While rabbits might be cute and fluffy, they can really wreak havoc on your garden plants and vegetables. Thankfully, with a few safe and effective methods, you can keep rabbits out of your garden – all while not harming the environment, or the bunnies themselves.
One thing is for sure, rabbits are certainly prolific reproducers. Each female bunny is capable of producing up to twelve babies three to six times each year depending on your location.
That means your garden will provide meals for generations of rabbits, all within the same year! Without taking any actions to keep rabbits at bay, you will constantly be losing produce and plants to these cute fluffy-tailed creatures.
While some people think you can only protect plants with traps and poisons, there are a few better methods that can be used. The tips listed below are not only simple and effective, but they are safe for your family, the Earth, and the rabbits.
By implementing one or a few of these methods, you can still enjoy having rabbits around your neighborhood, all without providing them with their daily source of nutrition.
The Most Common Suspect
In North America, the most common rabbit causing damage will likely be the eastern cottontail. They prefer to live around landscaped areas as opposed to forests or heavily wooded areas. Hence why your backyard is their ideal location!
Cottontails feature long, tapered ears with a short, bushy tail. Their fur can be brown, gray, black, or even white. They only weigh around 2 to 4 pounds and grow to be up to 15 to 19 inches in length.
What Rabbits Consume
Contrary to popular TV cartoons, rabbits like to munch on way more than just carrots. They enjoy feasting on all types of fresh, young plants including annuals and perennials.
Some of their favorites seem to be the same items you typically see in your grocery store produce aisle. Items like lettuce, peas, beets, spinach, green beans, cucumbers, and broccoli are among their top vegetable picks.
In addition, rabbits will eat herbs like parsley and cilantro. Fruits and nuts are also on the menu, as well as ornamental flowers. During the colder months, rabbits will even chew on the bark of trees and shrubs.
Since gardeners often plant a wide array of crops in their garden or raised beds, it’s like your home is an open-all-night, all-you-can-eat buffet. What’s more, if you have a fence that has wide openings, tiny rabbits can easily squeeze through. This gives the rabbits a safe place to chow down without worrying about larger predators chowing down on them!
How To Know You Have A Rabbit Issue
There are a few tell-tale signs that let you know if you have a rabbit issue. A quick trip around your garden will easily tell you if those bushy-tailed creatures have been there or not.
Check the area for soil that has been dug up. You may even find tufts of fur or pea-sized droppings left behind. Those are both easy giveaways that you have a rabbit issue.
Because bunnies are short in stature, most of your damage will be close to the ground. Young and tender plants will likely be their main victims. Check on new transplants or young seedlings for damage or for missing plants.
Unlike most pests and insects, bunnies will leave clean cuts when consuming the leaves and stems of plants. It will almost look like the foliage was removed with pruning shears.
Also, be on the lookout for damage to surrounding young trees, bushes, and shrubs. Rabbits like to gnaw on low branches and bark. They will also chew on hoses, raised bed containers, or anything that might have been left behind in the garden.
How To Keep Rabbits Away From Garden Areas Safely & Humanely
Most people aren’t looking to harm rabbits, only prevent them from using their garden plants as their food source. The following tips will allow you to prevent rabbit damage all without harming the cute, adorable creatures.
One of the simplest and most effective methods involves installing a fence around your garden plants. However, not all fences will work at keeping rabbits out. Due to their small size, the holes in the fence must be small enough that a rabbit won’t be able to squeeze through.
Low welded wire fencing or even chicken wire are the best options due to their small openings. In addition, rabbits cannot chew through the material of the metal wire. Plastic fencing will just provide bunnies with a way of sharpening their teeth and creating holes over time.
The fence should be at least two feet tall because even though bunnies can hop, they can’t do it very high. However, using a fence that is around four feet high is best for keeping other types of creatures out as well.
The fence needs to be either secured to the ground or buried at least six inches underground. Rabbits do like to dig, so keep that in mind. You can also try bending the top of the fence out away from the garden to help deter climbing or hopping.
Create An Uninviting Property
Another way to help prevent rabbits from destroying your garden is by making your property less comfortable for them. Rabbits tend to not stray too far from their shelters when finding a food source. So if your property is less inviting for creating a shelter to begin with, rabbits won’t want to stick around for their meal either.
Remove stacks of wood, brush piles, or other places that might make for perfect rabbit hideouts. Fill in previously found burrows or rabbit holes in the ground. Keep your grass mowed short and weed eat any brushy areas. If there aren’t places for the rabbits to hide or create nests in, they are less likely to set up shop.
You can also try to install motion-activated sprinklers. These will not only help keep rabbits out but other unwanted pests as well. Just don’t forget they are on when you go to let your dog outside!
Cover Individual Plants
If you have smaller plants throughout your property, you can wrap them individually. Plant cages, welded wire, or chicken wire can all be placed around smaller plants.
For trees and shrubs, you’ll need to protect the trunk. You can purchase expandable trunk protectors or you can make something yourself. Cut down a piece of plastic corrugated tubing that is wide enough to place around trunks, or use welded wire to create a cage.
Add Plants Rabbits Dislike
Another option for helping to keep rabbits from feasting on their favorite plants is to add rabbit-resistant plants to your garden. Be aware that this might be more of a trial and error method. What works for some rabbits may not work for others since hungry rabbits will eat about anything.
Rabbits tend to dislike plants and herbs that feature a strong odor. Plants like lavender, marigold, catmint, peony, salvia, allium, astilbe, garlic, rhubarb, bee balm, yarrow, mint, sage, basil, hot pepper plants, lilac, snapdragon, clematis, and sunflowers are all good choices to include in your garden.
Use A Homemade Hot Pepper Spray
Hot pepper spray is a 100% organic and natural repellent for not only rabbits, but for squirrels, chipmunks, and other garden pests as well. The best part is that you can make it inexpensively with simple ingredients you may already have on hand. Be sure to wear gloves and even eye protection when making this product.
To make hot pepper spray, you need 1 gallon of water, 10 cayenne peppers finely chopped, six crushed or minced cloves of garlic, and a few drops of olive oil or biodegradable dish soap. You can substitute 5 tablespoons of hot pepper flakes or 2 tablespoons of powder if you do not have fresh cayenne peppers available.
Add all the ingredients except the oil or soap to a large pot and heat to boiling. Simmer for around 30 to 45 minutes, mixing occasionally. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to sit for 24 hours.
Next, carefully strain the solids from the liquid using a colander or cloth. Pour the liquid into a sprayer, adding a few drops of the oil or dish soap to help the solution stick better to the foliage of plants.
Shake the solution prior to spraying. Use early in the evening when the plant’s foliage is dry. Avoid using it during the heat of the day as it might burn sensitive foliage under the harsh sun’s rays. Be sure to spray around the bottom two feet of plants and under the leaves as well. Repeat as needed, especially after rain.
A bonus to using this homemade spray is that it helps deter some harmful insects as well. To learn more about all the benefits of using hot pepper spray, check out “How To Make & Use Hot Pepper Spray.”
Encourage Natural Predators
Keeping rabbits from your garden may be as simple as having a family dog or an outside cat. Rabbits are prey animals that have a long list of predators. Your dog or cat definitely makes the list, no matter how nice Fido is to other animals.
Allow your dog or cat to spend time around your garden area and do its business near there as well. In addition, the next time you have to brush your pet, save the loose fur. You can then scatter it around the perimeter of your garden or amongst young plants or trees.
The scent your pets leave behind or their fur will be red flags for rabbits to steer clear. If you don’t have a pet, you can even ask a neighbor or local groomer if they would be willing to collect their fur for you to use. Just keep in mind that the hair will need to be replaced occasionally, especially after it rains.
What Might Not Work
Contrary to claims, there are also a few suggestions that don’t tend to work the best at keeping rabbits out of your garden. Fake owls, snakes, or even scarecrows are not likely to scare off a hungry rabbit.
According to some older claims, rabbits are scared of their reflection. However, placing mirrors or clear glass jars filled with water throughout your garden are also unlikely to work well. In fact, they are likely to create more of a hassle for you to deal with.
It’s best to stick to some of the other methods mentioned above. With a little simple effort, you and the neighborhood rabbits will be able to live in peace and your garden plants will stay safe and sound.
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