How to Detour Garden Rodents

Detour Garden Rodent with these Tips

Rodents love the garden and many of us have probably experienced them at one time or another.  I have and never really thought about sharing my solutions until recently when our son was here.

He left his car with us after his Christmas visit because work was taking him overseas.  His vehicle was rather messy so I mentioned, “You might want to clean it up before you leave. He smiled and said, “I’ll do that when I come back.”

I love my son but his idea of a clean car is very different than mine and needless to say he left it as is.

When he came back this spring guess what he found inside?  First there was a snake snuggled inside a box and second a couple rodent nests.  The snake was actually a blessing because it took care of the mice.

He was appalled and it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut.  He finally cleaned out the car before leaving and I’m pretty sure this taught him a valuable lesson.

But what about the garden?  Why do mice arrive and decide to take up residence?

Rubble is like an rodent invitation to the garden.

Rodents Arrive in the Garden for a Few Reasons

  1. They discover nesting materials.
  2. It’s a great place to cool off and get warm.
  3. Most of all they can eat, drink and live happily ever after.

Mice like hay for nesting material

Nesting Material and Mulch

The garden is a great place for nesting materials; depending on how your garden is set up it can also be a great place to make a nest.

These nasty critters build nests underground or create piles of materials similar to how a bird makes a nest.  These dens provide a home base and because the garden also offers food and water it’s the perfect rodent resort.

  • Hay is amazing nest material and I didn’t realize this until after my second season of using hay for garden mulch.  This wasn’t a huge problem but a few mice were roaming around and I welcomed them.
  • Soft mulch can be another welcoming nest material because it’s easier to gather and dig through.

For those of us in warmer climates mulch is necessary to maintain moisture so think about using wood chips.  Add a thick layer of chips, they’re less difficult to gather and challenging to get underneath.

Tall grass is another invitation to garden mice

Cooling off and Getting Warm

Regardless of the season rodents are always on patrol looking for that perfect place to nest, so it doesn’t matter if it’s cold or warm they still need a home.  Make your garden less inviting by doing some of the following things.

  • Keep grass cut and trimmed
  • Keep your nearby ditches and grassy field areas cut, rodents love tall grass.
  • Remove outside clutter.
  • Remove tree rubble.
  • Basically, keep your outdoor space neat and tidy.

Detour Rodents with Direct Composting

They Love to Eat and Drink

Since the garden is a haven for food rodents will arrive to eat, especially if open compost bins are nearby.  Consider changing things up a bit because open compost bins are like an invitation to rodents and other small critters.

Direct Composting is a clean solution because the food waste gets worked into the soil fast, read more here.  I’ve never had a problem with rodents using this method and I make sure to dig deep and cover immediately so the worms can feast and enjoy first.

Water is another attraction because rodents also get thirsty.  If you gather water make sure to cover when you’re not using.  Covering will also detour mosquitoes which seem to multiply overnight.

Mint to Detour Garden Mice

Tips for Detouring Garden Mice

So, we covered what attracts rodents to the garden and I think we can agree keeping things tidy is extremely important.  The following are some  that actually help detour pests from arriving and it begins with mint.

  • Plant Mint, this wonderful herb can be planted in pots around the garden perimeter or sprinkle dried mint around planted areas.  Mint works as a natural deterrent; can also be incorporated through  oils.
  • Get a Cat, they love to hunt and eat rodents and if their scent is present most mice won’t even consider making the garden home.  If this is a valid option keep in mind they need to be an outdoor cat with minimal feedings so they’re encouraged to hunt.
  • Planting additional herbs can also be a benefit because rodents don’t like the strong scent. Herbs like basil, thyme and garlic will turn off rodents.

Naturally Removing Infestation

If you spot rodents there is an easy way to remove by using instant potato flakes. This is an in expensive tip and will eliminate the problem.  Sprinkle a few spoonfuls where you think a nest is present at night and they’ll arrive to eat. After this occurs the flakes expand in the stomach and well they die.

NOTE: If you have pets keep these flakes out of there reach.

This technique may sound harsh but it’s about as natural as it gets unless you want to result to good old-fashioned mouse traps.

Keeping the Garden Rodent Free

Keep rodents from arriving by making your garden space uninviting.  Just clean up and make sure you don’t give them a reason to show up.

Remember gardening and nature go hand in hand and if you live further out in the country sometimes it can be more difficult to control these pests than those who live in suburban areas.

My grandma always told me, cleanliness is next to godliness. Being clean is a sign of spiritual purity or goodness, something rodents really don’t understand.

How to Detour Garden Rodents with Potato Flakes and more natural Ideas



  1. Patti says:

    Great tips Carole. It’s funny how animals seem to hate strong smelling plants like mint and lavender when we love them. We sometimes have a deer issue here. They love to eat my hydrangea and hosta but they never touch the herbs. Potato flakes in a new one for me. I’ll have to keep it in mind. We had a beloved cat for 18 years. She wasn’t much of a mouser but occasion brought us her catch. Usually tiny mice which we thought was funny. I really miss her, but also like the ability to leave without worrying about caring for a pet, so we have decide to live pet free for now.

    1. Carole says:

      Thank you! I completely understand wanting to live animal free for awhile. That’s why I’m not rushing in and getting back to farm life right now. I need this break, Dixie alone is a handful. She however is a great hunter when it comes to finding mice. She likes to chase them off the property.

  2. daisy says:

    I didn’t know that about potato flakes!

    I vacillate between wanting to provide for critters and wanting them out of the garden. We have so far not had an issue with critters larger than slugs interferingwith the crops. The straw bales are too high for the rabbits, so we’ll see what happens in the new raised beds. Fencing may occur somewhere down the line, but I know that won’t deter mice. Ah well, there is always a challenge, isn’t there?
    Enjoy your weekend!

    1. Carole says:

      Potato Flakes is a super neat trick not sure if I would use them in the home though because the last thing you want is to have a mouse die indoors. Keeping things cleaned up is really the key, even in the country where it’s almost impossible to mice far away that little tip has helped a lot. Well the exception of my sons car.

  3. Karen says:

    A snake in the car??? That would have been the end of that car for me! What a scary lesson…

    Our two cats do tend to keep the rodent issues down for us, and surprisingly, our dogs will often leave a chipmunk or squirrel at the doorstep. I doubt they’re doing much harm to garden beds, but the dogs still seem to think they need to be dealt with.

    I haven’t heard of potato flakes either – I’ll tuck that one away for reference if we get in our pets decide to strike. 🙂 As for the dogs though, they’ve really given me fits digging in my beds – especially early in the season when plants are emerging or very small and there’s lots of bare soil. I don’t remember where I picked up the information, but read somewhere they don’t care for citrus. So, I sliced fresh lemons and scattered them in the beds – no more digging!

    1. Carole says:

      Yes a snake and it was the friendly kind either. Weird thing I had been starting up his car every two weeks to keep the battery alive and you know I just started it and then got out because the mess drove me nuts. I even attempted to clean it up one day because I needed burn material for starting a fire. There are only so many pizza boxes a person can leave behind. Definitely a lesson learned and he did get it all cleaned up.

      Dixie is a digger too and has been snooping around in my garden which is driving me nuts. I miss having a fenced in garden but I also enjoy the relaxed freedom too. Fresh lemons you say? I will have to try that but I tell you nothing seems to detour this dog of ours. She’s ruthless!

  4. Laura says:

    These are great ideas! Right now, we are just trying to keep grass alive and the existing plants and bushes (Privets). We got a heat index warning this morning saying to stay inside if possible, especially children and the elderly. 110+ degrees here in Lubbock all this past week. The low tonight will only be 73. I keep the bird bath full and refill the feral cats water bowl often. By this time, I usually have pots of plants all over my back patio – not this year – and I have lost several plants (my Hydrangea, some day lilies, Gladiola, some herbs in pots) it is just too hot. Our water bill is sky high, and we water at night as soon as sun goes down. Seeing your green, lush growth of plants is wonderful! Small home living is sounding good to us about right now! 🙂

    1. Carole says:

      Small living is really awesome Laura. Didn’t realize it was so hot down that way. It’s like spring struggled and then out of the blue the temperatures spiked for us too. I haven’t even checked the forecast for next week yet because it’s becoming a challenge. Glad you like these ideas they really are helpful and I hope you get some heat relief soon.

  5. The potato flakes is new to me. We have occasional field mice, but the snakes pretty much keep things in balance. We have more trouble with rabbits and squirrels–and deer.

    The opossums and raccoons have really decimated our chicken and quail population too. We’ve had to fortify their enclosures just to keep them safe.

    1. Carole says:

      I have to say Dixie scares off most everything and the rabbits tease her from the other side of the fence. She spends all night outdoors now and part of the morning with us when we’re working. The potato flakes is a sweet little trick mice will eat just about anything.

      1. Mae Carr says:

        What do you do for deer, rabbits & squirrels? You seem to keep evading that question. We live in the city & you would think we lived in the country so there is nothing we can do so far as hunters so we need something to deter thing. The eat everything I try to plant. I don’t know how many Dogwood trees I would get growing & the deer would come chew on it & kill it. I had one came back a couple of times & the third time it killed it. I miss my dogwoods from where my old house. I had a lot of the. It must be something about their saliva that kills everything. Please help!!

        1. Marilyn says:

          About the only way to keep deer, etc. out of your garden, is either a fence, or plant things they won’t eat. The height of the fence will determine how big the garden is. The bigger the garden, the higher the fence needs to be. Good luck, Mae.

        2. Carole says:

          Not evading the question Mae, To be honest I was sick all last week and I’m slowly getting back on my feet and doing my best to keep up with all these questions. I’m actually in the country so unfortunately how I may deal with certain problems would not be allowed in the city. There are plants that detour deer and once again it takes us to herbs. Why herbs are such great detours for all these pests is because they have strong scents and animals don’t like that. Will this help 100% of the time, probably not but most animals like deer travel in packs and if one stay away the rest will follow. The most common detour herbs would be sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and lavender. All of these options are also wonderful to cook with. Being in the country which I love and so far no deer have jumped our fence to get at the rest of my gardens.

        3. Debbie says:

          I have heard several times over that hanging Irish Spring soap bars in your garden areas will deter deer. We don’t have that problem, but my mother in law does. Those suet baskets will hold a bar easily. Another idea I’ve heard about is to run about three different rows of fence wire around the areas you don’t want them, usually electric fence wire, at knee height. I would use cheap pvc pipe with can be cut and holes drilled to run the wire through at various intervals. Apparently deer are short-sighted and won’t see these until they’ve run into them. It scares them and they run away. Hope this helps.

          1. Carole says:

            Thank you for sharing Debbie – that’s good to know and I love it when y’all step in these neat ideas.

  6. Charlene says:

    I believe it was you I first learned about direct compost. I did it all winter and it was all eaten up when I dug into the soil by spring. I would like to do it again, but it is hard to do with plants in the ground. We have a lot of rain at the wrong times. We finally had 3 weeks of no rain and then the rains started. Then the mildew came to my squash and zucchini. I have been trying to get more seeds to germinate, but it is in the 100’s. They don’t want to sprout. But, the tomatoes are coming on, and sure taste great, but my hubby is mad because he said they are not big enough.

    1. Carole says:

      Probably, I shared that tip way back when I started the blog and reference it quite often. I really love it and that simple tip has helped many gardeners. Rain at the wrong times I get that. We seem to be headed into a hot dry spell which will be interesting. I’m finding I love this black clay because it really helps hold moisture. I’m only watering about once/twice a week. That may change if I don’t some mulch in those beds soon. Working on that this week, I’ll be chipping up some branches.

      Think about starting seeds in trays in the shade, that might help and of course don’t let them dry out so I would recommend setting them on cookie sheets.

  7. Carole, any ideas for keeping squirrels out of flower pots and eating? We stopped planting tomatoes because they ate them all and we got tired of dealing with cages.

    1. Carole says:

      Hello Carol – I agree cages are a pain. Think about plant strong scented plants like marigolds, Geraniums, mint, and basil incorporated in these same areas and it should keep detour the squirrels as they don’t like strong scented plants. Not guaranteed to help though… It’s hard because whenever I’m faced with any garden problem my first approach is to investigate. Now that we’re further out in the country I have access to even more wildlife and it’s been interesting. I have found that companion planting is a huge help to detour common problems and the squirrels never showed up until I started feeding the birds. Hope that has helped some and if I can help more just let me know. -Carole

  8. Eleanor Hart says:

    Any hints to deter rabbits? I have had some limited success with placing a fake owl near my BBQ pit, which is where the rabbit took up residence behind, chewing up most of the backside of the black cloth cover on the pit. I live in a subdivision on a lake lot and many of my neighbors have dogs of various sizes in their yards, but the rabbits are not deterred by them. We have wrought iron fences around our lots which gives the rabbits easy access.

    1. Carole says:

      Hello Eleanor – sounds like adding barrier fencing might help to keep them from coming in. Trapping and relocating would be another option. We have a dog that chases them off so they’ve never been an issue for us and we live deep in the countryside. They probably see that black cloth material as a place to nest or use for nesting. Perhaps there is a different way to cover the BBQ pit to keep them from arriving and destroying your things?

      1. Eleanor Hart says:

        I have pyracantha planted on the fence across the back and down both sides, thinking that would be uncomfortable for any larger than a mouse type critter to come through. It has grown through the fence so heavily now after 6 years that I cannot get screen or anything between it and the fencing.

  9. Carolyn says:

    We have cats that are pooping in our flower beds and any place we turn dirt over! Is there something natural we can use to make them stop?

    1. Carole says:

      You know animals do have to go to the bathroom and I kind of see it as a natural fertilizer. However if you want to keep the cats out perhaps a thicker layer of mulch like wood chips would detour their activity.

      1. Angel Stout says:

        Rose Bush clippings in your flower bed will keep cats from using it as a litter box too. That’s how my mom keeps them out.

        1. Carole says:

          Awesome, thanks for sharing!

        2. kathi says:

          We mulched one section of our backyard because of the drought here in california.Did it deter the cats,ABSOLUTELY NOT,they thought we planted a litterbox for them.And they aren’t even our cats,but the neighborhood cats.We’ve been fighting them for years,and not winning.We spray that stuff that is supposed to keep them out,but then they find another place to go.Makes me so angry!! We no longer have pets as we are older now and don’t want the hassels of taking care of them especially when we want to go somewhere.

      2. Lisa Taylor says:

        My neighbor has about 100 cats, no kidding! They get on my patio furniture and spray and leave hair it’s disgusting! When I have guest come over there’s no where to sit because of this. Do you know how I can keep them off of my porch? Any natural way?

        1. Joyce P says:

          I have a similar problem. I do not have any cats or dogs, yet the stray cats seem to come into my yard and poop on the front porch and in the play yard which is all mulch, about 6 inches deep. Also how do I keep mosquitoes and flys away from my entryway into the house?

          1. Carole says:

            So y’all I live in the country and I can’t believe all this activity with neighborhood cats because we use to have cats when we lived in the suburbs and they always stayed close to home course I was a stay at home mom and we always home so maybe that’s why? I’m guessing these cats are lonely? Okay Joyce Mosquitoes and flies are the worst!!! Basil is a great detour and could be planted in a pot on the front porch. Dried lavender is suppose to be a great detour as well. May be just sprinkle some in a dish and leave it on the porch. If you like essential oils you could actually add these drops to water and just sit the jar on the porch to see if that helps.

          2. Jen says:

            hang a ziplok bag of water with a few pennies in it, to scare away the flies. Supposedly the reflection of the water and pennies scares them away. I have seen them being used at outdoor fruit and veggie stands, and my husband traveled to Seoul, South Korea and they had them hanging in the outdoor markets, and they were selling fish and it worked for them too.

        2. Carole says:

          You know that’s horrible I wish we lived in a time where people respected one another. With that being said I know cats do not like Citrus. So perhaps a natural citrus spray might be a good idea. They also dislike the smell of rue, lavender and pennyroyal, Coleus canina and lemon thyme. So if you like planters perhaps maybe do some pots of Lavender and thyme, that would look really pretty and hopefully detour the problem.

    2. lisa says:

      I heard cinnamon for ants, cats, squirrels out of sand boxes, flower boxes ex.. I use in sand box and around my cars do to neighborhood cats and haven’t seen any yet.,

      1. Jen says:

        be careful with mothballs. They are actually a poison and you don’t want it anywhere near anything you grow to eat.

    3. Lori says:

      To keep cats from pooping in your flower beds or on your porch, put Moth Balls around the area. They do not like the smell and will stay away from the area.

  10. Phyllis says:

    Loved the potato flake suggestion, but one suggestion you made bothers me a bit: outdoor cats.

    I’d like to encourage you to research the devastation caused by feral and outdoor cats on daily, weekly and yearly basis. I was amazed, and felt so careless, once I realized the harm I was causing to the environment.

    I was paid back for my negligence, when, after waiting twenty-plus years for bluebirds to migrate to my property, my outdoor cat killed one of the first blue birds to arrive.

    Because cats are natural hunters that much of the time simply kill for sport, it really doesn’t matter if they’re fed well or not – they get such a sickening kick out of catching/trapping, tormenting little animals.

    (You can see the little animals shiver in fear as they try to escape the cats that knock hem back and forth, back and forth, back and forth before they either die from fear or finally the cats grow tired and put them to death.)

    Personally, I have come to believe that allowing cats to roam freely is not in the best interest of humans, nor he interest of all of the birds, etc., that are vulnerable to the cat’s insatiable need to kill.

    That’s my opinion. After researching the subject, everyone else can make his/her informed decision.

    Thank you for sharing your great ideas; I can surely use them.

    Phyllis (I still love cats. 🐈)

    1. Carole says:

      Thanks for sharing, it’s always nice to have others share their thoughts. We live in the country and don’t actually have cats but many people who do live in the countryside find cats to be a great way to remove rodents. Now when we lived in the suburbs we did have a couple cats and every once in a while they would bring us their finds.

      1. Marilyn says:

        Carole, I agree with Phyllis. Outdoor cats are extremely bad for songbirds. Outdoor cats are the biggest reason the songbird population is on a big decline. I don’t mind if a farm has a couple of outdoor cats, if, there are plenty of mice and rats. Also, outdoor cats don’t live as long as indoor cats. Disease (esp from other animals), cars, injuries from fighting with other animals, starvation, etc are the reasons outdoor cats die several years before their indoor cousins. I thought I’d give my opinion too. The rest of your suggestions are great. I never knew about the potato flakes. I think I’ll put them in my stone basement. Thanks for a great tip!

        1. Carole says:

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts and glad you found the others helpful..

  11. Constance says:

    Would planting certain herbs at the bases of our fruit trees discourage deer from eating our fruit and rutting on branches?

    1. Carole says:

      Good question – I would do a pot of mint around the base and see if it works. Mint is very invasive and why most gardeners plan in containers because it will take over a space in a season. Could be really pretty. Other perennial herbs such as artemisia, tansy, and yarrow. Culinary like thyme, tarragon, oregano, dill, and chives can also be inter planted and help detour. Depending on how many trees you have maybe adding a bed around the base would be a good idea.

  12. CD Loken says:

    Great tips, Carole! I too had not heard about the potato flakes. Interesting! I totally agree with the herbs and especially marigolds as deterrents to rodents and bugs. I just wish I could find something chemical free to get rid of those pesky gnats we have. I’ve seriously tried everything from vanilla to apple cider vinegar traps to fabric softener sheets..and still can’t get rid of them. Suggestions?

    1. Carole says:

      Hey CD – Knats are horrible, Another home-made trap is to pour leftover red wine into a jar or mash up banana slices in a jar and cover the top with a plastic wrap.
      and I’ve heard if you pour a bleach solution into the bathroom sink that will attract then, I don’t use bleach cause I can’t stand the smell but perhaps a similar natural solution might do the same thing.

      1. Laurie Beach says:

        Leftover red wine? That’s a crime! Lol

        1. Jen says:

          who has “leftover” red wine? 🙂

  13. Kim says:

    would the potato flakes help with fire ants?

    1. Carole says:

      No but I was recently told that Coffee grounds do, isn’t that awesome?

  14. Linda says:

    How do you stop Squirrels from digging up the flowers?

    1. Carole says:

      Let me ask you this first why do you think the squirrels are coming in the yard? They normally love to skim through bird feed or search for nuts. They also love pine trees so sometimes I like to figure out why things show up and then plan a solution from there. How to stop them from digging up flowers is hard but you may like this project as it can be implemented in different sizes and it keeps critters out.

  15. Sheila says:

    Does mint deter rabbits??

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