You’ve spent hours preparing your land, designing and planting your garden, only to discover that something is destroying all your hard work. After some careful sleuthing, you identify the perpetrator, a little neighborhood rabbit with the cutest little nose, the most captivating black eyes, and, to your dismay, a veracious appetite for your garden.
Not to worry! I have solutions for your dilemma and proven tips to save both your garden and little Peter Cottontail.
Walls & Fences
The easiest solution is to deny access to your garden space. In fact, this type of barrier can add warmth and charm to your garden design.
Rock & Bricks
English gardens are famous for their beautiful use of natural stone and brickwork to enhance their gardens. The wall does not need to be very tall, knee high is sufficient, just tall enough to keep the rabbit from jumping over and into your lovely garden. However, most walls require a gate for entry and the gate most be designed in such a way that the rabbit cannot squeeze through the hinged side, latch side, underneath, or through the gate itself. If the rabbit is able to get through the gate, your wall has been in vain.
If rocks and bricks are less appealing to you, or just not feasible, consider and inexpensive wire and post fence. Set posts on the corners of your garden plot, then add another post every 4-6’ as required for fence strength and integrity. Secure a wire mesh fencing material to the outside of the posts with either wire fasteners or staples, depending on your post material. Plastic or PVC mesh is not recommended because the rabbit will be able to gnaw through the material. The important thing to remember is that the mesh must be a small gauge (1-2”) to ensure the rabbit cannot squeeze through the openings. Manufacturers actually market Rabbit fencing at your local garden center.
Since your goal is to keep the rabbit out of your garden not to harm the rabbit, a repellent is another alternative. Repellents are common materials you may have around your home that are less than inviting to the rabbit. Choose the repellent of choice, or combine one or more, and spread the material around the entire perimeter of your garden and around and between the plants. The items listed below will not affect the plants at all but the rabbit will be less than happy, choosing instead to move on to another more appetizing lunch at your neighbors or in the wild.
Ivory soap is just one of those wonder products. Created to be 99% pure, the ingredient list is easy on plants, animals and humans. Simply grate one of more bars of ivory soap into small shavings and sprinkle them around the perimeter and the plants. That is all that’s needed. However, it is soap, so with regular watering and rain, the soap will need to be replaced, and the process repeated regularly.
Gather several spicy peppers, habaneros are a great choice, throw them in your blender with a small amount of vinegar and puree. Then spray or spread the watery fireball around the garden as described above. You’ll be surprised how many other creepy crawly creatures will stay away as well.
Garlic works like the peppers, but in this case, just use a water base and make sure the garlic is strong and intense.
Dogs and humans are a natural predator to rabbits, so anything with their scent will run them off. Collect the hair your sweep, vacuum, or cut from dogs and people and spread it around the garden. Use the hair on the exterior boundaries though, it’s best not to get it up under the plants where it will decompose and act as a fertilizer to the plant. (*Note: human urine can be used also, but hair is far less smelly).
Dried Blood Meal
Although there is an unsophisticated way to create your own DIY blood meal, it is so inexpensive to purchase that it does not make sense to make such a mess. You can purchase dried blood meal at your local garden center. Again, it’s a scent thing and even though the blood is actually cooked and dried, it still smells like a predator, so rabbits won’t even bother. Follow the directions for application of the container.
It would be inaccurate to state that all cats eat rabbits, but many, especially outdoor cats do. Therefore, rabbits do not like anything to do with cats and their natural scent is plenty to send the rabbit packing. Mixing used kitty litter into your beds is a great way to repel those annoying rabbits; however, it’s not the best option for vegetable gardens or unscented ornamentals. The smell just isn’t pleasant and can ruin the best garden walk.
Similar in function to repellents, but different in application, is the use of natural plant deterrents. Think of it as your kids loving a Kale and Spinach salad, but hating Brussel Sprouts. Some plants just don’t appeal to rabbits and if they have to go through the unpleasant stuff to get to the good stuff, they will opt out.
Annuals are exactly what their names imply. You must replant these materials every year (annually), and so the long-term process can be tiresome, but rewarding. Certainly not that the plants listed here are exhaustive, but they are commonly grown and easily found at nurseries: Impatiens, Verbena, and Forget-Me-Nots.
With a little less work, perennials are repeat growers. The ongoing issue with these are that this plant type are often less structured more free form and wild, if you will. Some might even call them weeds and therefore, depending on the form of your garden, they may not be the best material match. These rabbit chasers include Echinacea, Honeysuckle, Yarrow, and Coral Bells. Again, not an exhaustive list.
Ground-covers are merely a pain to jump through and not worth the hassle for the rabbit. Just to name a few, there is: Bougainvillea with their thorns; Lantana with their thick, sticky, scratchy, mass; English Ivy with it’s winding, tangled vines; and Vinca/Periwinkle that just don’t taste that great to rabbits.
After all of this information, if your choice is to just go with a pre-packaged option, several manufacturers offer products “guaranteed” to do the trick. Here are three top sellers available:
- Enviro Protection Industries Rabbit Scram Granular Repellent
- Plant Pro-Tec Deer Rabbit Repellent
- Havahart DeFence Rabbit & Deer Repelling Granules
As a last resort, it may be necessary to trap the rabbit and relocate him. This can be stressful to the rabbit as they live in closely-knit social groups. Separating one member of the group can kill the rabbit over time through isolation. It’s just not the best choice, even though it may seem humane to catch and release.
Pest control is not an impossible mission. These simple, yet effective, steps will help you maintain a lush, beautiful garden that you can take pride in. I would love to know how these tips and techniques helped you, please post pictures and tell us your story.