How to recognise it
You probably won’t see the mice or rats doing damage to your plants, but the evidence will be clear. They will dig up and eat pea, bean and sweetcorn seeds, bulbs and corms. Between spring and autumn they may come indoors to eat stored fruit and vegetables.
Most mice and rats don’t hibernate and, therefore, can do damage throughout the year.
Why it’s a problem
Seeds, corms, bulbs, fruit and vegetables will be eaten completely or damaged to the point that they cannot be retained.
Where you are likely to find it
The type of mouse or rat will vary depending on whether you are in an urban or rural location. Most live in burrows, for example in banks, although you may find them nesting in garages and outbuildings.
How to deter it
The ‘traditional’ approach of having a cat is an effective deterrent and will get rid of any rodents which do brave the area.
Covering seed beds and bulbs with fine (1cm) wire neting should prevent rodents getting to them.
How to get rid of it
Rodent traps and baits are widely available. Carrot, apple, melon, potato or chocolate pieces act as good bait. These include humane traps which allow you to capture the mouse or rat without harming it; it can then be released in an area where it won’t do harm (which should be at least quarter of a mile from where you live). Check humane traps daily otherwise the rodent could die from dehydration. Traps can also be purchased or hired which kill the rodent in a humane way, such as by using carbon dioxide gas. If you are laying traditional mouse traps then cover them with cloches, or something similar, to prevent birds or other animals becoming trapped in them. Similar precautions should be taken if laying poison, and any children using the garden and garden buildings should be warned to stay away from it.
Some susceptible seeds can be purchased coated with a rodenticide (rodent poison).
If you have a large infestation then it is best to bring in a professional organisation to deal with the problem, or contact your local authority if they offer these services.
Is it good for anything?!
Mice and rats are an important part of the ecosystem and aren’t a great nuisance in the garden. Some even make great pets!
Other useful information
The wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), also known as the long-tailed field mouse, is one of the most common rodent pests in the garden.
Squirrels, another garden pest, are also classified as rodents.