Rabbits eat almost anything that grows, including marigold flowers (Tagetes spp.). Horticulturists say that although rabbits are unenthusiastic about munching on certain plants, they will eat what doesn't appeal to them when food is scarce. While marigolds aren't a favorite, rabbits don't dislike them. Fencing gardens and individual plants is one time-tested technique for minimizing plant damage by rabbits and other wildlife.
Rabbits and Marigolds
The dining preferences of rabbits varies regionally and seasonally, according to the Iowa State University Extension, which says that rabbits do dine on marigolds.
Despite their pungent smell, marigolds don't deter rabbits, rodents or deer, according to Texas A&M University's AgriLife Extension. However, the chemical components their roots exude clear garden soil of microscopic round worms called nematodes that attack the roots of other plants, such as tomatoes.
What Rabbits Eat
Rabbits are not picky eaters. They enjoy a wide range of shrubs, trees, perennials, annual flowers, fruits and vegetables. However, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says that from spring to fall, wild rabbits eat grass, clover, wild flowers and weeds as well as farm and garden crops. In winter, they dine on buds, twigs, bark, conifer needles and any green plant available.
In gardens, rabbits particularly love beans, beets and peas, according to the University of Illinois Extension. They are less enthusiastic about corn, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.
Flowers Rabbits Dislike
Although there are no truly rabbit-proof plants, Rutgers University says rabbits and wild rodents, such as squirrels, will avoid certain plants if other more preferred choices are available. Marigolds don't make the deterrent list. Flowers that do include Ageratum, bell flower (Campanula), Impatiens, forget me nots (Myosotis scorpioides), pincushion flowers (Scabiosa) and dusty miller (Cineraria). Perennial flowers that are not rabbit favorites include foxglove (Digitalis) and bleeding heart (Dicentra).
Controlling Rabbit Invasions
One of the best ways to keep rabbits out of a garden is to fence it. Rutgers University says a simple chicken wire fence with 1-inch-wide mesh is sufficient. It suggests sinking the fencing 3 to 6 inches below the soil's surface. Also watch out for gaps under garden gates, which is how the famous Peter Rabbit snuck into Mr. McGregor's garden.
Blood meal sprinkled regularly around plantings is another benign way to discourage rabbits without harming any living creatures. It fertilizes the plants while also sending a danger signal to wildlife, according to Rutgers.
Rutgers warns against using traps, because rabbits caught in them often injure themselves trying to get out.
- Iowa State University Extension; Rabbits in the Garden; Sherry Rindels; 1996
- Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension: Earth-Kind Nematode Control during Summer Months
- Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife; Living with Wildlife -- Rabbits; Russell Link
- Rutgers University; Keeping Rabbits Away from Desirable Plants in the Landscape; 2007
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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