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I've been having trouble re-planting a bare patch of lawn at the back of my small garden. I was wondering if birds had been raiding the seeds (and I have bought some plastic netting ready for next attempt), but just a few hours ago at dusk, I spotted a mouse hopping out into the sown patch and helping itself. The mouse came back about 30 seconds after being scared off - so it clearly found getting into the garden for the seeds worthwhile.

The garden backs onto a small woodland area, and I don't think I can realistically mouse-proof entry to the garden physically (e.g. with wire mesh).

I don't want to bait or poison any mice. First I don't like the idea, also these are just wild mice, just taking an opportunity to fill up from my garden, they aren't an infestation, there are none in the house.

It is not a huge area, I have about 4 square metres of lawn to return from bare mud to grassy. Overall the garden is also small - just 5 metres by 5 metres.

What is my best option to get a green patch on the lawn?


Ideas I have considered:

I have read that peppermint oil is repellent to mice, but will putting a line of it or something similar along the back fence be effective? Is there any other way to mouse-proof my grass seed in the garden long enough for it to sprout before being eaten?

Alternatively, I may be better off pre-germinating the grass somewhere mouse-proof and spreading it out after a certain time as in this question: Will pre-germinating grass seed produce a green lawn in less time than just seeding and watering properly? - if so, how long is good enough to not be interesting to the mouse?

  • Mice and other animals, insects, birds will of course make a meal out of the seeds. But there are many seeds. You can always and should expect to reseed and roll that area. If you have your lawn growing vigorously you do NOT need to reseed every year! If at all. Sod works the best to make new lawns as well as patching lawns!! Worth the little bit of extra money I am not kidding! Please check out on our site all the questions about how to maintain your lawn, how high to mow that crop, when to water and how much and how often to fertilize... – stormy Apr 13 '19 at 5:39
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That is not so small an area. Four square meters ~= 43 Square feet

I would just sod this and have the job finished in a few hours. A typical sod roll measures 24" x 81" or 2 ft x 6.75 ft. Each roll of sod will cover 1.5 sq. yds or 13.5 sq. ft

So this could require up to 4 rolls of sod depending on wastage. Where I live this costs about $5/roll or $20.

You would have similar after care requirements of rolling to ensure good contact with the ground and watering. A real guarantee of success is to overseed spring and fall with more grass seed.

  • I hadn't considered ready-grown sod. I will need to look into prices and suitability in my area (UK). Lawn is shaded, which is probably why it has got patchy over winter - so I have been using seed that claims to be good mix for shaded areas. I expect there is a similar choice when buying sod rolls - maybe it will add a little to the price? The price you suggest (converted to GBP) seems good compared to lots of money and time put into guessing games on what will work around the problems with seeds though . . . – Neil Slater Apr 10 '16 at 22:14
  • I have investigated, and new turf not in my current budget. Also neighbours who have re-turfed using gardening contractors have not had great results, due to problems with soil, drainage and shade that all the houses share. I expect this lawn will be my lunchtime hobby for many hours to come, but the details about why that is are not in the original question, and this is a fine answer. – Neil Slater Apr 20 '16 at 9:17
  • @NeilSlater Sounds like a question about how to improve a shady patchy lawn area is in your future.. – kevinsky Apr 20 '16 at 9:50
  • Math looks a little off. I think you divided by sq yards not sq ft. 4 square meters ~= 43 sq ft. 43 sq ft/13.5 sq ft per roll ~= 3.3 rolls. 4 rolls should do it, one trip, no van needed will fit in a trunk. Not too much more money than a good bag of seed. – OrganicLawnDIY Jun 5 '16 at 18:19
  • @OrganicLawnDIY yes, off by a factor of 10, corrected, thank you – kevinsky Jun 5 '16 at 18:31
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This is what I actually did, and it worked around my mouse problem.

I pre-germinated grass seed mixed with cheap potting compost, I'd guess around 1/8 seed by volume, and heavily watered. I kept this mix in a container kept in a simple covered "growhouse" next to the house which seemed not to attract the mice. The initial germination time was about 2 weeks due to the seed I chose and time of year - this can vary a lot according to temperature and type of seed.

I used the mixture when it had only just started growing - there were roots 0.5 to 1cm long from most seeds, and just a few glimpses of green shoots here and there. I spread this germinated mixture out relatively sparsely - making a thin but full covering layer of compost - where the ground was bare, and essentially treated it as if I had sown it as seed according to the instructions on the packet (i.e. I prepared the ground beforehand and watered afterward)

The germinated seed seemed a lot less interesting to the mice. For comparison I also sowed grass seed normally in a few other patches. Mice ate that seed and ignored the larger patch that I had sown with pre-germinated seed, which has now grown into a full covering over the bare mud.

My lawn is still not perfect, and it has taken fair amount of time to get to this point. This approach did however work out a lot cheaper than getting the whole garden re-turfed. As I had budget constraints, and wanted to use shade tolerant grass (which is slower to grow, plus more expensive to get turf for), this has worked for me.

  • I won't be accepting either answer for now, as they offer two very different solutions to the problem, and seem equally valid. I would say if anyone else faces similar problem and has the budget, then new turf does seem like it would be quicker and look better more immediately. – Neil Slater Jun 5 '16 at 7:11
  • I sometimes do something similar to patch grass in areas. Used coffee grounds mixed with grass seed. Let it germinate a few days until the radicle emerges then spread it. Sod wouldn't have cost that much for the amount of area you have. Comparable to a bag of good seed. – OrganicLawnDIY Jun 5 '16 at 20:14
  • @OrganicLawnDIY: I assumed due to the original answer that kevinsky was suggesting re-turfing my whole garden. That makes some sense, as the patchy areas were not square. There was one largest area, roughly 2 square metres, but the rest was scattered around the edges of the garden. I could probably of cut up the sod and applied it just in those areas with only a little wastage, but the end result would not have looked as nice as simply "re-booting" the lawn, which is what I thought was being suggested. – Neil Slater Jun 6 '16 at 15:50
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Seeds need heat and water to germinate, and they don't need light. So, under the constraints you imposed, I would have sewn the grass and just covered it under black plastic ( in colder weather so as not to solarize the soil), and used bricks to hold it down so the mouse could not feed. Once the seeds had germinated, I would have removed the covers.

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Chilli powder has been suggested to keep mammals off bird seed (birds don't have a recptor for capsaicin; peppers have evolved to be spread by birds).

You could try mixing some chilli flakes with the seed (this might be more durable that chilli powder). If some chilli seeds germinate they'll be taken out by the first mowing.

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Sprinkle hot pepper powder or juice on the area especially the seeds. This will react with their feet and their mouth. Chili powder generally is not hot enough. Mammals can taste the heat but birds cannot. So this will help with the mammals, but not with birds.

Treat again after every rain.

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