Rats in compost due for greenhouse (novice composter)

Discussion in 'NEW Gardeners !' started by Palmer Dunwich, Jan 5, 2020.

  1. Palmer Dunwich

    Palmer Dunwich Apprentice Gardener

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    Hi everyone,

    I was hoping for some advice on the following situation. I have erected a greenhouse with the aim of growing tomatoes, salads and beans straight from the soil with added home compost. Having only completed it in October and taken a break I have not yet cultivated the ground inside which is still grass.

    At the same time I had an ambitious composting project at back of the garden, creating a big volume of what seems like good compost from kitchen scraps, beech leaves, cardboard. Unfortunately I neglected the pile in the month I was erecting the greenhouse, and I didn't notice some sneaky rats set up home there and turned the bin contents inside out / upside down! They seem to have tunnelled into it extensively and dragged a lot of the contents to the gaps between the bin and the garden fence where their tunnels entrances were.

    I have driven the blighters off by turning and exposing the pile, and have seen no sign since. A simple question: would it still be safe to use the compost at all after their presence, especially inside the greenhouse where conditions may be more sensitive? It is a lot of (formerly) quality material to have to discard, but I certainly don't want to poison the family!

    Any advice welcome
     
  2. ricky101

    ricky101 Total Gardener

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    Hi,

    You did the right thing in distrubing the heap to drive them away, also flooding the area with the hose pipe make it less desirable for them to return.

    The question about their dropping etc is debatable, expect it would decompose like any other droppings, however if they have eaten any poison from elsewhere ( its can take a few days to act|) and then come back to your heap, then that another story.

    I mistakenly used poison in my heap and they scattered it around and some of their dropping were blue coloured from the pellets, but no one, including the makers, could say how long it would take for the poison to break down.

    To be sure, I buried mine deep in part of the garden that would never be used for food crops and unlikely to be distrubed in the near future.
     
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    • ARMANDII

      ARMANDII Low Flying Administrator Staff Member

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      Hi Palmer, when you say "Kitchen scraps" exactly what are the scraps???
       
    • Sirius

      Sirius Total Gardener

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      Avoid food, especially cooked food scraps as that tends to attract rats and mice
       
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      • ARMANDII

        ARMANDII Low Flying Administrator Staff Member

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        And that, Sirius, you caught on as the reason behind my question!:love30::thumbsup:
        If those Kitchen scraps are food then it's inevitable that Rats and Mice will appear to take advantage of the food source.
        Only vegetable food should be added to a compost heap along with dead plants, organic debris from the garden, paper, carboard, and anything that will break down and rot.:coffee:
         
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          Last edited: Jan 6, 2020
        • Palmer Dunwich

          Palmer Dunwich Apprentice Gardener

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          Hello all. So sorry for the delay in responding. I was about to say zero cooked food and only vegetable peelings and tea ground. However that is not quite right: the kids pizza crusts and similar things would go in as would other bread items. No meat though. I should probably avoid bread from now on? Any other thoughts on how to make the result as safe as possible for greenhouse use? Part of me wants to chuck it all but that may be overkil....
           
        • andrews

          andrews Super Gardener

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          Hmmm. This has got me thinking. I would imagine that most compost bins have rats checking them out at some time. At first I typed that I wouldn't use the compost with food but now I'm thinking that we must use compost where rats have been present.

          Weils disease would be my main worry. Maybe worth checking how long this survives in soil and making a decision based on that.
           
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          • Sandy Ground

            Sandy Ground Total Gardener

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            The very first thought that came into my head when I started to read this topic was "something os wrong!" As I continued, two further thoughts came...

            The first was in regards to kitchen waste. Thats not something that I put on my compost heap, for the simple reason, I dont know what it may or may not contain. In the word of today, lots and llots of various chemicals are used by farmers, food companies etc. to increase yield, and therefore profits. I dont want to run the risk of these getting into or onto things I dont eat, and much less things I do! So, in this case, I'm following the old saying, better safe than sorry.

            The second was in regards to paper and cardboard on the compost heap. Whilst it is true that it degrades, there is one thing that troubles me. Effectively, what we are doing is recycling it into something that we consider useful. Google cardboard as compost, and the answer is always the same. Its ok to use it. However, there is one thing that 99,9% of people dont realise. In many countries, recycled cardboard is illegal to use in food packaging due to the suspicion it contains harmful chemicals and/or bacteria. Added to that, rats do seem to like it in their nests. Again, better to be safe than sorry. Incidentally, milk cartons, washing powder cartons, are NOT cardboard.

            My own solution to the problem is be restrictive as to what is put on the compost, turn it regularly, and never ever cover it.

            :sofa:
             
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            • ARMANDII

              ARMANDII Low Flying Administrator Staff Member

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              Yes, most definitely, Palmer. I fish lakes at lot and have had Rats trying to pilfer my lunch of sandwiches!:heehee:

              Pizzas are I would say a definite "No, no" as they will be very attractive to Rats. If you can stick to cardboard, uncooked vegetable scraps/peelings, paper, cardboard, plant debris from the garden. The only residents in my garden compost heaps are the 3 Hedgehogs that love the heat generated by the compost.:coffee:
               
            • luciusmaximus

              luciusmaximus Total Gardener

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              They must have bern very brave rats to try an steal your lunch. Were they tuna or salmon sandwiches, most rats like fish. My boys loved it
               
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