Takeaways from the Rat Academy

This spring, we had the honor of co-hosting with the NYC Department of Health a free Community Garden Rat Academy. We learned techniques for safely and effectively preventing rats from colonizing community gardens and how to address rat existing problems.

Here are some simple facts and tips that we learned to keep rats under control (and avoid costly fines):

  • Despite depictions of rats roving throughout the city, they rarely move beyond a 100 foot radius from their nest., often along the same identifiable paths.
  • Since rats are most active at night, visit your garden after hours with a flashlight to look for those signs.
  • Clean up droppings and rat paths to communicate to the rats that they're unwelcome.
  • Trim plants to allow six inches from neighboring buildings and keep bushes clear from the ground to expose burrows. If you discover an inactive burrow, close it with soil.
  • Rats only need one ounce of feed each day. Litter feeds rats, so always keep trash in a can with a rigid lid. Excessive garbage or clutter in your garden also offers a place for rats to hide, so keep the space tidy.
  • To determine if your garden has a rat problem, look for signs like burrows under bushes, gnaw marks on garbage cans, and fresh rat droppings.
  • Leave it to professionals to apply bait. Ask for recommendations or search online for "integrated pest management" that will provide comprehensive inspection, monitoring, and make recommendations and repairs.
  • Neighborhood cats may hunt an occasional rat, but they can't be counted on to prevent or eliminate an infestation. Only humans can truly tackle this problem.

Everybody has a role to play in rat control. Even if you and your fellow gardeners take every step to prevent rats, you'll still face issues if your neighbors don't comply with abatement procedures. Consider this an opportunity to reach out to the homes and businesses around your garden to establish cooperation in rat abatement. Block associations, community boards, and business improvement districts are your allies.

To learn more about how to manage rat populations at your garden, visit the Health Department's Rat Information Portal at nyc.gov/rats.

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