Rabbits were a big problem for me last year. Any tips on stopping them from eating my entire garden?
Answer: Rabbits, with their twitching whiskers, oversized ears and cotton-ball tails, may delight some onlookers as they hop endearingly around yards. However, even the cutest of bunnies can quickly turn into a gardener’s worst nightmare as they feast away on plants.
Here are a few humane ways of discouraging rabbits from indulging on your plants:
• Fences: The most effective, humane way of deterring rabbits is fencing. Create a barrier between your beds and the rabbits by putting up a mesh fence 1 to 3 feet high—commonly made of chicken wire. Make sure to bury the bottom edge of the fence at least 6 inches under the ground to keep the most determined rabbits from burrowing beneath it. Openings should be no more than roughly 1 inch. If you do not want to fence an entire flowerbed, you can fence individual plants by creating a cylinder of wire mesh around them, at least 2 feet high and 1 to 2 feet away from the selected plant. Make sure to again bury the fencing at least 6 inches beneath the ground. You can also use commercial or homemade tree guards as an alternative to fencing.
• Limiting habitat: Try to take away any areas where rabbits may nest around your home/garden. Seal off any openings beneath decks, steps and buildings. Clear plant debris—fallen branches, brush, etc.—and remove low-growing branches and dense vegetation.
• Repellants: There are natural repellants that are not only safe to use around animals and children, but are also environmentally friendly and still effective. Natural repellants are great for short-term relief of rabbits. You have to reapply frequently for best effect—especially after rainfall. Rabbits have a keen sense of smell, so many repellents incorporate coyote urine or dried blood. You can purchase these repellants at your local nurseries and garden centers. Some gardeners will also sprinkle dog or human hair around their beds. Others make their own spray using two tablespoons of hot pepper sauce mixed in a gallon of water with a couple squirts of dish soap.
• Deter with plants: You can discourage rabbits from eating your more desirable plants and edibles by growing varieties that they typically avoid, such as tomatoes, lavender, boxwood, aster, vinca, amaryllis, lilac, rhododendron and more. You can also create “decoy” gardens to help lure bunnies away from your favored plants that you are hoping to protect. Fill the decoy garden with selections that rabbits love to nibble on so that they feast on the decoys rather than your actual garden. A few favorites of rabbits are peas, beans and clover.
Image: Benson Kua
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