Although they may conjure images of childhood stories and many people enjoy watching rabbits in their yards, these small mammals can do major damage to vegetable and ornamental gardens. Of course, rabbits also play a role in the ecosystem. Keeping them out of your garden doesn't have to be costly, time-consuming or dangerous.
Few garden and ornamental plants are safe from the sharp incisors of hungry rabbits. Throughout spring and summer, rabbits will feast on tender shoots of vegetable plants. In winter, the scarcity of food causes them to go after woody plants.
A few annual vegetable plants seem to be relatively immune to the insatiable appetites of rabbits. Corn (Zea mays), squash (Cucurbita spp.), tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), peppers (Capsicum spp.), cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) and potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) don't pique the interest of rabbit populations.
The truest form of protection from rabbits is exclusion, although this method doesn't always have the best aesthetics. If rabbits are the only creatures sneaking into your vegetable rows, an 18- to 24-inch fence will do the trick.
Place metal or wood garden stakes around your garden, spacing them no more than 6 feet apart. Attach metal garden fencing or poultry wire to the fence posts with cable ties or other fasteners, making sure to connect the bottom of the fence tautly to the stakes at ground level to prevent bunnies from pushing through the bottom. Tip: Use mesh fencing with holes less than 1 inch in diameter to prevent young rabbits from sneaking through.
Make It Hot
A few common kitchen staples can create a powerful taste repellent that keeps rabbits from munching your prized edibles. Some of these ingredients have also made their ways into commercially available rabbit repellents.
Mix 1 tablespoon of hot sauce with 1 quart of water and spray every three to five days and after rain. For a more potent potion that repels by both taste and odor, boil one chopped onion, one chopped jalapeno and 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper in 2 quarts of water for 20 minutes; strain the mixture, allow it to cool and place it in a spray bottle. Some commercial repellents also use garlic, so if you're in the mood to mix it up, add some chopped garlic to the onion and jalapeno spray.
There is no shortage of home remedies people have sworn by for rabbit control; however, many methods show little promise in working every time. Some of these methods include placing human hair around the garden or using scare tactics.
Predators can scare rabbits and keep them at bay, so make sure you're not doing anything to keep owls, hawks and other predators away. Your four-legged companions -- if you have them -- can also help keep rabbits in check. A dog or cat that chases rabbits can help keep your vegetable garden safe.
Playing on that idea, some commercial repellents are granulated predator urine -- typically fox or coyote. If you have a dog or cat, you can train them to do their business on the perimeter of your garden.
- University of Wisconsin-Extension: The Learning Store: Protecting Gardens and Landscape Plantings From Rabbits
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Prevention and Control of Rabbit Damage
- Mother Nature Network: How to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Attic
- Rutgers University New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station: If Plants Could Talk: Keeping Rabbits ... Garden and Landscape
- Photo Credit Alan Mitchell/iStock/Getty Images