Now that Easter has come and gone, I’ve had my fill of bunnies. They may be cute, but I sure don’t want any in my garden this year. Keeping rabbits out of the garden and away from your tender veggies and flowers can be tricky, and often frustrating. Here are some tips to keep your harvest safe.
Make the area less attractive – Cottontails tend to like covered, protected areas for nesting and hiding. By limiting their preferred environment, you will make your yard less inviting. Remove piles of stones, brush and tall weedy patches and be sure to mow along the fence, house and raised garden beds. Talk to your lawn care provider about any concerns that you might have and let them know you want to limit rabbit habitat. (Source: www.vegetablegardener.com)
Repellants – There are commercial and home made repellants that can help discourage rabbits from consuming your plants but they don’t all work and tend to need frequent reapplication. Plus, many of them cannot be used on edible plants. If you’re unsure about this, talk to an expert at your local garden center.
Fencing is still the best option – There is nothing that will protect your garden better than proper fencing to physically keep the rabbits out. A simple wire fence made of chicken wire, also known as poultry netting, staked around the garden can be easily and inexpensively constructed out of materials found at the hardware store or where you buy your landscaping materials. The fence should be 18-24 inches high and the mesh should be no bigger than 1”. You want to ensure that the fence is at least 6 inches away from the nearest plants or leaves. Some people recommend putting the fence in the ground about 6 inches to deter the rabbits from digging underneath. If you live on an acreage, you may want to consider electric fencing that is appropriate for keeping out both rabbits and deer.
I haven’t tried these so I can’t say whether they are folklore or good home remedies but if you’re desperate, you may want to give one or all of them a try. Who said home improvements in the garden need scientific data to be worth trying?
1) Next time you get your hair cut, collect all of the hair and spread it around the plants. You could ask your barber or stylist to collect a few bags of hair for you so you have extra on hand. If you have a pet, collect the hair from the brush every time you groom them and spread that around.
2) If you have a dog or a cat, encourage them to spend time around the garden, even letting your dog urinate around the borders of the area. Just be sure that your produce is well-washed before eating it.
3) I recently read that using a cheese grater to grate a bar of Irish Spring soap around the garden can deter squirrels and other critters. I’m going to try this and see if it works for rabbits too.
4) Planting a border of garlic, onions and marigolds may offend their picky noses and keep them from making their way into the garden.
5) Garlic powder shaken on the leaves of mature plants is said to deter rabbits, but the garlic might be too potent to use on tender young seedlings.
6) Plant a decoy garden – some people with lots of space like to plant a little area far away from their real garden and fill it with tender delicacies that rabbits love. The reasoning here is that if they get their fill in the decoy garden, they will leave the main garden alone. (I’m not convinced that this would really help in the long run.)
7) Hot pepper sprays are often suggested in gardening forums but you have to reapply after each rainfall or any time you water the garden so that seems tedious.
Having one or two rabbits around the vegetable garden might not cause significant damage, and as an urban gardener, it can even be fun to spot them now and then. However, knowing that rabbits can reproduce between two and six times per year, with each litter having two to eight bunnies, your small annoyance can become a nuisance pretty quickly.