Banishing Bunnies From the Garden
"Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries. But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate! First he ate some lettuces and some French beans. And then he ate some radishes. And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley."
-The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
Many of us have dealt with a Beatrix Potter scenario of our own, in which Peter or one of his adorable brethren shows up in the garden, gobbling up crops and then scurrying back down the bunny trail.
The average rabbit doesn’t live longer than a year and a half, but they breed like...well, rabbits, a single rabbit producing up to 18 offspring a year. Once they have established themselves in an area, the number of these cuddly pests anxious to visit your garden grows quickly and it doesn’t take long for a vegetable garden to be reduced to vacant lot status once they have discovered the bounty within.
If you’re already dealing with this fluffy scourge or preventative measures are in order, a few thoughtful steps can be taken to reduce their impact without digging out grandma’s recipe for rabbit stew.
Plant Vegetables They Hate
Few plants are reliably rabbit-proof, but favoring crops they aren’t usually drawn to may send them shopping elsewhere. Good candidates include peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn and squash.
Plant Vegetables They Love
It may seem counter-intuitive to cater to the palate of the pest you’re trying to avoid, but planting rabbit favorites like beans, peas, parsley or rosemary may save your garden...just plant them somewhere else.
Cultivating a “decoy” garden nearby (but not too close) may keep them from invading your primary plot.
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
A wire fence even just two or three feet high will keep the bunnies at bay. If installing a barrier fence, bury the bottom by trenching down six inches to discourage them from digging their way in.
Not for the rabbits, but for the plants. Enclose plants, trees or shrubs with a cylinder of mesh at least three inches from the base of the plant to discourage nibbling.
Cages (The Other Kind)
Hav-a-Hart style traps are a safe and humane way to capture invading rabbits for relocating.
What’s That Smell?
Many commercial repellents are available for keeping rabbits at bay, including the urine or blood of predators like foxes or coyotes and can be applied using sprayers or by hanging swatches of scented cloth along the garden perimeter.
Other natural repellents include chili powder, soap or vinegar. This may not provide long-term relief, as rabbits become accustomed to the odors.
Take away attractive locations for rabbits to settle and they will move on. Remove brush or lawn debris, keep grass mowed, eliminate weeded areas and cover any existing burrows to send rabbits packing. In urban and suburban areas where natural habitats are limited, this may be all it takes to keep your garden rabbit free.