Easter is coming–and so are the rabbits! We’re not talking about the stuffed animals and chocolate-marshmallow bunnies we’ll soon be stuffing into Easter baskets for the kiddos. Rather, we’re talking about the ones with bright eyes and bushy tails–and your lettuce hanging out of their mouths! For gardeners, these cute little gardener guests are more of a nuisance than a gift. So in the spirit of Easter, we’re going to share some harmless ways to keep rabbits out of your garden.
What do Rabbits Like to Eat?
Before designing a game plan, you should consider whether or not you really need to protect your garden from rabbits. Knowing what rabbits do and do not eat will help you decide if you should invest the time in keeping them out. After all, when they’re not eating our plants, they’re quite fun to watch!
So what do rabbits like to eat?
They take an interest in many plants, including fruits, vegetables, perennials, annuals, and shrubs. For your fruit and veggie garden, here are some plants that will need protection:
- Swiss Chard
As for your flowers, here are some that rabbits find appetizing (this is not a comprehensive list. If you have a particular flower you’re worried about, search online):
- Morning Glory
- Snap Dragon
Lastly, here are a few shrubs rabbits like (again, this is not a comprehensive list):
- Witch Hazel
- Oakleaf Hydrangea
- Flowering Crabapple
- Eastern Redbud
If you’re growing any of the plants on this list, then continue reading to learn a few harmless ways to keep rabbits out of the garden.
Harmless Ways to Keep Rabbits out of the Garden
So how do we keep them out? There are a few ways to keep rabbits out of the garden without hurting them. In fact, by forming a symbiotic relationship, you can actually help each other.
A symbiotic relationship is one in which both species benefit one another. By allowing rabbits in your yard and providing food and habitat options that distract from your garden, you can benefit. Rabbits like to eat weeds, including clover and dandelions, which will help make your lawn look better. In addition, rabbit droppings are excellent sources of fertilizer. They contain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous–the big three nutrients that plants need to grow. Lastly, the most obvious benefit is their presence. Rabbits are sweet and energetic creatures with big personalities (if you don’t believe us, just watch a rabbit “binky” on YouTube!).
So keeping rabbits in your yard but out of your garden might just be the best solution for both of you! Here’s how:
Build a Fence
It might seem like the obvious answer, but it actually does work.
Because rabbits can jump high, the fence needs to be at least two feet in the air–and because they like to burrow, it should extend six inches or more into the ground. Ensure you secure it so it can’t move and use chicken wire with one-inch mesh. This will ensure your fruits and veggies are protected.
Protect Shrubs and Flowers
Shrubs and flowers can’t be protected by a fence the way a garden can, but you can protect the individual plants by using one-half-inch poultry netting. Of course, applying netting to your flowers detracts from their beauty, so there are other options that won’t cover your plants.
Try planting flowers and other plants that repel rabbits beside the plants they like. This will keep them away from your shrubs and flowers while adding to your yard’s beauty. Here is a list of plants that repel rabbits:
- Blue Star
- Cat Mint
- Russian Sage
- Bee Balm
- Butterfly Bush
- Blue Mist Shrub
- Dead Nettle
You can also use this method in your fruit and veggie garden by planting some crops that rabbits don’t like, such as:
It’s important to note that when rabbits are particularly hungry, they will eat anything. So this option isn’t fool proof if the rabbits in your yard are having trouble finding food. A good way to ensure they don’t go after your plants is to offer them a food source that you’re okay with them eating.
You can always “dangle the carrot” in the rabbit’s face to distract it from your garden. To do this, simply think of what rabbits want most out of your yard: food and shelter. They want to be able to feed themselves and their young and hide from predators. So by offering these things to them away from your garden, you can distract them while helping them. If you have a large yard, this works pretty well. If your yard is smaller then, unfortunately, this might not work.
But it’s best to offer them resources in their current environment than trapping and releasing them somewhere else. Doing so can put them in danger and should be avoided.
Select a few shrubs and flowers on which you wouldn’t mind letting the rabbits feed. Then select a plot on your land that is located away from your garden. Ensure there is also a water source so they won’t venture around your yard seeking one.
You’ll also need to provide hiding spots for them. Rabbits are drawn to shrubs not only for the food, but because they provide great coverage. By planting a few shrubs that will offer the rabbits a safe home, you can keep the rabbits away from your other shrubs and flowers.
What Doesn’t Work on Rabbits?
You may have heard that you can scare rabbits away from the garden.
Unfortunately, this is a myth. Flashing lights and noises will not deter them from the garden, and neither will a scarecrow. And before spraying pesticides on your plants in an effort to poison the rabbits, think of what else you could be poisoning. Neighborhood pets and pollinators, like bees and butterflies, are susceptible to pesticides.
Easter is coming, so instead of plotting the demise of your garden guests, perhaps plant a few treats for them as you enjoy your basket of candy.
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