Rats frequently burrow in gardens, but burrows can be hard to recognize because rats themselves are rarely seen except after sundown. Unfortunately, rat burrows in a garden can be a sign that rats have taken up residence elsewhere in your lawn. Luckily, preventing rat burrows is possible with a few simple measures.
Although it is rare to see rats themselves, their burrows typically appear near vegetables and plants they have damaged. Burrows display an open entrance and two escape holes covered loosely in dirt. Between the entrance and escape holes is an underground nest where rats live. You can also identify whether the burrowing culprit is a rat by looking for droppings, which are shaped like commas and may be 1/4 inch to 1 inch long. Burrows may also appear under boards, compost piles or garbage cans. Other signs of rat infestations include animals bringing dead rats indoors, rats atop fences or utility lines, and droppings in your yard, recycling bins or in dog houses.
If you notice rat burrows in your garden, it could be the beginning of a larger problem. Not only will rats eat vegetables and plants in your garden, but they can quickly populate and spread into your yard and home. In addition to vegetables and plants, rats will eat nuts, fruit, birdseed and anything else they can find. Their burrows can also harm the foundation under sheds and other structures.
If rats are burrowing in your garden, they may have been attracted by other sanitation issues in your lawn. Garden debris, trash, and containers such as boxes or gardening containers can serve as hiding spots and nests. Fruit or nuts dropped from trees and not picked up can also attract rats, as can garbage cans without lids. Rats may be drawn to pet food or birdseed left out.
To keep rats out of your garden, ensure that no food, water or shelter is available to them nearby. Remove debris from your garden such as loose leaves or flowers, and cut back thick bushes or other nearby vegetation. Clear clutter and containers from your garden and lawn. Feed animals when it is light outside, and do not leave food out when they are not eating. To keep rats from eating vegetables, pick them as soon as they are ripe. Don't forget to pick fruit and nuts from trees, and to pick up any fallen fruit or nuts.
If rats infest your garden or lawn, do not use poison as it can cause toxicity in vegetables, and be harmful to plants and flowers. Instead, set several snap traps baited with peanut butter or bacon. Place them along paths where rats travel, such as near plants that appear damaged and near potential hiding spots. This ensures that rats will have to run over the traps to reach their destination. Leave traps out for up to three weeks to catch rats. Avoid touching dead rats. Wear gloves, place dead rats in a sealed plastic bag in a garbage can and wash your hands immediately.