Ratastrophe!16th January 2018 • In The Garden • Stephanie Donaldson
Over Christmas I became aware that rats were visiting, or living in the greenhouse. I don’t like rats at the best of times and I certainly didn’t want to share the greenhouse with them. They had been digging holes in amongst the salads and nipping off the tips of the iris reticulata I was growing in pots.
These were inconveniences, but the thing that worried me most was the possibility of them spreading Weil’s disease through their urine. Apparently they are pee-as-you-go animals, so it was possible that the salads had been liberally sprinkled and eating them did not seem like a good idea. I pulled them all up (wearing gloves) – farewell early spring salads – and moved the iris into a coldframe.
While I was working, the cat ambled in, sniffed here and there and then wandered off, indicating that the rats were probably visiting rather than resident – and that he was not inclined to hang around and catch one.
My next step was somewhat lateral – it’s the time of year when I use a garlic bomb to fumigate the greenhouse and it occurred to me that the combination of thick yellow smoke and a very strong garlicky pong might persuade them to go elsewhere. I’ve no idea whether it worked on the rats, but it does mean that other lurking pests will have been dealt with.
As I was now fairly confident that a thorough tidying of the greenhouse would not result in me coming face to face with a rat, I moved as many potted plants as I could into cold frames, cleaned the bench and removed all the seedtrays etc that lurked beneath.
All this work revealed the place where the rats were getting in – they had been digging through from outside where there was a gap in the brickwork foundations.
I’ve now blocked the external hole with wire wool (the one thing they won’t gnaw through) and banged slates into the soil close to their tunnel inside the greenhouse and packed behind the slates with more wire wool.
With any luck this will be the end of the ratastrophe, but to make sure I have put some rat bait down – and so far it has not been touched.
The good news is that the bacteria that causes Weil’s disease does not live for more than an hour away from its host (in dry conditions) so as soon as I’m confident that I have routed the rats I can sow some more salads.
And I’ve got a clean and tidy greenhouse!