It’s beautiful to see a rabbit hop through a garden, nibbling on crop unless that garden is your garden and that carrot is one you planted. Unfortunately for gardeners, rabbits enjoy many of the same vegetables that we do, as well as some of our non-edible plants.
Anybody who works in the garden sees the rabbit as more than a cute threat to the carrot crop. This long-eared animal has an insatiable appetite for various types of fresh vegetation, including woody plants, perennials, annuals, vegetables, and berries. In fact, the list of rabbit favorites is so lengthy that it’s easier to list the few plants they don’t like.
Rabbits have an incredibly high reproductive potential, which is why keeping them around could soon lead to a complete garden infestation. In the north, they can have up to three litters of six babies every year, and in the south, they can have up to six litters of three babies per year. The first litter appears in the north in March, and elsewhere all year. The pregnancy lasts 29 days. That’s only approximately eight days longer than a chicken egg takes to hatch!
The primary goal of your backyard bunny is to eat without being eaten, which is a difficult undertaking given that rabbits are eaten by over two dozen different species of predators. Nibbling your petunias is thus not a carefree picnic, but a perilous endeavor. If your local bunny can squeeze through a hole in your garden fence, it will find a way to nibble in peace.
You can follow our rabbit-proofing tips, but try to think of rabbits as part of a serene, pastoral scene, like Beatrix Potter did. Then, protect the plants that you and the rabbits adore, and ignore the rest.
The eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) is the most common and vexing of North America’s nine cottontail rabbit species. This bunny-about-town can be found from Boston to Boulder and south into Mexico, preferring brushy fence rows, field edges, brush piles, and, you got it, landscaped backyards. Its taste for flowers, vegetables, bark, and bulbs frequently leads to pruned peppers and cut cosmos.
Even though its nicknames (bunny, bunny rabbit, and cottontail) are adorable, and you’ll undoubtedly want to adopt it once you see its gorgeous ears, the eastern cottontail may be a terrible pest. It has a short tail and large ears and is gray or brownish in color. It can weigh 2 to 4 pounds, have a length of 15 to 19 inches, and survive for 12 to 15 months. Its vocal call is almost silent, but when threatened, it will scream. It is distinguished by a small white tail like a cotton ball and long, tapering ears.
A pile of brush, leaves, or an abandoned burrow is security for an eastern cottontail. These rabbits, unlike their European cousins, do not dig sophisticated tunnels or warrens and must make do with what they find. Rabbits rarely exit their burrows during the day, preferring to do so in the early morning or late evening. They, like other animals, are affected by the shift in day duration as spring approaches. Longer days indicate the start of two things for rabbits: breeding season and spring meals.
If you’ve spotted damage to your garden or plants, rabbits are most likely to be responsible. Rabbit presence is indicated by nibbled leaves, bare bark, and droppings. It is critical to identify the presence of rabbits before taking any effort to keep them out of your garden.
It is critical to understand rabbit behavior in order to properly keep them out of your garden. Rabbits are social creatures that prefer to live in groups. They are most active at dawn and dusk and can travel up to two miles each day to find food.
Rabbits are herbivores, meaning they eat grass, weeds, flowers, and vegetables. They enjoy fragile and fresh plants, therefore your garden is an excellent source of nourishment. Plant rabbit-resistant plants or cover your plants with barriers to keep rabbits out of your garden.
Rabbits are voracious feeders who do extensive harm. Examine your plants’ leaves and stems for cleanly cut damage; insects and other pests sometimes leave jagged edges on damaged plants. When rabbits devour the tasty green shoots of tulips and other plants, this clean-cut damage occurs frequently at ground level.
These low mowers graze near to the earth, sniffing for the first fragile new shoots and cutting them off. They enjoy eating flowers, clover, peas, lettuce, beans, and other plants. Many of these plants are also favorites of woodchucks and groundhogs, so look for burrows before concluding that rabbit damage has occurred. Plants are usually immune against rabbit damage once they have past the seedling stage.
Although bunny nibbling occurs throughout the year, it is especially unpleasant in the early spring when rabbits viciously gnaw on tender green plant shoots. “My tulips were barely poking through the snow when suddenly it looked like they’d been weed-whacked,” a Connecticut gardener recalls. Entirely removed! I blame the bunnies—their paw prints were all over the place.”
If you’ve ever read Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, you know that a picket fence isn’t going to keep bunnies out. To make a fence around your garden or garden beds, use chicken wire with a 1-inch mesh or smaller. Keep in mind that rabbits are diggers, so dig down a little so that the chicken wire is at least 6 inches below the ground level.
If you have a few smaller plants that need to be protected, you can use chicken wire or plant cages to protect them separately. In the winter, rabbits can cause the most harm to larger woody plants and trees. They frequently gnaw on the bark of plants and trees, completely encircling the trunk and cutting off the passage of water and nutrients. Trunk guards that expand can help keep your trunks secure, but keep in mind that they may need to be adjusted for snow levels. Rabbits can reach higher and higher up the trunk and into the branches as snow accumulates. Repellents, which are available in granular and spray versions, can also be used.
If you don’t have a fence, it’s important to understand what to grow to keep rabbits away from flowers and other plants. Although rabbit-proof plants do not exist, several plants are disliked by rabbits due to their strong odors, such as basil, garlic, rhubarb, hot peppers, spicy basil, and mint. Some gardeners claim that marigolds keep rabbits away from their gardens, while others claim that bunnies enjoy the marigolds they planted.
If you don’t want rabbits in your yard, the last thing you want to do is unwittingly create the perfect nesting place for a female rabbit. They nest in overgrown and grassy places, so keep those areas clear in your garden. That being said, if you do come upon a rabbit’s nest, do not attempt to remove it. Contact your local animal control to find out what you need do to avoid harming any rabbits.
While some gardeners claim that putting things in your garden to drive rabbits away is ineffective, others swear by their success. Here are several examples: Metal pinwheels (their movement, brilliance, and even sound startle certain rabbits); rubber snakes; and owl sculptures. Another alternative is to tie strips of aluminum foil to string and run it between two stakes. If you use these deterrents, we recommend changing them around your garden on a regular basis to keep the rabbits from becoming accustomed to seeing them in the same location.
Rabbits and other garden pests are easily repelled by dogs and cats. Thus, if you’ve been trying to persuade your housemates that you need one, “garden protector” is yet more compelling reason to add to the list! If it isn’t possible, simply fool the neighborhood rabbits into thinking you have a dog or cat. Request dog and cat hair from your local groomer, then pack it into a burlap bag or pantyhose and scatter it over your yard to fool rabbits into believing there’s a predator nearby. The hair will need to be replaced on a regular basis, especially if it rains.
Gardeners are a resourceful group who have attempted a variety of methods to keep rabbits out of their gardens, and here are a few of them: Wrap a bar of Ivory or Irish Spring soap in cheese cloth, attach it to a stake, and place it throughout the garden. Sprinkle black pepper, crushed red pepper, or garlic powder lightly in your garden beds, and reapply every few weeks or after it rains.
Rabbits are creatures of habit, so any novelty is a threat. Create harmless disturbances with any unfamiliar sound or sight that will keep them away. To scare rabbits away from your yard, use low-maintenance solar-powered LED lights that flash or blink on a timer, or a motion-activated sprayer. Garden ornaments that make noise, wind chimes, spinning pinwheels, and a mobile made of pie tins or aluminum cans can deter rabbits if the wind is blowing.
Rabbits are opportunistic feeders, preferring the sensitive shoots of seedlings such as young trees and bushes. The goal is to cultivate what they don’t consume. When rabbits locate a good source of food, they will return until the food supply is depleted.
Eliminating any temptations early in the spring might help prevent bad habits from developing. Rabbits enjoy beans, carrots, lettuce, parsley, peas, and spinach, but avoid plants with fuzzy leaves, milky sap, thorns, and strong odors, as well as any member of the nightshade family, due to toxins. When rabbits are hungry enough, they will eat almost anything.
Rabbits dislike being in open areas where they are vulnerable to predators. Clear brush heaps, weed patches, rock piles, and other debris to eliminate potential nesting and hiding locations. An open area around your garden will provide some protection for your plants.
Because rabbits can consume almost anything and will adapt to what is available, it is difficult to describe any plant as genuinely rabbit proof. There are, however, some plants that they simply do not like. Keep in mind that finding what works in your garden may require some trial and error, since a plant that works well for your neighbor may be considered a delicacy in your garden. Here are some plants to try that have been identified as their least favorite:
Strong scents: Plants with strong fragrances, such as Sweet Alyssum, Geranium, and Salvia, are unpleasant to rabbits. Some scents may be overpowering or plain unappealing to rabbits, and they can help keep them away from the plants.
Bitter taste: Certain plants, such as Marigold, have a naturally bitter taste that rabbits dislike. Its bitterness could be caused by the presence of particular compounds found in the plant, or it could simply be a feature of the plant’s natural flavor.
Tough texture: Plants with a rough or waxy texture, such as Wax Begonia and Vinca, are less enticing to rabbits. Some plants may be more difficult to chew or digest for rabbits, making them less appealing as a food source.
Certain plants, such as Milkweed and Butterfly Bush, possess natural compounds that repel rabbits and other pests. These substances may be harmful to rabbits or simply unpleasant to them, and they can help keep them away from other plants in the area.
Overall, including rabbit-resistant plants in a garden or landscape design can help preserve more attractive plants from being devoured by rabbits. While no plant is completely rabbit-proof, choosing plants with these features will help prevent rabbits while also making your outdoor space more appealing and functional.
Keeping rabbits out of your garden is a never-ending battle. Even if you follow these guidelines, you must remain attentive to avoid them from entering your garden and causing damage to your crops. They adapt quickly, and you must always be one step ahead of them to discourage them.
Due of the potential of harming or scaring the rabbit, trapping should only be used as a last option. It is also less efficient than other methods of keeping rabbits out of the garden because trapping just removes individual rabbits rather than the source of the problem.
Rabbits will be deterred by strong scents. Garlic, peppers, and pungent herbs such as ginger and mint are effective at keeping rabbits away from your yard. A mild solution of water and strong-smelling liquid soap should also suffice.
There are numerous methods for keeping rabbits away, ranging from planting foods that rabbits do not like to creating a sustainable fence around your garden.