anything.  Get the answer »

Photo by Flickr user (OvO)

  • Brent


    I live in the San Francisco Bay area and enjoy my small urban organic veg garden, mainly for good fresh eats. Most of my vege plants thrive here, but tomatoes are a problem. Partly it is by comparison. I used to live at 6000 feet in Colorado, where the high altitude, warm summer days, and dry air are native plant conditions, caused my tomatoes to grow like weeds there. Here? With the cooler summer temps, lower altitude, and higher humidity, not so much.

    The biggest problem I have is tomato russet mites. That’s what I need your help with. These mites are a common problem in this area. They are barely visible to the naked eye, but easily seen with a magnifying glass. They are minute reddish colored spider-like-creatures that live on the underside of the tomato leaves and snack on the plant juices. The infested leaves first become mottled with yellow coloring, then eventually turn brown. If left untreated, the plant quickly dies and the fruit fails to mature.

    What I’ve been doing is spraying the underside of the leaves with water from the hose. This quickly washes the critters away. But a day or two later I look under the leaves and they are already well on their way to being back with a vengence.

    The only other clue I can offer is that the problem has always been worse in one part of the garden than the other. There’s really no difference in sun or water, but the soil is a little less more sandy, and less compost-filled in the part where theproblem is occuring. I suspect is that there is an ornamental plant that is hosting the mites. But I have no idea what it is… .

    It’s too late for this summer. But I need a plan for next year. Do you think more mulching would help? Any other ideas????

  • Rod

    I moved to a property in the rural woods of Pennsylvania, into a travel trailer that I heavily modifided. I thought I had sealed the rig up quite tight, but the first Fall snd Winter were a real battle with field mice. However, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve successfully managed to seal up what openings that they must have been using, as there haven’t been any more noises or snapped traps! I’m glad thst battle is over

  • Brian White

    On August 11th I started Pallet Gardens with integrated water cycling. It is a playlist on my channel. from the link above It is working super good and I want to share it with people. Also I was working on a complicated dripper irrigation system that can run from rain barrels but following a suggestion, I made it way simple! Check that one out too! You can get a week or more of drip from a rain barrel. It is called tcmtech dripper irrigation on instructables. (From the user name of the guy who suggested it) The glass pot lid as a float was my idea! Brian

  • Kent Mclaughlin

    Mike- Can I transplant some mature blueberry bushes now?

  • Frederick Matz

    Mike, I read your postings on rat control ideas. Years ago I ran a suburban rat control project as a Health Officer in Suburban Philly. The problem is food for the rats: trash cans, bird food, pet foods, veggie gardens, etc. If you have rats, you cannot begin to get rid of them without getting rid of the food source. If you have rats, you cannot feed birds and expect to get rid of them. They can live anywhere and will if there is food available. This time of year they love green tomatoes left on the plants. I never saw rats inside a house, always outside. We used rat bait inside bait boxes without problems. Getting rid of rats is rather easy, the hard part is convincing people that they are causing the problem.

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