Myvegiepatch
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Rat skeleton in my garden

Hi everyone.

I live in Melbourne and I have a small vegetable garden where I am growing strawberries, tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers and potatoes. We've been away for 2 weeks and the weather was really hot. I have a net on my vegetable garden to protect the tomatoes and the strawberries from birds and slugs.
Yesterday, while I was pulling out the weeds from the garden , I felt a bad smell and I found a rat skeleton under my strawberry plants. I suppose the rat managed to go under the net while we've been away but he wasn't able to get out of there and being very hot he just died of dehydration and of course his body has been decomposed. I've thrown away all the soil from that part of the garden and I am pretty sure I will not able to eat too soon, fruits or veggies from the garden but I still have some questions:
- Is the soil infested, should I consider my garden being compromised?
- or can I wait for a while and not to pick the veggies or fruits and just wait for new plants to grow?
Considering the warm weather here I might have tomatoes and strawberries to pick for the next 4 months but they are still good?

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applestar
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

Are you concerned that the rat had poison in its system? (do you put out rat poison?) Are they known to carry disease organisms like rabies or E. Coli or something?

If those are not likely scenarios, I might be concerned about strawberry fruits that might have been in direct contact with immediate area soil where the rats decomposing fluids might have seeped in, but beyond that decomposing small bodies seem like just a natural part of nature's cycle? Fertilizer.... :twisted:

(Well, possibly avoid eating leafy greens and root vegetables within rain splash zone uncooked? -- but it doesn't sound like you would have anything like that if it was under the strawberry.)

I think I would certainly have removed the remains, but just raked the soil underneath into the ground.... I would not be concerned about above ground fruits like tomatoes.

...am I being too un-concerned? (meaning -- not that I'm making light of your concerns, but that -- maybe I'm not thinking this through enough and giving bad advice.) I hope other members have a better understanding of the potential hazards.
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applestar
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

BTW -- you do see little dead things in your garden occasionally. If you didn't grow up in areas where hunting and pest killing is common -- like here in NJ, in middle of residential area and insulated from what little of that there are -- dead mice, baby birds, rabbits, etc. might bother you a great deal. I definitely had that reaction at first.

But since so much of my outdoor gardening has been after we moved to a house with some gardening space, and with my children as they were born and grew up, it became part of our gardening practice to perform a small burial ritual for these creatures, along with our own small pets like goldfish and gerbils. Especially when they were little, my children would gather flowers and leaves, food they might have gathered around the garden, and put the little bodies in a box or a basket, sometimes give them a pretty handkerchief or fabric out of their sewing basket to lay on/shroud in. Say a few words....

Even though I chose to perform these little rituals for my children's benefit, I think they have helped my own sense of peace as well. I found myself doing it for a little dead bird last year, not even with my children present and all by myself....
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jasonvanorder
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

I would avoid the couple plants the the rat died under but as for the rest of the garden I would think it should be fine. Unless as stated the rats in that area are known to carry anything or you put out poison. But maybe Im underthinking it too?

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Allyn
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

Considering it is an age-old practice to bury a fish in the hole when planting, I'd think a small animal decomposing in the soil wouldn't be a tragic thing. Without knowing why it died, I would be inclined to remove it and the soil immediately around it. The decomposition juices would stain the soil a darker color, so I'd remove the dark soil. I know for a human, that dark soil can extend out a couple of feet around the body, but for a small animal like a rat, it's maybe only a couple of inches. For myself, I'd probably feel a little icky eating underground vegetables planted in that spot this year -- carrots, radishes, beets, et al. -- or eating any fruit or vegetable that touched the soil; but for plants that grow there, I'd be perfectly okay with eating what they produce.

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jal_ut
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

Relax. It won't be a problem. Enjoy your garden.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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applestar
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

Allyn wrote: I know for a human, that dark soil can extend out a couple of feet around the body, ....
O-KAY.... :shock: How do you know that....??? :| :lol:
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Allyn
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

applestar wrote:
Allyn wrote: I know for a human, that dark soil can extend out a couple of feet around the body, ....
O-KAY.... :shock: How do you know that....??? :| :lol:

LOL It's all part of the mystery that is me. ;)

Seriously, though, I have a hobbyist's interest in forensics. If you google "body farm" and pull up one of the forensic anthropology farms, you'll probably find out way more than you want to know.

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applestar
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

Bones, Rizzoli and Isles, and NCIS are among one of my DDs' favorite TV series. All of them featured a body farm in an episode.... :hehe:
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

ButterflyLady29
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

It's just compost. I wouldn't worry except for the plants that were in direct contact with the body. Even those will be okay after being washed off. The dead rat wouldn't have any cooties that a live one didn't. And who knows how many live ones were there that you didn't see.

HoneyBerry
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

I saw a dead rat near my shed the other day and I was dreading the idea of cleaning it up. I decided to postpone it. The icky thing was gone by the day. Something cleaned it up for me. Nature was being very nice to me that day. I was so happy that I didn't have to clean it up. The world would be a very messy place if it wasn't for critters that clean things up.
I think if there was a dead rat in my garden, I wouldn't want to eat anything that is growing very close to it. I don't know of any gardening guidelines for rodents, dead or alive.
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imafan26
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

I have not found rat bodies in the garden but I have found some gecko skeletons and I smash snails everywhere. I think if it is an above ground plant that was not in direct contact, I would not worry too much. Getting rid of the soil around it is probably a good idea but if you found only a skeleton most of the liquidy parts have already been absorbed by the soil and the soil organisms are probably digesting that. To be safe I would treat it like fresh manure and avoid eating stuff that comes in contact or close to the soil for a few months. The plants themselves should be fine, just discard the fruit for now. There are probably millions of microbes that bite the dust everyday in the garden and you have been eating produce from that. They however are not known carriers of disease. Wash everything and consider cooking everything well.
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Myvegiepatch
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

Thank you everyone.
Now I can say I am more relaxed. To be honest, my first taught was: " ok, I have natural fertilizer but I feel sick thinking of eating from there. Then I thought that maybe it is not safe to eat the tomatoes and strawberries even they have grown few meters away of the dead rat. Then my husband came and said that the rat might spread diseases and we should avoid everything from the garden. So I became confused if I should be too relaxed or too worried.
Now reading all your posts I think the best idea is to avoid only the strawberries around the skeleton for a while and keep going with the others as usual.
Regarding the poisoning I do not put poison in my garden and I have no idea about the rats over here carrying E-Coli or something else.

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applestar
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

I'm glad to hear that our discussions were able to put you at ease.

Now that it is settled, is it OK if I inject a bit of humor?

...I was discussing your incident with my DD, and she said she was reminded of the animated movie Ratatouille. We have the DVD, and one of the bonuses included a little featurette in which the rats -at length- bemoan that THEY are blamed for everything, and it was the FLEAS that spread the Black Plague..... :>
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Myvegiepatch
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

:D We saw the movie, too. My sons loved Ratatouille.
I remember I read somewhere that rats are actually very intelligent creatures. Intelligent or not, I'd prefer not to see them close to my food. :>

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TheWaterbug
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

Myvegiepatch wrote:Then my husband came and said that the rat might spread diseases and we should avoid everything from the garden. So I became confused if I should be too relaxed or too worried.
Now reading all your posts I think the best idea is to avoid only the strawberries around the skeleton for a while and keep going with the others as usual.
Regarding the poisoning I do not put poison in my garden and I have no idea about the rats over here carrying E-Coli or something else.
Don't tell your husband about the thousands and thousands of other animals (birds, mice, insects, worms, spiders, mites, gophers, voles, snails, and slugs) that die in your garden every year. You just happened to see this one.
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Taiji
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Re: Rat skeleton in my garden

Along these same lines...when I was about 5 or 6 yrs. old, back in West Virginia, we had some skunks living under our house. Somehow, my dad trapped and killed them, (I don't remember how, which is probably just as well) then buried them and planted a Scotch pine over each skunk carcass. Those particular Scotch pines grew like crazy, much better than the ones without skunk fertilizer. Of course, no one eats Scotch pines.

I know, a thoroughly disgusting story, (which is why I posted it in this thread!) but true.

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