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Miranda Hodgson

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Beware of the mouse – if you’re sowing peas and beans, that is

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 21 Mar 2010 at 11:31 AM

Packets of peas and beans generally come with instructions to sow them in the ground where they are to grow. It sounds good enough, but it puzzles me because the instructions don’t take into account a certain small mammal, the mouse - Apodemus sylvaticus.

Field mouse, wood mouse, call them what you will, but they love peas and beans and can sniff them out as fast as you sow them. They love sweet corn, too, and will neatly lift every carefully sown kernel, leaving barely a trace of their foraging. For this reason, I prefer to sow into trays and then keep them on metal racks that mice can’t climb up, until they have put out at least one set of leaves and can be safely put outside. I could, of course, trap and kill them, and many gardeners do, but I choose not to.

Mice are mostly nocturnal, so you don’t often see them, but they leave signs of their presence. If you have seed or berry producing trees nearby, like cherry or holly, it’s likely that a mouse will gather the seed and store it somewhere, to be eaten later; the corner of a dry garage is a favourite spot. The inside of a wood pile is a good storage area too – in ours we find many cherry stones. Once, I even found a disused bird’s nest piled high with holly berries.

The remains of a winter food store


The most surprising place I’ve found a mouse’s food store was under the bonnet of our car. We don’t use it a lot and so don't open the bonnet very often but, as the car was due to go for its annual MOT, we thought we ought to have a quick look, just to see that everything was still in one piece. It was, but there, in a cavity of the engine block, were hundreds of cherry stones. Saved from the shame of having them discovered by a laughing mechanic, we cleared them away and will in future check the engine for a mouses’s food store before taking the car in!

Just as well we looked, isnt' it.



EvaInNL said:

How adorable, great pictures Miranda! Had a chat with my next door allotment neighbour today and found to my astonishment that he uses poison in his coldframes before he plants anything. Now apart from a horrible death for the mice, it seems to me that it can't be good for teh beg he consequently grows there? I much prefer your method, although I never heard before that mice can't climb metal racks. Could you post a picture of it please?

Thanks again for a lovely blog!

on 21 Mar 2010 at 10:11 PM

EvaInNL said:

PS: I'll send you my neighbour's cat, she loves climbing under the hood of cars when they're still warm, that'll give the mice a surprise! :o)

on 21 Mar 2010 at 10:16 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Thanks, Eva! Yes, I'll take a picture of the staging/table and post it. Ours are much like the ones on this page:

Oue neighbours have cats as well and they use the garden as a latrine - but maybe they catch the odd mouse here and there too.

on 22 Mar 2010 at 09:28 AM

bogweevil said:

In my experience there is little that mice cannot climb, I have even had them shim down thin bars suspending the trays form the greenhouse roof!  Traps, live capture ones if you like, baited with peanut butter are best, but you need one every 2m as mice seldom go further from their burrows and of course the traps must be shioelded from birds.  Our cats are sudden death to songbirds but mice apparently fail to arouse their catty instincts.

on 22 Mar 2010 at 10:15 AM

Susiq said:

Lovely pic of the mouse Miranda. Have to agree with Boggy - the mice definately climb up my staging and have in the past raided any seed packets left on the top. I plant my beans straight out using cut in half pop bottles, pushing them about 3 inches into the soil - seems to work quite well so far.

on 22 Mar 2010 at 11:13 AM

EvaInNL said:

Ah, that type of metal rack, thought you meant something else entirely! Thanks!

on 22 Mar 2010 at 11:29 AM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Well, they haven't climbed up mine yet but, if they do, then I shall certainly say about it.

on 22 Mar 2010 at 11:33 AM

shirls gardenwatch said:

Hi there Miranda, great photos. I love the 'food to go' ;-) Lol, I can just imagine the reaction of a mechanic there!

I built caves within the rocks around my small pond. Every once and a while we see a mouse weave in and out this area. They often take sunflower seeds from the ground feeder nearby. I saw one yesterday. Last Novemeber, I had my camera nearby, see I had a bit of fun with my blog post although the message was a serious one :-)

on 22 Mar 2010 at 11:13 PM

richardpeeej said:

Lovely pictures Miranda.I saw a little brown mouse scooting off in the garden last week when I moved a small pile of flower pots I had in the corner of the garden.We often get an odd mouse in our garage too. I enjoyed reading your article.

on 24 Mar 2010 at 12:25 AM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Thanks, Shirl. Lovely pictures you've got there.

Richard, I bet we've all got a lot more mice around than we expect.

They still haven't got to the peas and beans yet...

on 29 Mar 2010 at 03:41 PM