Rats are a common concern in community, home and institutional gardens. Prevention and ongoing vigilance are the best ways to keep them from getting out of control. 

Remove what they need


“They are not vegetarian; like most mammals, rats (especially reproducing females) need animal protein, fat, and carbohydrates in their diet. Rats will eat the vegetables and fruits in a garden, but if that is truly their only food source, they will eventually move on to a site that meets their animal protein and fat needs. A compost pile with only garden scraps will not sustain a rat colony. But if table scraps including meats, grains, oils, or other fats are added into the compost pile, it will become highly attractive to them.”(1)
  • Store bird and animal food in a secure place. Don’t allow bird and animal food to accumulate on the ground. Don’t leave food out for pets or feral cats. 
  • Clean up pet feces regularly. 
  • Don’t leave standing water at ground level. Put bird baths and pollinator ponds on a pedestal or table. 


  • Clean up protected pathways that rats need. Lumber stored alongside wood garden beds, weedy areas between fences and compost bin provide great cover.
  • Remove plants growing up against the shed 
  • Store lumber, garden stakes, wood piles at least 12 inches above ground
  • Trim back plants so they are 12-18” off the ground, particularly if they are close to walls or fences
  • Remove access to nesting areas: block or seal access to decking, crawl spaces and sheds


  • Planting onions or leeks in between your other plants, rats dislike their smell
  • Planting strong smelling herbs around your plants, rats dislike the smell as well
  • Rats generally don’t like change. Moving items around in your space restricts their movements. 
  • If you are using snap traps, place multiple traps around the site, not just one or two. Place them at different levels wherever rats establish paths. 
  • Poison traps are not recommended and may be illegal in some jurisdictions.

Communicate with your neighbours or fellow gardeners. If other people around your space are not removing food sources and nesting spaces, you will still see rats in your garden!


Page updated on 2022-05-03 16:57:36