Year of the rat

This year I have had a rodent problem in the garden, two years ago it was an ant problem. Now the ants are under control but the mice and packrats are out of control even though I continue to trap them and I’ve gotten a lot of them. I’ve never had a problem like this before in my veggie garden but luckily I have had a super productive year.

Actually next year, 2021, is officially ‘The Year of the Rat’ in the Chinese Zodiac but it might as well be this year. The mice and rats have been eating holes in many of the veggies.

Rat damage on a Cherokee green tomato

Tomatoes-My tomatoes have been hit hard but thankfully I have lots of them. I think rats are destroying some of my tomatoes and on other tomatoes there are little bites so I think they are mice-either way I can’t sell them. I’d be thinking, “I will wait one more day to harvest some particular tomato”, and then the mice/rat gets it first so I’ve had to resort to taking them a few days early and let the tomatoes finish ripening inside the house. I have too many tomato plants to completely wrap each plant to keep them out. Very frustrating.




Pepper damage

Peppers- I have to cut out part of the peppers that has been eaten too. They eat a hole at the top of the pepper and get the seeds. They don’t seem to care if the peppers are still green or red. So I’ve resorted to tacking down the pepper bed with some hail netting and using 2″ x 4″ boards to keep the netting snug at the bottom on the ground so they can’t get under it. So far so good.




Butternut squash-Then there are the butternut winter squash. They are almost ready to harvest. I’m waiting for the skins to get that beautiful butterscotch color. Well some mouse has been attacking them too. They nibble small holes in some of them. So I’ve resorted to completely wrapping each butternut squash in pieces of row cover to keep them from getting them.


I have not been able to plant any lettuces in my lettuce shade garden this season either. They first ate all my Fava beans last spring and so I have had to forgo growing lettuces in that area. Instead I’m going to plant the lettuce that I’ve started this fall into my covered coldframe up by the house. In a few more weeks I’ll also plant lettuce in my greenhouse (it’s still to warm inside the greenhouse to put them there but I am ready when it cools down more).

So it looks like either trapping them or wrapping your plant up tight to keep them out works. I would never use poison as we have a cat that also hunts them and our neighbor’s dog too. They could die from eating a poisoned rodent. Plus birds of prey like hawks would die also.

I have heard from other gardeners in this area that they too have had rodent problems this year. How about you? Have you had problems with rodents in your veggie garden this year?

28 comments on “Year of the rat

  1. Mara says:

    I live off Nine Mile Road and have been in a constant battle with mice and rats in the garden. I win some battles, loose others and have trapped many of these critters too.

    I dance a bit each time I’m able to get anything out of the garden!


  2. Emmy says:

    This is the first time I have had such a mouse and packrats problem. Since I live midtown I hope neighbors are not using poison. I think skunks eat them too? Most of my traps are tripped. They are smart creatures.


    • It’s interesting to see how many of us have had to endure them this year. Every year brings new challenges and this year was unbelievable with rodents! I think they are thirsty with our lack of rain and lots of heat. I’m luck to have a big enough garden to (I guess) share some of my crops although I’d rather they go somewhere else. I will continue to trap as many as I can to hopefully NOT have this problem next year! thanks for sharing!


  3. Deanna says:

    Absolutely major rodent outbreak this year! Sorry to hear you have it also in the Santa Fe area. I’m up here in the Abiquiu area and lettuces were impossible to grow due to the rodents. Most of my first vegetable plantings of the year were immediately eaten shortly after sprouting, causing me to replant at a slightly late date, versus having things planted at a slightly early date. Here is a list of vegetables and what I believe chowed down on them.
    Lettuces – mice, rats (crop entirely devastated after 3 plantings)
    Swiss Chard – mice, rats, rabbits (rabbits aren’t rodents but caused a huge amount of damage this year)
    Carrot tops – mice, rats, rabbits
    Edible Gourds – mice, rats
    Tomatoes – mice, rats
    Orach – mice
    Amaranth – mice
    Cucumbers – mice, maybe rats
    Sweet Peppers – mice (but they nibbled the bottoms, not the tops)
    Winter Squash – young plants were entirely eaten, decided not to replant these

    I also worked hard at trapping, and I had a resident bull snake that worked at helping me, lol. I am also not willing to use poisons for the same reasons you mentioned. Fortunately it was also a very productive year for me as well.

    I have plans to rework my garden fence to keep bunnies out, but I suspect that the bunny population has been severely reduced by that viral outbreak that’s nicknamed “Bunny Ebola”. Everything the bunnies were eating ravenously suddenly began having miraculous recoveries about 2 months ago at the same time that virus was being reported. Maybe the coyotes will begin focusing on the mice and rats now.

    My neighbors have all complained about the rodent plague this year, so at least I know it’s not just my garden that’s receiving unwanted focused attention.

    Speaking of unusual wildlife issues…the massive migratory bird die off after that harsh early freeze, we found some of the dead birds in our yard also. Fortunately, I am seeing some of the same migratory birds now fattening up, using my garden as their temporary home. They’re feasting on ants and other bugs, and eating the remainder of the unharvested tomatoes. I can’t think of a better use for those tomatoes. Hope they fatten up well for their journey.


  4. mmcgeary759 says:

    No rodent damage here, after we trapped out the gophers in the spring. Our problem is deer, worse than usual, packs of 3,4, 5 at a time!


  5. Michael Schneider says:

    I suspect you have low lying P/J branches near your garden. Trim them and they may move to a more attractive site. Pack rats get most of their water from the plants they eat. The combination of the two are probably pretty attractive to them and mice

    Sent from my iPhone



  6. Robert Godreau says:

    Rats. Yes. Lots. Also voles and mice. I’ve heard the same from other folks as well.


  7. John says:

    bummer Jannine


  8. Richard Welker says:

    Yes, the little critters this year have been unbelievable. From what I could see, they were after moisture. They don’t eat the plants, just snip them off and suck the juices. I lost two plantings of lettuce, all my kale and chard starts, an entire planting of beets and one planting of carrots, and all of my mustard. Kohlrabi was decimated, and radishes were destroyed. Much of the losses were due to mice and there was no end to trapping them as they just keep coming. Rabbits as well. Even rats. I killed more than 40 mice and 3 rats and never made a dent. Rolly Pollies nibble on winter squash and rabbits eat summer squash leaves, eventually killing the plant. Cucumbers remained untouched but the snow seems to have burned them badly.

    I have a young farmer friend up in Chupadero and he said he had similar experience, plus locusts.

    I resorted to getting 1/4 inch wire screen and making 9 foot by 3 foot half cylindrical cages for the kale, chard and beets so that I could keep mice out and get them to a size where the mice couldn’t destroy them. The mice chewed huge holes in the row covers and would simply crawl underneath and eat everything that wasn’t mechanically covered with a pot and lid. Sometimes they would burrow under a pot and eat the plant inside. I had to cover all lettuce plants individually every single night for months with a pot and make sure I put a rock on the holes or they would get into that. I did the same with the beans until they were big enough but then the rabbits jumped over the fence and ate some of them as well. It was completely discouraging. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    I know how you feel.


  9. amy a bowen says:

    Hi Jannine,
    I too have had trouble with the rodents! mice packrats ground squirrels and of course rabbits -Non stop. We were having to have stuff for ants (turro)to keep them away from the mouse traps and the mouse traps to keep them away from the packrat and squirrel traps.The ants would eat the peanut butter off the mouse traps and the mice would eat the peanut butter off the the trap for the larger animals -a regular circus. It is finally slowing down. It was non stop capturing at least 2 squirrels a day and 2-4 mice a night. We are just above Casa Solana so not even way out in the county like you. My zucchini plants are now gone completely eaten-leaves and all. Now the eggplant are getting hit.I don’t have as many tomatoes as you so have them protected in a dog kennel. The critters have not found out how to get in yet!!!-but the tomato plants from the suckers that did not fit inside-the leaves have all been eaten? I didn’t think they would eat tomato leaves?


  10. Janet Hirons says:

    I understand rodents have been a big problem all over town this year, can’t believe how many I’ve caught, mice and pack rats.


  11. Deborah Madison says:

    Jannine – Something’s been eating my tomatoes too and even though I have only two plants, I have to resort to the same method you mentioned – picking them a bit early! I think they might be rats or raccoons!




  12. tonytomeo says:

    Not at all. Darla is an almost feral kitty who might be associated with the lack of rodents I expected more of a problem, with the rodents that it (not Darla). The problem now is that Darla seems to want to retire from being feral and become domestic. I am none to keen on kitties, but I also know it is pointless to argue with one.


    • Be sure to read the other comments Tony. I too have a semi-feral cat but he comes in at nite and of course that’s when the rodents come out. You live in CA so it is entirely different out there. Almost all of the 12 comments are from around here. Unbelievable problem this year. I had heard from others around here that they too had this problem but not to this extent. I’m just glad that I have a big enough garden to feed me and the minons!

      Liked by 1 person

      • tonytomeo says:

        We miss out on many of the problems. I know that rodents are problematic in most of the buildings here, but they do not damage the gardens much. They eat acorns and bay seeds and such. Even the rabbits are not too serious.


  13. maggiethecatnm88 says:

    I live in Eldorado — and have had two cucumber plants destroyed – eaten at the base of the plant. They also have nibbled the squash–one packrat was taking squash leaves to line it’s nest, but it was dead the next day by trap.

    I agree, never ever use poison! It’s cruel. And goes up the food chain. Ours crows, ravens, coyotes, and other things love to eat rodents.

    We have a lot of rodents here, that being said, this is my first year here.


  14. Marina says:

    Ohh, I know what you feel. I don’t have this problem this year but last year was a total disaster. It was hard to save any vegetables even with the traps. My friend recommended me an ultrasound system which discourage rats, mices and other rodents from trespassing to my garden and this is what I bought: It helped me a lot and my area is safe now!


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