Garden Tasks, How-Tos, and Guides:
LitterPicking | RatHarassment | SprayingMicrobes | Composting | PruningTreesandShrubs | HandMulching | GroundCoverManagement | WeedingGuide

Litter picking & disposing of trash

  • Use the litter picker (aka garbage grabber) tool.
  • If there are no plastic bags, collect trash in a bucket, and empty into the corner trash bin (if the nearby corner trash bin is full, try any of the other corner trash bins).
  • Do not throw away organic matter (leaves, branches, dead plants, etc.)
  • Only pick plastics (candy wrappers, cups, lids, straws, etc.), metals (bottle caps, cans, old nails, etc.), glass, and mixed materials (glass + wood + plastic + metal).

Rat harassment

  • Destroy rat burrows/rat holes. If gravel (purchased in bags) is available, fill the holes with the gravel (rats do not like digging in gravel).
  • Keep areas clear and clean where rats can hide behind.
  • Keep bins and containers away from the walls, at least 2 feet away, so rats don’t have easy cover to hide and dig holes.
  • Spray microbes in areas most frequented, against rat residue/odor, which rats use to retrace their steps to their burrow and food and water sources. See below.

Spraying microbes

Against rat residue/odor, which rats can track back to their burrow and food/water sources.

While the main purposes of the following liquids (EM-5 and Activated EM recipes) are used to improve soil microbial health and plant health (i.e., keep pests at bay), they can also be used to manage odors and trace residues, such as, from rats.

Spraying or watering with EM-5 which is a microbial inoculant made with EM-1 (a combination of beneficial microorganisms), blackstrap molasses, apple cider vinegar (white vinegar is also okay if mainly used against rat residues/odor), vodka (or any cheap 40% alcohol, such as, Tequila and whiskey), and optionally garlic cloves and the hottest spicy peppers that’s available (Scoville rating/pungency(heat/spiciness) above 25K—25,000 SHU. Can be same or mix of peppers, examples:
cayenne [30K-50K],  
Satan’s Kiss peppers [40K-50K],
Thai orange peppers [50K-100K],  
Bird’s Eye (Thai chili, Piri Piri) [50K-350K],
Scotch bonnet [80K-400K],
habañero [100K-350K],
ghost pepper [850K-1M+], etc.

Generally, EM-5 is used as a foliar spray and to soil to prevent pests and against fungal diseases. The hypothesis is that EM-5 may be breaking down (not just washing away) the pheromones that rats secrete when their furs rub against as they run around—how they know where they’ve been and relocate food and their burrow. Rats have one of the most sensitive senses of smells and can map where things are according to odor. If their pheromones have been disrupted, they tend to stay away from confusion and being cautious.

Spray every two weeks or once a month. Otherwise, whenever they start to reestablish their route again.

Use the hose-end sprayer to spray either the entire garden or sections of the garden.

Use the pump sprayer for localized applications, such as, in your garden bed.

Hose-end sprayer

hose-end sprayer
  1. Fill the hose-end sprayer container with only concentrated EM-5 (max 32 fl oz).
  2. Set the red dial to 1.5 oz. (for every gallon of water that passes through, 1.5 fl oz of the EM-5 is sucked up into the water stream).
  3. Attach garden hose.
  4. Spray affected areas methodically, sweeping side to side while moving over the area.
  5. Below table shows the percentage per dial setting, and for which application should the dial be set (foliar – spraying to leaves; direct to soil; or for flushing out rat odors).
    Example, setting at 1 tsp, means that for every gallon (128 fl oz) of water that goes from hose through the device, 1 teaspoon (or 0.17 fl oz) of whatever liquid is in the container/Ortho device is drawn into the flow and sprayed out mixed with the water. This is pretty much the standard application rate of 1:1000 (0.10% ratio) for spraying EM-5 onto plant [over and under] leaves as a maintenance against pests and foliar feeding (providing nutrients through the leaves).
Hose-end sprayer
hose-end spraying

Hand-pump Sprayers

pump sprayers

Pump Spraying EM-5

Pre-mix the EM-5 in water in the pump sprayer container.

For rat odors, use 4 teaspoons for 65 fl oz of water,
or less than <1 tablespoon for 40 fl oz of water.

Spraying EM-5

Pump Spraying Activated EM (AEM or just ‘Activated’)

Apply AEM in addition to EM-5. AEM is just EM-1 and blackstrap molasses without the other ingredients. Activated EM is a microbial inoculant for soil, compost, gray water, black water, and compost toilets. It improves soil microbial health, many other microbes, worms and insects eat these microbes, and it works well for odor management.

Spraying AEM

Composting Food Waste

For composting in general and an overview, see and view their “How to Compost” and “Learn” menus.

For bokashi composting, see

Pruning Trees and Shrubs – Guide

Oregon State University Extension Service, Oregon Master Gardener Association, 2-page PDF guide:

Hand Mulching Guide for Garden Members & Volunteers

  • Mulch (cut into small pieces) pruned plants, plant clippings, dead plants, and small branches. Large branches can be trimmed and used for other purposes, including bed border buffers, for growing mushrooms, or for soil prep uses.
  • Depending on plant-matter size (plants, thick plants, branches), use a hand pruner, loper, or hand saw (if available).
  • Put/drop the small pieces onto paths between raised beds and over dirt paths (not over grassy areas); larger pieces that may be harder to walk on (such as thick pieces of branches even if they’re only an inch long) put them in non-walking common areas, such as around trees.

Ground Cover Management Guide

  • Raking and spreading fall leaves, as well as, hand mulched plant clippings:
    • over dirt paths, this prevents muddy paths after rain, and prevents dusty conditions if no rain for awhile.
    • over dirt around and between plants, keeps moisture in the soil, which keeps beneficial organisms working in the soil to feed the plants (microorganisms, worms, soil insects), and minimizes the need to constantly water or prevent plants from dying too quickly from a fast-drying soil.
    • Ground cover keeps moisture in the soil which is necessary for all kinds of small organisms to flourish (microorganisms) which feed larger organisms (worms, soil insects), and they feed the birds.
  • Allow certain beneficial ground cover plants to grow, as appropriate, including ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), Appalachian Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides), Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica), etc.

Weeding Guide

  • Only paths, mulch-covered, dirt, and brick/paved paths, should be kept clear of weeds. Other areas, including common areas should be weeded, removed or just cut/pruned, on a case-by-case basis (consult with other garden members).
  • These cut weeds should be hand-mulched and left on the path as ground cover (raised beds area and common areas).
  • Weeds in other areas: if in garden plots, it is the responsibility of the member assigned that plot; if in common areas, consult with other garden members since certain plants which may be considered as weeds are actually beneficial, for example, as ground cover (see Ground Cover Management Guide, above), as nutrient source and balance for other plants that we do want, and for other properties (some weeds are edible and/or attracts beneficial insects, etc.)