Do you eat tomatoes chewed on by mice?

catherinet(5 IN)August 14, 2009

The mice are horrible in my garden this year, chewing on beans and tomatoes. I'm trying to pick the Roma tomatoes before they even turn red, so the mice get less of them.

The mice take a bite or two out of the tomatoes, and then move on to the next tomato.

It gives me the creeps to think about cutting off a portion of the tomato with the mice bites in it and using the rest. I just don't know how far their saliva travels!

How about the rest of you? What would you do?

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I'd deal with the mice.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 2:30PM
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Yea, agree with mulio- I'd get a cat or two. The toms would be throw aways.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 2:35PM
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ditnc(7 NC)

I never had to deal with a mouse-bitten tomato, but I absolutely would not eat one.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 3:42PM
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roper2008 (7b)

I had same problem with rats biting into all my tomatoes. I know some
people don't like the idea of using poison, but I worked so hard preparing
my garden beds. I was not going to let the rats get them all. I put rat
poison by my tomatoes at night and early in the morning before sunset,
I put them away. The 1st day they were not touched. The 2nd some was
eaten. I did this for 1 week. The reason I did not leave the poison out all
day is because I have 3 little dogs, and I was worried about birds eating it.
It was worth it in the end because I have tomatoes to eat now. I know there
are still a couple more rats. I'll deal with them soon before they become
an army.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 3:58PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

There was a stray cat in the spring that ate the baby bunnies in the garden. I wish he'd spend more time in there now!
We live in the middle of woods, so there will always be mice. Anyone have any ideas on how to protect the plants from them? They would fit through chicken wire, chew through bird netting, and dig down under any kind of fencing.
And it wouldn't help to leave less than perfect tomatoes lying in the paths, because they pick the ones they want to eat! (the perfect ones).
I don't have as much trouble with my taller tomatoes. Do they make a tall growing Roma? Mine are always so close to the ground.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 5:30PM
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I have terrible troubles with rats eating my tomatoes. We apparently have similar tastes as they seem to love my Mr. Stripey.

I have tried traps with really no success. The best approach I found is to be vigilant in picking them just when they start to turn like you see to be.

As for eating them, I still eat my tomatoes, depending on how much the rat has eaten, I just wash them really well and I just cut off a big chunk around the bite. I have yet to get sick as a result.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 6:06PM
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Would you feed them to your children or your mother?

Honestly, if a nursing home fed vermin-chewed food to its clients they would be out of business and the directors arrested.

How would you feel if your favorite restaurant chopped up mouse-chewed tomatoes and sprinkled them over your salad?

If you found out your local school was feeding rat and mouse chewed food to your children what would you feel? Joyous that they were doing this, or simply revolted and outraged that they would serve contaminated food? Do you think the next school board meeting would have the spirit of a strawberry social or look like the mob scene from Frankenstein?

Get a cat or a terrier and toss the contaminated food in the trash.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 6:39PM
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I certainly assume you would never do this, but some folks just might do it from desperation, giving up, or foolishness.

Hantavirus is spread through vermin, as well as so many other horrid illnesses. Eating vermin-tainted food is playing russian-roulette with physical health. It has the potential for profoundly injurious effects.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 6:48PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Come on now Trudi......tell us how you really feel about this. LOL!
I wasn't about to eat them, but was curious if others felt the same way.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 9:33PM
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Well, I've usually had a good track record of getting my points across. I would think that a lot of people would feel the same.

Mice and rats are disgusting, they can have parasites which carry harmful pathogens. I'm blessed with two excellent mousers. The only mice I see are the "gifts" which are left on the doorstep by the little cat. The BIG cat leaves me shredded bunsters on the garden paths. How sweet. Ick.

Today was my last day for the season teaching at an ecology camp, there's a CSA Farm there. One of the things we do stress is that natural is nice, but natural still isn't clean. Food has to be washed and questionable food is composted or trashed. When in doubt, throw it out. So definitely, because I taught this very thing to children today, I stress the lesson. I know that someone above posted that they carve off the bitten-parts, but wow, eewww, that's a huge risk. Huge Risk. HUGE.

BTW, my husband works undergound in the NYC subways, he's a signal specialist. There are some areas which are so badly infested that they need to call in the "Rat Squad" before his tean can safely work--not that job isn't dangerous enough--but rat bites and rat saliva equal disease. Somedays, when he gets home, I make him stip off his clothes in front of the washer. I pick his clothes up with tongs, lol. Extra ick.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 10:50PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I feel the same way Trudi.
I thought I'd deal with not having a garage or enough storage space for alot of my outside things for the chicken coop/water gardens, etc. So I bought several of those big deck boxes. Well guess who lives in them???? Its disgusting.
So I'm having to think of alternatives.
Unfortunately, our shed is packed full with various things, and its become a mouse condo. We'll have to clean it out with respirators on. YUK.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 9:13AM
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This is the first year ever I have had damage from mice. On my beans and cukes. Still waiting for tomatoes. maybe mice are in their 7 year cycle. LOL I live on 5 acres and have 1 stray cat that lives here, but never have seen the damage that I have this year. I don't think I will eat the food, unless it comes down to that one tomatoe that survived this weather, Hmm....what to do?LOL

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 10:24AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

My sister puts mice poison in pvc pipe that is several feet long and pushes it in to the middle. I have rats in my barn and I will not use poison because my rats will move the poison. I found a nest with sticks, pencils, assorted little items, dog food and rat poison. If my dog found this, it would eat the dog food and get poisoned so you have to be really careful. My cats catch rats and mice, but are not good at catching voles. If it is voles you can buy some castor oil stuff that is supposed to repel them.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 10:55AM
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Sometimes animals eat tomatoes only because they are thisty. If you put a bowl of water near the plants, they might leave the tomatoes alone.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 12:09PM
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roper2008 (7b)

I would get a cat, but my 2 daschunds and chihuahua mix hate cats.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 1:07PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

That's a good idea struwwelpeter. I think that's why rabbits just bite off stems and don't eat them.
Thanks for that tip!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 2:15PM
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ppod(6 SE NY)

I put rat poison by my tomatoes.
By leaving poison in the garden, Roper runs the risk of poisoning his own dogs, when they find a dead mouse, rat, skunk, coon, or other annimal, and eats it. If that sad thing should happen, the dogs will suffer an unimaginable painful, slow death like the poisoned wild annimal did. And in trying to save the poisoned dog(s), the vet bills will be substantial.....

To rid the garden of vermin, try some other means, like snap traps, or some of the slew of traps seen on HD's shelves.


For years, we were inundated with chipmunks. The munks destroyed all tomatoes, squash, fruits, seeds, & berries. We never got to harvest anything except for pole beans. It crawled with them; you'd look out the windows, and there'd be five or ten running about collecting food.

One day, I noticed some small annimals hopping and chirping on the lawn near a chipmunk burrow. The chirping and exuberant jumping up in the air reminded me of ferrets. All of a sudden, all the chipmunks are gone, so I assume the indigenous weasels have returned and restored a natural balance. Now my fear is that someone, like Roper, will be shortsighted and put out poisons against some vermin problem, and that the poison will kill many annimals in succession, including the weasels, and we'll be back to another 10-year chipmunk infestation.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 2:49PM
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Bets(z6A S ID)

If you don't have a mousing cat or dog, the best way to safely kill rats and mice is to take a 5 gallon (or taller) bucket and put a few inches of grain in the bottom of it. Angle a furring strip in the bucket to go from one corner to the top of the other side and have furring strip that goes from that side to the ground. Once the mice and rats have been "trained" that there is free food for the taking in the bucket, remove the furring strip and grain from inside the bucket, fill the bucket about half full of water and sprinkle bran on the top. They will climb the ramp on the outside and see the bran and jump in to eat the "free food" and drown. Much safer all around and pretty effective.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 3:33PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I would never put poison in the garden either. Too many animals/insects down the food chain could be hurt.
I have this problem of not being able to kill things. I just can't do it. I suppose if our lives depended on the garden, I'd have a different attitude. But I just can't.
(Although if I'd caught the coon that killed my chickens, I think I would have done some damage.)
I guess we need an outside cat to do the deed.
There's a mouse in the chicken coop, and I keep thinking the chickens will get it, but they're scaredy cats. haha

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 4:21PM
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I also think it is because they are looking for water. I have been in a dry pocket, which is why I think they are so bad this year. I don't or wouldn't use poisons either, we caught a woodchuck twice this year with a live trap and let him loose because he was too cute (until he then demolished my broccoli)so I don't know how I'll handle it. I try to accomadate the wildlife because they don't have much space anymore in this world. As far as the mice/moles/voles I think I am going to try to set up at traps at the tunnels and see if this works.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 11:47AM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I picked a bunch of pink Romas yesterday, to let them ripen inside (to keep the mice from chewing on them as they ripen). But what I discovered is that some of them had healed wounds on them. So I guess I need to assume that a mouse chewed that early on and it healed???
Maybe I'm just being too anal and paranoid. I just don't want to eat mouse saliva!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 11:52AM
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How do you know it is mice eating on your tomatoes? I thought it was squirrels or rabbits. I had planned to put cayenne pepper on my plants today. But if it is mice, I can't use poison due to outside cat next door.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 12:21PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

For me, I know because lately I've never seen squirrels or rabbits in there, but alot of mice. And they tend to chew on the tomatoes close to the ground.
But for you, it might be squirrels or rabbits. Although I don't think I've ever seen a squirrel in my garden.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 2:12PM
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naturegirl_2007(5B SW Michigan)

Is it damage in general or rat/mice damage in particular that is so risky? Should any tomato with the slightest flaw be composted? Tiny hornworm bite? bird peck? Bruise from cage? Unknown damage? Catfacing?

I'll use slightly damaged tomatoes (well trimmed) in chili and other recipes that cook for a long time. Is this dangerous? Gross?

Some years I'd be hard pressed to find many perfect tomatoes. There wouldn't be much to harvest at all, but I guess the compost pile would cook nicely.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 11:58PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I was wondering the same thing naturegirl, as I was finding alot of healed wounds on the tomatoes.
I think for the most part, I will toss the ones that are obviously chewed on by mice. I'm thinking the ones with healed spots weren't mouse bites, as the mouse bites seem to open it for infection and it rots.
I guess we just have to decide for ourselves what we're willing to eat. Like I said earlier, I'm learning (at least with my low growing Romas) to pick them early, before they are juicy for the mice.
And who knows....maybe eating some "bad" stuff actually helps our immune systems!
My Rutgers this year are perfect. I have a couple weeds growing among them and the weeds are covered with aphids. I thought of pulling them out, and then thought "maybe in the grand scheme of things, the aphids somehow have contributed to my Rutgers being perfect" I'm leaving them alone! As they say....if it ain't broke....

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 10:12AM
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I'm not necessarily willing to be a full time myth buster but being a natural contrariam, I just can't help myself sometimes :-)

I'm not advocating the use for human consumption of anything obviously damaged by any type of vermin or the use of poisons but thought I'd interject a couple of thoughts.

While there is some human inspection of mass produced toms. The mechanical pickers don't recognize rat bites, healed or otherwise. Dilution and cooking would of course change the stats compared to fresh eating of a higher percentage.

If your dog or cat eats one poisoned mouse, it is extremely unlikely that you will not notice ANY distress. Do the math. The amount of poison the mouse could eat prior to death, compared to the body weight of the dog or cat is minimal.

We use bait bar type poison on occaison. When you live in the woods, it is a fact of life that there will be mice around. A brand new house will have a high likelyhood of at least some mice occupying the structure prior to final weather proofing. Its not a matter of cleanlyness, its a matter of their numbers, adaptability and breeding cycle duration and how flat they can get their little bodies into any crevice.

My 90 lb lab ate 2 whole bait bars once before I could stop him. I freaked and called the vet. He explained the weight issue and told me not to worry. Said I could force hydrogen peroxide (I think, I remember what ever it was, foamed a lot) down him to induce vomiting which we did. Other than the very strange looks the poor guy gave us that night, there were no ill effects.

Not a reason to be sloppy and smaller animals would have a higher risk, as would repeated doses and certainly the doses unknown to you but the point is, how many dead mice would it take to equal 2, whole bait bars, and what would the likelyhood be of finding a stash that large for immediate consumption?

Most wild predators would prefer live targets, so while I'm not saying a hawk, fox or weasel might not befall some damage, my guess is that carrion eaters and flys would consume a vastly higher percentage of poisoned vermin.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 11:21AM
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"If your dog or cat eats one poisoned mouse, it is extremely unlikely that you will not notice ANY distress."

Should say,

"If your dog or cat eats one poisoned mouse, it is extremely unlikely that you will notice ANY distress."

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 11:30AM
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Being coy on this is silly. There's a huge difference between rat bites and catfacing. Catfacing isn't the issue, consuming contaminated food is.

Hey, it's your body, go and eat if you want. But don't feed tomatoes you know have been contaminated by vermin or any other possibly disease-bearing creature to your children or grandparents because they're immune systems aren't as strong as yours.

Honest to goodness, why would anyone want to do that? Well, maybe someone looking to win a Darwin Award.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 11:35AM
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blameitontherain(8 PNW wetandwetta)

What I can't figure out is why the mice/rats/voles AREN'T eating my tantalizing tomatoes! We live just far out enough in horse/faux wine country (our town's motto is, "Country Living; City Style") that vermin is a fact of life. Some years they are few in number, others they reach horror show population. Ah, the country life!

Snuggled into this bubonic bucolic beauty is our vegetable garden, framed by a purely decorative lattice fence and chock full of ripe, juicy produce. Located on the other side of the fence is our (open) compost box, full of nicely rotting and otherwise animal-friendly produce and garden clippings. Do we have vermin in our veggies? Mais non! Ours are busy chewing the bumper of our BMW, plundering the plastic pellets used in rock tumbling and -- get this -- licking the labels off the bottles in our wine cellar (What kind of wine would you like for dinner tonight, dear? Our choices are unknown white or unidentifiable red)! Basically, they go about consuming all kinds of nonconsumables. How wierd is that?

It would definitely creep me out to knowingly eat something my rat sisters have snacked upon. Setting out water makes sense, although I would worry that it would just attract more of the pests. Making sure the tomato plants are well staked or cutting off the lower tomatoes before the vermin get a taste for 'mates strikes me as a better way to go.

Counting her blessings,


    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 12:11PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

LOL Rain!
One time, we had something chew through our plastic gas container in the barn. A lady at the farm store said that there are soybeans used in the processing of the plastic, and they are after that. Maybe that's the case with your mice??
I'm thinking they're using the wine labels for their nesting material. hahaha.....what fun it must be guessing what wine you're drinking......but never knowing for sure!
At least they're not drinking the wine. Although we have had the foil and corks chewed on a bit on our bottles in the basement.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 12:47PM
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blameitontherain(8 PNW wetandwetta)

I don't know, Catherinet. A drunk mouse would probably lose all interest in your tomatoes! Pretzels and cold pizza may be at risk, however.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 2:44PM
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I clicked on this post to see how such a question could create 31 responses, and I thought I would see comments like "Sure" or "Yuck", but Hanta virus? Wow!
If a person can't personally stomach the idea of eating a tomato touched by mice, then that's your preference, but going on to say you could get Hanta virus from a mouse-bitten-tomato is simply misinformation.

First of all, Hanta cannot be spread by food (google it!).

Second of all, even if it COULD be, if you cut away the bitten part, and peel the skin, and cook it, it would take care of it, because Hanta virus is not going to spread through the whole tomato, it would stay where the mouse touched.

Finally, do you seriously think the tomato paste/ sauce/ juice you buy in the store has never been touched by a mouse in the field and/or the processing plant? Heck, it probably has whole mice IN it! The FDA has allowable parts per million of vermin in all food. It's simply part of life, we in America just put shutters on our eyes about it. We cannot sanitize the whole world, and if we did, scientists know our chain of life would actually end, because all those "nasties" have evolved as parts of the whole. Many scientists think over-sanitization in the last few decades is why asthma cases have now skyrocketed.

And if you haven't guessed by now, sure, I eat fruit and veggies all the time that aren't perfect, I just cut away the affected parts. And if in doubt, I don't eat it raw, I cook it to kill any pathogens.

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 3:23PM
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I wonder where there little feetsies have been? They have to climb and hold on with something. Do they use soap and water to clean themselves, or is it their tongues. Filth. Ick.

Here is a link that might be useful: CDC Hanta

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 3:42PM
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How is a person infected with a hantavirus?

Humans contract a hantavirus infection by breathing dust contaminated by the urine, saliva or feces of an infected rodent. Infection also may occur if contaminated material or dust gets into broken skin or a mucous membrane, such as the eye. Ingesting food or water tainted by an infected rodent may cause illness, too. Hantaviruses also can be transmitted by the bite of an infected rodent. Person-to-person transmission has not been demonstrated in the United States.

The above is from Illinois Department of Public Health.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hantavirus

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 3:50PM
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But again, I hate to tell you, you are ALREADY eating "rodent filth", unless you personally make all the food you eat. Here's the list of what is allowed in the food we all buy, which is the most sterile food in the world.

Carla in Sac

Here is a link that might be useful: FDA acceptable

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 5:19PM
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Carla, I wash my food well.

The difference is in the knowing. If you KNOW that in your hand is a tomato that's been vermin-contaminated and you willingly eat it that is your choice.

AFAIC, it's all about minimalizing risk vs. increasing risk.

Well, eat up and enjoy Carla, if you know you're eating mouse-spit food and you're into that sort of thing I'm not going to interfere.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 5:33PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I'm losing my appetite. haha bring up a good point. Along a different line, when my daughter got mono when she was 18, I read up on it, and found out that so many of our teens get it because they haven't been exposed to enough germs when they were young.
I don't like being affected by gross things, but I can't help it. I am trying to be less fussy about things, but its hard when it comes to food.
There has to be a happy, reasonable medium somewhere.

And our different reactions to mice/rats could very well depend on our experiences with them. Trudi, it sounds like you might have a more intense experience with them (as you mentioned about your hubby's work in the NYC subway). I live out in the country, and the mice in my garden have probably never seen another human being. Its not like they have traveled all over a crowded city, and then chew on my tomatoes. So maybe that explains your more intense reaction to them.
There just has to be a reasonable medium here, or we'd be giving up on all gardening.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 7:37PM
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loomis(Z6a Western MA)

It is interesting that someone mentioned water. For years I have always had a pedestal type of birdbath in my garden, along with another tray of water that I place on the ground for the squirrels and other small animals to drink from.

It is rare for me to find a chewed veggie. When I do find a chunk out of my tomatoes, I have usually attributed this to birds.

Could it be that all these years the mice have actually been quenching their thirst from my ground-level tray?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 12:26AM
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Catherine, we lived for 13 years in the Upper Catskills. That's a different set of mouse stories...

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 6:48AM
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instar8(Z 5 N.IN)

I think what nibbles my tomatoes (hey, I think i could use that to replace "what kinks my hose" as an expression of annoyance!) are voles, those weird little short-tailed things that the cats drag in but won't eat cause they taste nasty.

I got plenty mice, too, but i think they get a good living from the chicken house in the middle of the garden. I think voles also eat insects. I dunno if they carry hantavirus, i doubt it. Still, i'll just give the holey fruit to the chickens.

Here is a link that might be useful: voles

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 1:21PM
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And all this time, I thought it was slug damage!!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 1:07PM
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so does anyone have a non-poison fix?

A couple of points. My katrina-rescue cat nearly died this Spring from cumadin-type rat poison ingestion (he's a great hunter) (this was an $800 vet bill and alot of Vitamin K) so I absolutely would not put poison down and I'm angry with my neighbors for putting poison down - why not leave it to the cats?

Having said that - I no longer let him outside at night and am reluctant to get additional cats. There are fewer cats on my block this year and I think that's a big part of the problem.

Just sayin'. Anyway, this is a bit OT but the loss of my heirloom tomatoes is breaking my heart, and I'd love to hear if anyone has a fix

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 8:21AM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

The thing about cats is that if you turn them loose to face all the dangers of the world, there are a lot of dangers out there.

The only way to keep a cat safe is to keep it indoors. If you don't want to keep the cat in, it takes it's chances with cars, disease, poison, antifreeze, predators, and neighbors who don't like cats ( and there are a lot of people who do not like someone else's cat doing damage to their property-- not everybody likes your cat)

Bait bars can be wired inside small plastic boxes, with a mouse size hole cut in one end. The mice will go in to eat and can not pull the bar out where other animals can get it.

If mice are chewing your food, it is a pretty safe bet that they are also peeing on your food. If they are in your garden, they will soon be in your house, maybe even chewing on the electrical wire and burning your house down.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 3:20PM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

Either mice or voles can be easily caught in snap traps baited with almond butter or peanut butter. It's hard to trap them all out, but once you've caught a few you'll know what you have. I was able to end an awful vole problem by trenching in a sturdy fence. Mice are probably better climbers, but they've never caused a big problem in my garden.

Voles also often leave telltale "trails" of bitten-down grass, or dig networks of holes. If you see paths about 1½" wide here and there, chances are it's voles.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 1:54AM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

You can also make life harder for them by removing brush piles from near the garden, keeping the grass cut short, and trying to get rid of hiding places in your garden beds.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 1:57AM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

Just read Jane's question ... my first attempt was ¼" mesh hardware cloth, trenched in 6-8", which the voles tunneled under and bit through. I don't know what gauge it was, but biting through galvanized steel  seriously?! All the fresh produce they ate must have turned them into super-voles! I lost a couple of seasons this way. Finally I pulled that out and trenched in heavier-duty stainless steel mesh, also ¼", bent in an L shape. It extends 2' above ground, 1' down, and 1' out underground. Some serious work to put in, but no voles this year.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 2:07AM
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Thanks for the replies.

I live in the historic district of Buffalo, NY and I think we're talking rats.

The outdoor cat population on my block has been significantly lowered this summer - people moving, etc.

There's no evidence of rodents in the house - in addition to the two cats, both my dogs are hunters.

I don't want to use poison because the rodent predators are ultimately exposed - I think this is what happened to my cat - sick from one too many kills.

I have no issue with killing the rodents, per se. In fact I'm into it.

Oregon - how do the rodents die with your method? Are the bait bars poisonous? I'll research.

With the snap traps there's the possibility that a cat or dog will set it off.

My garden is pretty darn clean. I am, however, wondering about the squash beds - the dogs seem to think there is something there - and the hostas.

The next door neighbor are gone for the summer and their backyard is a jungle.

There seem to be two possible avenues 1) a contraption that will trap/kill the rodents but won't impact dogs/cats; 2) more cats.

I really appreciate your comments. The tomatoes are otherwise so friggin' gorgeous - well, I preach to the choir.

The attached link shows the damage to a Julia Child. I've put zip lock baggies on the healthy fruit - someone suggested this on another forum. Also (not for the faint of heart) used cat litter at the plant base (not feces - urine).

One more question - my collards were badly damaged this year - I thought it was cabbage moths and/or beetles, but I'm now thinking it might be the rats. duh. Do rodents eat cabbage-type plants?

Here is a link that might be useful: rodent damaged tomato

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 7:55AM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

"My garden is pretty darn clean. I am, however, wondering about the squash beds - the dogs seem to think there is something there - and the hostas. "

Yep - my terrier is a great indicator of "activity" - and he runs to the compost bin every time I let him out.
Also - a wood pile in the yard gets his undivided attention from time to time, so another 'hot spot' I need to work on.

I know that the city puts out poison - and there have been many rats int he alleys, so I need to get these cleaned up.

I agree that the situation would be much improved by letting the natural order predominate a little more - cats and dogs controlling these varmints, but most people don't see this. They want everything contained - no cats out and about - and everything sanitized.

The more they sanitize, the worse the backlash. Hopefully, we are coming into more enlightened times, but in the meantime, I find my terrier to be far more of a deterrent than the cat. He has completely eliminated the squirrel menace, and I think if I make my beds and compost a little more secure, and rethink the woodpile, he can keep the perimeter for us.

I have 12 inch tall beds - I don't think the mice go in the ones that are secure (no gaps in the joints, etc) but I'm not sure.....

Can mice climb up a side like a squirrel? anyone know?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 9:12AM
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If you cut off the bitten and then some and then cook the remaining tomato at a high temperature I cannot think of any boogeyman disease that could still hurt you unless they were mafia mice infected with mad cow disease and one mouse blew another mouse's brains out all over your tomatoes while the "stoolie" was in mid-bite. Those prions can survive cooking; viruses and bacteria? Not so much. I guess some would say why risk it but ultimately I don't think there would really be any significant risk remaining. If you looked into the food prep practices at any number of restaurants you go to, I bet you would find a lot of things that are far worse. Your call if it is worth it but I would turn those fruits into a marinara that was in the pot for a long time. Heat kills. Reality>paranoia.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 11:46AM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

janecc, your photo is private, but I can imagine the damage.

Mice, rats, and probably voles could find their way into 1' raised beds. The little snap traps, for mice and voles, can be put inside a section of PVC pipe to keep them away from cats, dogs, and birds. Rat snap traps are bigger (and likelier to injure a cat). You could try these.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 8:34PM
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Sorry for the privacy setting - I change it to a public photo. I have to admit I'd like some props for those tomatoes - assuming they survive - I could barely fit one into a quart bag.

Anyway - nygardener - I looked at the zapper device - and its tempting. My concern is my pets - a small, curious dog and a small cat. I don't think I'm willing to take the risk - but it otherwise seems like a great device.

I don't see any evidence of chewing on the ziplock bags or underlying tomatoes - so maybe that's the solution, along with some other smell deterrants. I am more broadly concerned about the rodent issues.

t-bird - I'm thinking I'll write a letter to my neighbors regarding the issue - with suggestions on how to control the population without the use of poison. I strongly believe its the decrease in cats that have led to this years increase in rodents.

Thanks, generally, for your kind replies.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Rodent Set

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 1:12PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Instar8........I know its a year later, but I just read your post about "what nibbles my tomatoes", and got a really good chuckle out of it. I might start using that as an expression of irritation. hahaha
Thanks for the laughs!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 5:26PM
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I have a tiny little 4 acres and totally garden organically.

When I first bought this place it had sat empty for years and the grass was up to my kneck. Since I had to basically clear it all by hand, it did take a while to get all the tall grass gone. That first year I had rats and mice by the score because the tall grass came right up against the barn, house and veggie garden. Seems they don't like to travel in open spaces, but used the tall grass as a highway to cover themselves from preditors. As I was clearing the tall grass, I came apon nest after nest of mice and rats, it's amazing how many there are in a small area of tall grass. Once I cleared the tall grass, the rat/mouse problem next to disapeared.

I still get a mouse or two in the barn, all that livestock food is too tempting, but have never had them in the veggie garden since clearing the fields around it. So basically, don't give them a road to where you don't want them. I seriously clear all grass, even pulling what grows around the fence I put up around the veggie garden and keeping any weed from getting more than a inch tall.

But if all else fails, here's a tip. Find someone who has ferrets, not hard to do, they are a popular pet. Take the ferret droppings and scatter them on the outskirts of your veggie garden. The mice, rats, and rabbits will head for the hills, that is a major preditor smell. I start putting down the droppings from my ferret as soon as the garden goes in, the critters want no part of my plants, lol. You don't need a lot, a little here and there does the trick, it's mostly a matter of getting that peditor smell in your gardens.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 3:14AM
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To update. I've had success by 1) mowing; 2) placing used cat litter at the base of the plants; and 3) (most importantly) putting ziplock bags (the cheap ones) with one corner cut off so condensation can be released) over the tomatoes. the rodents -whatever they are - haven't bothered the bags or the tomatoes after taking these steps.

I have, at my side, a lunch of beautiful golden tomatoes and chinese cucumber and I am most grateful.

Here is a link that might be useful: tomatoes on the sill

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 10:46AM
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jtmacc99(z5/6 NY)

So, here's a related question: Has anybody ever had an issue with a mouse or similar rodent killing their just planted seedlings?

This spring, I planted my seedlings and within or day or two they started to get cut off at the stem. Since this has NEVER happened to me, and I had cutworm protection on the stems (the seedlings were getting cut off right above the standard 2-3 inch wrapping) so I assumed it was a rabbit. Just to be sure, I later replaced the wrappings with 4 inch lengths of vinyl tubing, which just moved the knawing-off problem higher on the stem. If it had been a groundhog, I would have noticed a large hole in the garden fence, not to mention, groundhogs generally don't eat one or two at a time. So, I wrapped up the cages (I have them in Concrete Wire cages) with a 1 inch plastic rabbit fence two feet up each cage.

I kept loosing seedlings.

So now I was completely baffled but thought perhaps this small rabbit was able to squeeze under my cages because there was an inch or two of straw mulch that perhaps created a way for them to get in. I sprayed the plants with the absolutely disgusting rabbit/deer spray. The very next morning, two more seedlings were gone, although one was just laying next to where it was cut off.

I reapplied, hoping that maybe the animal finally got the idea that the plants were distasteful. The next morning, two more gone, but this time I found something strange. I found that the seedling had been cut off and dragged halfway under the straw mulch next to where it had been cut off. So, whatever it was that was killing my seedlings was actually coming up from under the mulch.

When I posted this story earlier this year in the pest forum, it was suggested that it is probably a mouse.

Has anybody else ever experienced something like this, and if so, how on earth should I sheild my plants from this problem next year? My dad suggested cutting off soda cans and sticking them into the ground around the seedlings. I think that might work, but I also think the mouse could just go right over it. Then again, the freak mouse that did it this year will almost certainly be dead by this time next year. They just don't live that long.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 1:57PM
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I have lived to tell the tale, but it's a much better idea to use them in cooking.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 5:47PM
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rawzoom(zone 3 Minn.)

HI Catherinet... Here is how to kill all rats and mice in 3 days..find a flat piece of wood or heavy plastic , place one sliced of bread on it then put on gloves and sprinkle red bull lye all over the top of the bread , then pour corn syrup over the lye making sure you cover all the lye..then place in your make sure that your dog or cats don't get in it place bricks about 2 feet from the bait in each corner then place a piece of plywood on top of the bricks then place many brickes on top of plywood so that the pets can't move it ...this way the rats can get under it to get to the bait but your pets can't.I found this in an old Herters book that said it would kill every rat on your farm in 3 days and I did this a couple years ago an it really works...Richard

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 2:45PM
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