The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Defeated By a Mouse

August 21st, 2010 · 16 Comments · Posted in garden

This guy is eating my entire garden

This guy is eating my entire garden

Don’t be fooled by this guy’s cuteness. He’s an unabashed garden marauder. In just the last couple of weeks, a family of field mice has eaten their way through my entire crop of eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. Yesterday I decided radical measures were called for: I harvested everything edible from my vegetable beds, pulled up the plants and dispatched them to the compost heap.

We had trouble with these mice last year. They would have eaten all of our tomatoes. They actually climb the tomato vines in their cages and nibble the fruits to the quick–even the green ones. On more than one occasion, I caught them in the act. We finally started bringing the tomatoes indoors to ripen. We had a kitchen full of tomatoes in various stages of ripeness because we could not leave them on the vines.

This year we had a bumper crop of eggplant. But then I started seeing telltale signs that something had been gnawing on them. Soon, they were completely bored through and eaten from the inside out. Same thing with the bell peppers and the banana peppers and even the red-ripe jalapeno peppers. (Apparently the mice were only deterred by the extra-hot Serrano peppers.) I’ve read that mice have such a voracious appetite, they will eat their own tail if nothing else is available.

By last night, the mice seemed to be a bit frantic with their food source suddenly gone. They were scurrying all over the yard, from one vegetable bed to the other in plain sight.  The only thing we have growing now are the cucumbers, which they haven’t touched so far, our pole beans and a row of leeks. If they start eating pole beans and leeks, I will have to throw in the towel.

How to deal with an infestation of vegetable-crazed mice in the garden? This will definitely require some thought. At the moment, the only thing I can think to do is somehow encapsulate the affected plants in row cover. But that’s for next year. For the moment, we’re looking at a kitchen garden that has seen a premature end to the season.

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  • brooklynchick

    My garden is in containers on my sidewalk, so I have never struggled with this. However, there is one surefire way to get rid of *indoor* mice – a cat. I’ve lived in quite a few infested buildings but never had one in my apartment; according to an exterminator I asked about it, the mice can *smell* my cats and avoid the area.

  • sarah @ syrupandhoney

    Oh no! Such a bummer. Wish I could be of help, but I can’t think of anything other than row covers, either.

  • Sharon

    Oh no! I’ve had problems with birds pecking my tomatoes but not devouring everything in sight.

    I’ve heard that mint/peppermint oil is a good deterrent. Have you considered setting traps for the mice?

  • Bob

    I have to agree with brooklynchick, a cat would do the trick inside and out, and would help in the winter when they come inside for food and warmth.

  • BenK

    Yes, killing the mice is such a simple solution. A little peanut butter, a trap – any kind will do. Glue, a cage trap, a snap trap.

  • Ed Bruske

    Ben, have you had success with these methods in a garden situation? I can’t imagine the mice being interested in traps when they have a buffet of food in front of them.

  • Joanne Rigutto

    It depends on what the trap is baited with. If the bait is easier to get to and more to the liking of the mice, they’ll go for the bait instead of the vegetables. Unfortunately, knowing the way mice breed, especially if there is plenty to eat and not much in the way of predators (human or otherwise) you’ve probably got a lot of mice, and you’ll only be able to reduce the population by a small ammount innitially.

    We’ve got lots of rodents here on my farm. At one time I had 12 or so cats, but being right on the highway, it was difficult to keep the cats, so now we’re down to 2 house cats and one dumped cat who’s adopted us. We use poisoned bait to control the population as best we can, but we’ll always have a healthy rodent population. The best we can do is keep the populatioin down to a manageable level.

  • Pattie

    We have hawks here, Ed. Do you get hawks? They work wonders.

    So sorry to hear about the garden. Glad I got those pix when I visited!

  • Lola

    The rodents in Columbia Heights are no joke! We are fighting our own wars against the hole-diggers in Girard Playground. We are trying out some strong pepper-garlic-peppermint oil sprays this week; will let you know.

  • Joanna

    Hi Ed … just to say that I ripen tomatoes by putting them in a large wicker basket in an airy place. The ones in the middle ripen first, so they need checking over at least twice a day. Most years we have to do this for one reason or another … fear of blight, birds, mice (although not on your scale so far), end of season

    It’s true that our cat keeps the mice population manageable – he’s 1/4 Burmese, and a very good hunter

    Best wishes

  • BenK

    I have had great success against rats and squirrels using traps. Admittedly, these are a bit larger than mice. I use a dab of peanut butter on a piece of paper, sometimes with the havahart, I put it into a perforated plastic yogurt container so that the squirrels can’t nab it from outside the trap. I’m trying to protect the garden and keep rats out of the kitchen waste compost; which they will dig into pretty thoroughly if you let them.

  • Sylvie in Rappahannock

    Oh, Ed, that is disheartening and frustrating! I remember we had issues with squirrels and mice in our Falls Church garden… Not too many predators to keep them in balance. We did not have a good solution then, so I have no suggestions to make – unfortunately.

  • Waverly

    How frustrating. You need kitty or two to cull the population. Be sure to spay or neuter your cat if you get one….they multiply as quickly as mice.

  • PlantingOaks

    Traps are cheap and reusable. Get the old-fashioned looking ones without any plastic or glue. It is easy to try for a while, and if they don’t catch anything, you aren’t out much.

    You mentioned the mice running all over the yard, so I bet they would be interested in alternate food sources.

    Outside, I would cover the traps in something so larger animals or birds aren’t tempted, but otherwise, I see no reason they wouldn’t work.

    (yeah, and cats aren’t much use when the mice stay in the walls and cabinets)

  • arthur m.

    If you’ve got mice in the garden, it’s only a matter of time before they enter your house. Unless they are already there, which is highly likely. You should play it safe and protect your home and family by getting a good trap. Victor has a 100% kill rate trap that seals the dead mouse inside, along with any diseases. Here’s the trap you should check out:

  • Mr Kitty

    Have to say, kitty’s work WONDERS! Neighbor have cat, and he bring mice to doorstep everyday! My garden beautiful with juicy tomato and crisp cucumber. Cucumber’s eaten most! I no use traps, but kitty work wonders! Use kitty Mr. Ed! Kitty is the best!