By Deryn Thorpe – this story first appeared in Habitat in The West Australian newspaper

My garden friends often complain, sometimes a little boastfully, about the wonderful wildlife that visits their garden for a free feed.

Many have birds that come to peck the fruit, kangaroos that graze on the lawn, numbats that dig holes in it and pesky possums that enjoy a nibble on the rose petals.

I too have animals visiting my garden each evening but they lack the charms of our native wildlife – as each night my garden is the playground for a family of rats.

I live in an older suburb where rats are common; we often see them running along the tops of the fences when we sit outside in summer. However, rats are not fussy about suburbs and if you have a garden with fruit trees it is likely that rats are regularly snacking from the produce in your backyard.

Currently the rats are feasting on my figs! Each day I inspect the crop, which is a  small one as the fig grows in a 40cm pot, and I take bets on whether the animal that will enjoy the fruit will have four legs or two,

What makes me really cross is that the rats usually don’t eat the whole fruit, usually just half – what a waste! I’m waiting for the last fig to be eaten before I put out the rat baits as they are unlikely to take bait when there is ample fresh food around.

Figs are one of the easiest trees to grow in SWWA and despite their big root system do very well in a pot.  Mine grows in a self-watering one as I know that their enthusiastic roots would happily exit drainage holes into the ground. It is espaliered against the wall and is thriving, despite its hot west facing position and infrequent watering.

Figs will live in the pot for many years, as long as you replace a section of the soil each year.

Cut out a wedge of soil about one eighth the volume of the pot, roots and all, and replace it with some fresh potting mix. Water well with seaweed solution which will stimulate new root growth.

Deryn Thorpe is an award winning Perth writer. She occupies herself as a journalist, a garden consultant, PR person and marketer. She now lends her considerable talent to producing regular pieces for the Habitat section on the West Australian newspaper.