You may never see mice in the garden, but they are often present. While you may not see the rodents scurrying about among your cucumbers and tomatoes, you may see signs of the damage they leave behind.
Ridding a garden of mice is an ongoing battle. Once you ward off one set of invaders, another generation may appear right behind, following the trails of the first right into the heart of your vulnerable garden. Mice may frequent an area as large as 4 acres and produce several litters per year.
Avoid killing or frightening away native snakes. Most states have multiple species of snake that are not poisonous and snakes are very effective at hunting rodents, helping naturally control populations.
Build or purchase nesting boxes for owls. They are healthy eaters when it comes to rodent dinners. Breeding pairs will hunt often to feed their young and owls tolerate some human activity near their area, activity that will drive away other wild predators (such as skunks and weasels).
Consider a cat. The cat of the house need not remain a constant presence in the garden. If you keep an indoor cat, allow it to roam the perimeter of your planting space. The scent of a predator will help deter rodents and they may seek an easier meal elsewhere.
Prevention and Sanitation
Keep your garden space clean. Pick up any loose seed, carry away dead plant material and dispose of bruised or rotting vegetables that may attract rodents. Ensure that all compost used in the garden has broken down completely and that compost piles are constructed to be rodent-proof and managed to rapidly break down food waste. Keep trash cans covered and away from the area.
Pick up around fruit and nut trees. According to the Washington State University Extension Service, even seed pods from flowering shrubs may attract rats or mice to your yard and, subsequently, your garden.
Pick promptly when produce ripens. This will not only leave less food to attract mice, you can avoid losing some of your valuable crop to damage.
Construct a fine mesh enclosure in areas prone to attacks by mice. The Colorado State University Extension Service recommends a wire with mesh no larger than 1/4 inch. This can be used as a barrier, a fence or to cage individual plants particularly vulnerable to damage.