Keep Rabbits Out Of Your Garden

rabbit garden

photo credit: flickr

Rabbits might be cute and cuddly, but for gardeners, rabbits can be a frustrating and destructive menace that make short work of a garden. Remember Peter Rabbit? We were on Peter’s side as kids, but as adults, we kind of feel for the farmer. In many cases rabbits can even wipe out entire crops over the course of a night.

One of the first indicators that you are dealing with a rabbit problem is the amount of damage that you are seeing. Typically, rabbits will feed on just about any type of tender plant, including vegetables, herbs and ornamental plants. Additionally, you will find gnawing damage on the bark of trees, especially young trees. Rabbit droppings offer a second indication, and these are around the size of peas, often found in small piles.

Are cocoa puffs suddenly appearing in your garden? You’ve got a rabbit problem.

As with any garden pest, there are a range of different approaches used to stop rabbits from destroying a garden. Many of these work well in some situations for some people, but are less effective for others. Finding your own solution is often a matter of trying out different things and seeing what works well for you.

Take Advantage of Repellants

The first, and easiest step most people take is using repellants is one way to keep rabbits away. Some repellants create an unpleasant smell, while others make the plant taste bad, which can help prevent the rabbits from eating the plants.

You can buy smell-based repellants at many stores and apply them directly to plants or to the area in general. Alternatively, you can make your own using smells that rabbits don’t like, including egg, peppers, garlic and vinegar.

rabbit repellent

However, most types of repellants will need to be reapplied periodically to make sure they stay effective. In many cases, you will need to reapply the repellant after it has rained and even then there is a chance that the rabbits will get used to the smell and eventually ignore it entirely. When I bought cat repellant, nothing actually worked. I guess it depends on the determination of the bunnies you’re dealing with. Maybe they’re the Watership Down kind.

Additionally, repellants are often unsuitable for plants that you plan on eating, as they can make the plant unsafe to eat. It’s one thing to spray around root vegetables which may not come into contact with the chemicals, but using them around leafy greens like lettuce or kale kind of defeats the purpose of organic gardening.

Try out things like black pepper or cayenne pepper. I made a spicy mixture and loaded it into my round up sprayer to spray around the yard. It didn’t work very well for me, but could be a nice organic solution to try out.

Physically Keep Them Outta there!

Keeping rabbits out of your garden physically is the best way to make sure they aren’t going to destroy your plants. After all, there isn’t much they can do if they can’t even get to your plants.

Even a wire fence can make a good barrier to keep rabbits out. If you’re going to make a barrier fence, make sure the bottom of the fence is deep in the soil, ideally around six inches deep, if not deeper. Otherwise you will find that rabbits simply dig under it.

You can also use chicken wire, bird netting or something similar to protect individual plants or small areas. For small individual plants, like seedlings, the needing can be laid directly over the plant, preventing rabbits from nibbling. For larger plants, you can create a cylinder with chicken wire that prevents rabbits from reaching the plant, but still allows it to grow.

rabbit proof fence

a lovely looking solution!

Some people also choose to place netting over whole plant beds, significantly limiting how many plants the rabbits have access to. More extreme approaches involve building structures that rabbits can’t access that still allow you access to garden, but taking this approach often isn’t practical.

If you are using any type of netting or wire fencing, you do need to keep an eye on it to make sure that the rabbits aren’t finding their way through. Rabbits can be quite resourceful and your fence isn’t doing anyone any good if it has a rabbit sized hole in it.

Control The Habitat

Controlling the area around your garden can make rabbits less interested overall. In particular, you want to try and remove areas that rabbits find attractive to settle into. This includes areas of weeds, brush or lawn debris. Likewise, keeping your grass mowed can have a bit impact.

At the same time, it helps to be proactive about any rabbit burrows that you find and cover them to prevent rabbits from using the burrows.

If they can’t live there, they might just move out.

Pick Plants They Don’t Like

While few plants are actually rabbit-proof, rabbits do certainly have their preferences. If you have plants that rabbits aren’t particularly fond of, then they are much more likely to avoid your garden altogether. Some examples include peppers, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers.

Maybe a season of planting nothing but Carolina Reapers (hottest pepper in the world) will be enough to get the bunnies to move somewhere with more tasty treats. Or maybe some bitter herbs?

Nevertheless, it is important to note that rabbits will eat pretty much anything if they are hungry enough. So, choosing plants that rabbits don’t like might reduce how often your garden gets targeted, but it won’t stop the issue altogether.

Make A Decoy Garden

An interesting way of keeping rabbits out of the garden that you care about is to make a secondary garden, filled with plants that rabbits love. This includes beans, parsley and peas. Taking this approach can mean that rabbits ignore your main garden and feast on the decoy instead.

The downside is that keeping the decoy garden stocked with vegetables that rabbits like can end up being quite a bit of work, especially if you have a major rabbit problem.

The upside is that you can build your own animal sanctuary and watch them as they nibble away happily. If you are the hunting type, you could even start reading up on some modern rabbit recipes 🙂 I’m not 100% sure of the legality of that in your area though, so be sure to double check.

Motion Sensor Sprinklers

One method you may not have considered yet is using motion sensor sprinklers to scare them away and teach them that this is not a critter friendly area. This is a perfect solution for folks that want a humane, but highly effective way of keeping creatures away from their precious plants.

A motion sensor sprinkler just hooks up to your garden hose, and can cover a wide area (over 180 degrees) of your yard. When something moves in its path, the sprinkler turns on with a two-prong attack! For one, the noise of the sprinkler engaging and shooting water is frightening. I put these on my lawn for a time to keep the cats away, and anyone that walked by got a scare even if the water didn’t shoot them 🙂

The second attack is of course a spray of cold water! Water is harmless, and will even help to keep your soil damp during the summer months.

I was able to get rid of my cat problem in just a few months, so there’s no reason this couldn’t work for rabbits. They work at day and night, and can be set to cover a larger or small area, with adjustable distance settings. My top pick for people looking to get rid of non-flying critters is the Orbit Yard Enforcer.


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