Reader Questions - You Ask, I Answer

Reader Questions – Rats, Water & Oz Gardening

I receive a lot of questions on permaculture and other topics. I answer them here so everyone can benefit. After all, if you’re asking the question, there’s probably 10 more people who want the answer as well.

Today there are three questions. The first is on rats, the second on moving water, and lastly what to do in the Australian suburbs.

Join me today as I answer your (my readers) questions. If you want your question answered, please see the end of the article.

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Ok so no deer or rabbits growing in my garden, but what if
my garden grows rats? Any advice? Sarah


Well that’s an interesting problem!

We had sort of the same issue with the new property: we had TONS of mice.

In the house, under the house, all over the place.

Here’s some suggestions from our experience.

First, consider why there are rats in the garden.
Is there easily available food/trash/compost? Are they protected from predators there?
How many predators are there? Is there good habitat and safety?
If so consider modifying how the garden is set up. Remove places rats commonly nest like cardboard boxes and trash piles.

Predators like owls will eat 15-20 mice per night, so install owl boxes/nests and perching places.

In addition to that, we physically removed the mice from inside the house.

I don’t like using poison, so we trapped them.
And since chickens are omnivores, they were happy to have the mice for dinner.
Saves on feed and solves the rodent problem.

Also, most cats and terrier-type dogs love to kill rodents.
If possible, consider getting one/some and this should let the rats know they are not welcome.
Using these approaches, they should get the picture and move on
to another location.

Last, know that there are natural cycles of population where the numbers may go up and down significantly.
Prey populations always increase faster than predator populations,
which lag behind.
This is also why spraying insecticides on a garden is a bad idea. It kills the predators as they’re getting started  growing.
You may just be seeing an upswing in the rodent population.
If so, just waiting some time will see a decrease in their numbers.

P.S. – My wife reminded me of a couple more things to consider:
One, make sure to pick up any pet or bird food outside.
Don’t leave any excess or out overnight.
Note that a squirrel-proof feeder will also be rat proof.

Two, if you can handle it, consider adding some rock piles for snake habitat.
Corn snakes (and others) LOVE to eat rats and will quietly wear down your rat population.
They aren’t venomous, are shy and will “run” away from humans if possible.

Make sure garbage cans and any other food source is secured.
Solutions depend on where you are, your environment (rural vs urban), and how bad the rats are.

If they’re eating all of your garden, try raised beds with metal siding the rats can’t climb.
Or maybe a rat-tight greenhouse.

Also, if you don’t have toddlers, you might consider a bucket trap.
It’s very effective but kind of gross.

Please let me know how you make out on this, and what you decide to do.

Moving waterReader Questions - You Ask, I Answer

I would like to know more about moving water. I’m not talking just earthworks. More things for smaller urban gardens that maybe have rain barrels and such. How can those of us on less that an acre effectively get our rain water to our raised beds (moving water up with the principal that the water level at one end of a pipe, will try to match the water level of the other end), trees, ect. 
Moving water downhill is always free. Unfortunately, moving water uphill requires energy.
Water will try to seek its own level, but it won’t go up for free.
You could use something like a small pump (even solar-powered) to move the water, as long as its not too high.
Another option is to use wicking beds, so you don’t have to water as much.
As you said, you can use earthworks to move water.
However, large swales and dams don’t make sense in a backyard.
I talked about in articles Backyard Permaculture Design and Permaculture Drylands Techniques.
One idea is to use micro-swales that are only a foot wide, that are re-filled with gravel or wood chips.
Somewhat like a French drain, it allows water to enter and move along the ditch.
This is less of a tripping hazard than a full-size swale.
Another possibility is to use a rain garden, see
Both Toby Hemenway and Brad Lancaster have used this around their homes.
Sometimes they are depressions, but can also be gently flowing shallow ditches planted around with water-loving varieties.

Suburban living down under

Hi Jed I am from Sydney Australia and live on a suburban block. Any idea are welcome.

Good to hear from the southern hemisphere! How’s summer treating you?

So in a suburb you actually have some advantages that people in more rural areas don’t.
The fences and houses provide a windbreak and potential microclimates.
You can also catch problems sooner when they are easier to correct.

Water is usually very close to where you need it, and in smaller yards you can be more productive per square foot.
An average suburban backyard can produce more food than you can probably handle.
For example, the Dervaes family in California produces 6000 pounds of food a year on a 1/10th acre lot.
Now, granted that they are in California and have a very long growing season.
But you’re in a humid subtropical climate and can grow most if not all of the year.

You might consider wicking beds, aquaponics, and fruiting tropical perennial plants (that I’m jealous I can’t grow).
Make sure to check out Rob Bob’s YT channel at
He’s got lots of good info about growing in OZ, and lots of aquaponics too.

Further, you might consider a perennial food forest in either the front or back yard, depending on space.
Of course, it needs to conform to your lifestyle and if it’s what you really want.
You can certainly tuck in fruit and nut trees in quite small spaces, as well as some berry bushes like Barbados cherry or other tropical berries and fruits/nuts.
You should do some research on what grows best in your area.

Lastly, I suggest you find a local permaculture group to connect with and get ideas and help, as this will be an invaluable resource.


If you’d  like to get your question answered, just email me at info (at) thepermaculture (dot) life and ask away!


OK, that’s all folks! Do you have any questions or comments about sustainable homesteading, permaculture design or anything else? Ask your question down below and let’s talk! You can also use the contact form, or email me at info at thepermaculture dot life.

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