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Hedging Bets

March 20, 2013

Remember my “rule” of putting more than one seed per cell when starting seeds?  Besides combating low germination rates, it helps to have extras when it comes to supplying the local rodent supply with fresh greens and sprouted seeds come spring.  I’ve had this problem before, and licked it here in this post.  But this year I am starting my seeds in the big greenhouse, not the brooder.  So I suspected that I might have some problems.



I was hoping that having the cover off the greenhouse all winter for our “poor-boy Coleman moveable” greenhouse, would keep the mouses from setting up housekeeping, besides exposing my greenhouse soil to the elements.  However, when I was tidying up the potting bench I discovered a few prune pits stashed in some pots, showing me that at least last fall the mice had been using the building as a warehouse for winter stores.  😦

I decided to conduct somewhat of a test – I put seeded flats that I really couldn’t have molested by mice on a “mouse proof” table (plywood atop two 55 gallon drums), and put our personal salad greens, and cold weather crops on the bench where I suspected we might see some mouse damage.  Sure enough, in three days the mice had moved in and they started rifling through the flats.

I knew they love spinach seeds, and sure enough they found the cell packs with spinach and then moved on to snip a few kohlrabi, mustard, turnip and cabbage starts.  I seed the arugula in clumps for easier one time harvest, so those are fine really, and since I had seeded extra, a missing sprout here and there is no big deal.

Herbs and flowers

Herbs and flowers

Who knew mice could be so persnickety, but still eat spinach?  Apparently Thai basil, and marigolds are not on the menu and neither are any of the other herbs I seeded.



Their favorite however, over and above spinach, is pepper seeds just sprouted below the soil surface.   So I will be keeping an eye out for any more damage, because the mice are such destructive little buggers and are a pain to trap, you never get all of them.  I’m hoping my mouse proof area will continue to thwart them, since the hanging table is a pain to manage, and I can remove the barrels easily when I am done with them.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Theresa Katuski permalink
    March 20, 2013 9:33 am

    The best mouse-trap as you most definitely know is the 5 gallon pail with 4″ water in bottom. We make it impossible to resist fr the mice by making a stick ladder and balanced stick bridge leading out to “no-where” on top of pail. At the end of the balanced stick is peanut butter. Sure fire way of catching a mouse. The one aspect that is tricky to avoid is a dogs liking for peanut butter; he’ll trip every trap you have set once he figures it out!

    • March 20, 2013 9:44 am

      Theresa, yes we have that problem! Methinks the puppy Kongs shouldn’t have been loaded with peanut butter :p I might try the bucket on the bench though, safe from the dogs and in mouse territory, insert evil laugh!

  2. 12Paws permalink
    March 20, 2013 9:34 am

    Ah-ha. . . . the plans of mice and men (strikes again)!

  3. March 20, 2013 9:47 am

    Great idea for the mouse-proof planting tables– Definitely stealing that strategy!

  4. March 20, 2013 10:23 am

    Since I got my two scottish terriers my mouse population is almost gone. Not to mention the voles, even moles are left on the porch rug like a cat, baby rabbits, baby skunks and even a possum once. The garter snakes moved in the front flower beds and that helped too. My husband saw a huge king snake last year in the garage which I am sure helps keep them down also. Between all of these I have been lucky not to have much of a problem. My dad always kept rat terriers in his feed room at night (warmer climate). Swore by them!

    • March 20, 2013 11:22 am

      CQ, I’ve been waiting for the snakes to warm up, they love the greenhouse too, but they aren’t hurrying the season like I am 😦

      My mom loved Scotties, I have Scotty antimacassars she made, plus cookie cutters and other odds and ends with Scotties 🙂

      • March 20, 2013 11:24 am

        Great little farm dogs and it seems those of us that have them seem to be loyal to the breed for life. Not for everyone though as they are not always great with kids. Great grandma dogs though.

  5. March 20, 2013 10:37 am

    There is so much extra stuff we have to think of when growing! Mice, slugs, snails, rot, blah, blah, blah. I guess we either makes friends with the idea and adapt around it (as you’ve done) or continue to get annoyed by it (as I guess I’m doing a bit!)

    Wonder why they don’t like Thai Basil? That stuff is awesome…they’re missing out!

    • March 20, 2013 11:18 am

      Lindsey, I know 😦 Everything is food for something else, I always get so annoyed at the deer in the garden and then I think, Oh yeah, if I get rid of you, then the cougar(s) may go back to eating veal, and then where would I be?
      One for the mouse, One for the crow, One to rot, One to grow.” Or Pa Ingalls’ saying, “Four kernels. ‥One for the blackbird, One for the crow, And that will leave Just two to grow.”

  6. March 20, 2013 12:12 pm

    Besides spinach and pepper seeds, my Rappahannock mice LOVE beets and Swiss chard seeds. They can also mow down a flat of newly germinated escarole. Covering the tray does the trick. (although I have used mice traps)

    • March 20, 2013 1:25 pm

      Sylvie, it must be a west coast mouse thing, mine seem to abhor chard and beets, but they sure think it was funny to sort my cabbage flat a bit, although no worse for wear, it appears today that they just rearranged some seeds for me.

      I think it’s payback for throwing out the prune pit stash 🙂

  7. March 20, 2013 12:33 pm

    We have mice AND rats to contend with. Olympia has been having quite the rat boom over the past few years, owing to everybody and their cousin starting a compost heap. Way to ruin a good thing, varmints!

    I start my seedlings in an unheated room at the back of the house, so they’re safe from meeces while they’re inside. For the stuff that I direct-sow, I overseed like you do. That old saying “One for the mouse, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow” hasn’t done me wrong yet! I may need to work a verse in their about slugs though… 😉

    • March 20, 2013 1:30 pm

      Michelle, gah, a CSA we used to take eggs to had an apprentice that trapped 40+ rats near their compost piles. Eek!

      Let me know how the slug verse goes…an extra acre perhaps? As soon as June is over, our dryland gets ’em! I take way too much satisfaction in seeing dried up slugs almost to a row in the garden. Die Suckah!

  8. Chris permalink
    March 20, 2013 1:16 pm

    How bout leaving a barn cat or two locked up in the greenhouse for a couple nights?? Though not always a sure bet…I have a cat that sleeps under the kitchen sink..enclosed by counters… and she has yet to catch any mice that live under there too! So yeah…forget the cat thing! 🙂

    • March 20, 2013 1:31 pm

      Yeah, well, I would rather have mice than a 30 x 72 litter box! Our cats are barn cats, and a dry piece of dirt just cries out to them 😦

  9. Paula permalink
    March 20, 2013 1:47 pm

    Sounds like you need a moat!

  10. Barb in CA permalink
    March 20, 2013 3:06 pm

    Could I ask why you moved your seeding stations out of the brooder and into the greenhouse? You went to such trouble back in 2010 to get the hanging tables up in there… just wondering. Are you using it for some other project?

    • March 20, 2013 3:53 pm

      Barb, in 2010, that was the only greenhouse I had at the time, and it is farther away and not as convenient. It’s really no trouble to put in the hanging table in this present greenhouse, but it is harder to take care of as the plants continue to grow, so I thought I would try it without it. The mice can’t get any traction on the metal barrels so this should work just fine and be nice and temporary for moving when I get ready to till and plant.

  11. March 20, 2013 11:17 pm

    I had a problem with a mouse getting some squash seeds. We didn’t get any squash that year, but I did find a method of stopping the little varmints and that was to cover the pots with garden fleece (I think you call them row covers?) overnight and that stopped any further disappearances.

  12. March 21, 2013 11:52 am

    On commercial organic farms they have to discard 10′ on either side of where a deer walks across their field for fear of manure contamination. Mouse urine and droppings are a similar problem when vegetables are packed. It’s particularly problematic when the produce is eaten uncooked, as herbs and basil and lettuce and so on are.

    • March 21, 2013 12:10 pm

      Bruce, I think the laws are similar here too, our friends who do fresh market strawberries have to walk the field each day before U-Pick to look for deer or bird droppings. A major pain for sure.

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