How to Prevent Rabbits from Eating Your Garden
Rabbits are one of the banes of gardening, eating the tender seedlings or mowing an entire row down in an evening. Gardens give rabbits a convenient, easy foraging ground. A combination of 3basic strategies--keep them out, keep them away and give them greener pastures--can keep rabbits from eating your garden by making the garden a less convenient food source.
Step 1 - Exclusion
Whatever other rabbit countermeasures you take, physical barriers between the garden and the rabbit are essential. You can protect individual plants with cloches or row covers, and a fence will provide whole-garden protection. Rabbit fences needs to be at least two feet tall, extend six inches underground and have holes no larger than 1 inch across.
To install a rabbit-excluding fence around your garden, you need:
- Fence stakes
- ¾-inch chicken wire or hardware cloth, 36 inches wide
- Wire cutters
Galvanized rabbit fencing is another option for fencing, with wires closer together near the ground and farther apart at the top of the fence panel.
Dig a trench around the perimeter of the garden, 6 inches wide and 6 inches deep. Drive the stakes on the inside edge of the trench. Bend the wire fencing so it lays along the bottom of the trench and runs up the side of the trench nearest the inside of the garden and secure it to the stakes. Cut the horizontal part of the fencing to go around corners. Fill the trench back in. You should be left with a two foot tall fence, with fencing extending down 6 inches and 6 inches outward from the garden. The underground portion deters burrowing.
Step 2 - Deterrence
Odors such as human hair and predator urine are two popular deterrents. Garden centers stock predator urine spray. You can also sprinkle urine-soiled kitty litter around gardens that aren't growing vegetables or herbs intended for human consumption.
Cayenne powder is sometimes used as a rabbit deterrent. However, cayenne's effectiveness relies on the rabbit connecting the painful burning sensation in its mouth with eating the cayenne-laced plants. Not only is this of limited effectiveness, but if a rabbit accidentally gets some of the hot pepper in its eye, it may go as far as to scratch its own eye out from the pain.
Marigolds, lavender and garlic deter rabbits at a distance through their odors. Although they won't replace a good fence, plenty of garlic, lavender and marigolds around the perimeter of the garden, outside the fence, may discourage rabbits from attempting a garden break-in. Catnip also deters rabbits, but it attracts stray and feral cats that can cause as much damage.
If rabbits have an easy food source that isn't the garden, they are less likely to try to get into the garden for a meal. Giving them a better foraging ground can be as easy as not weed-whacking some edges near the garden, so they have long grass to graze in a convenient spot. You can also plant a patch of clover specifically for the rabbits. Some gardeners give the bunnies an unfenced patch of lettuce, but this risks giving them a taste of what's beyond the fence.
Trapping is generally not an effective method of keeping rabbits out of the garden. Humane trapping requires vigilant attention to the traps, lest the animal die of exposure or dehydration, and other rabbits often move in to take up the slack.
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