Rats are a common rodent pest in the United States. Outdoors, they can wreak havoc in your garden. Not only may rats eat your vegetables and fruit, but they may also create underground burrows that can damage your plants. Although poisons and baits can effectively kill rats, these products use toxic chemicals. Gardeners who want a safer, natural alternative can employ several organic control techniques to get rid of rats in their vegetable gardens.
Cleanup hiding spots in your vegetable garden that may be attracting rats. Use a weed eater or scythe to cut back tall stands of grasses, weeds and shrubs that border your garden. Pick up scrap pieces of lumber or other debris.
Remove sources of food and water in your garden. Put away barrels and containers that may be collecting water. Harvest ripe fruit and vegetable produce in your garden as soon as it is ready. Rake up and discard spoiled fruit and vegetables that may be on your plants or lying on the ground. If you have fruit trees in your garden, wrap plastic or metal tree guards around each tree's base to prevent rodents from climbing up to the fruit.
Treat the edges of your garden with an organic, all-natural rat repellent, available from some specialty stores and nurseries. These products are formulated with the urine of foxes or bobcats to scare away rats, mice and other small animals in your garden. Repellents come in spray or granule form and should be applied according to the product manufacturer's guidelines, as odor potency varies by product.
Setup an ultrasonic pest repellent, which emits a piercing sound that is intolerable to rats, mice and other rodents. Use a battery-operated device and place it in a central location within your vegetable garden.
Trap or kill the rats with a humane or lethal rat trap. Though potentially gruesome, this may be one of the only options for stubborn rat populations besides using non-organic rat poisons. Humane traps capture the rat alive so you can release it away from your garden, while lethal traps snap the rat's body in a metal hold and kills it. Bait the traps with peanut butter or, more effectively, the fruit or vegetable that they seem attracted to within your garden.