Rabbits, those cuddly and harmless creatures that every child loves, are one of the worst nightmares of any gardener. They love to nibble on green leafy vegetables, stems and tuberous roots; in fact, pretty much any plant that has a tolerable taste. Rabbits are more commonly found in the countryside, where they feast on farmland cultivation around the year. However, the presence of predators such as foxes and bobcats in the countryside naturally checks the growth and activity of the rabbit population. Urban gardens on the other hand, have no such natural safeguards against rabbits. Gardeners in urban or suburban areas tend to rely on physical and chemical repellents to keep rabbits away.
Plants that attract rabbits
Even though rabbits eat most flowering plants and vegetables, there are some varieties of plants that they love in particular. If you have plants such as sweet pea, morning glory, rose, snapdragon, sunflower, pansy and petunia in your garden, you’ll have to be extra cautious as these are highly preferred by rabbits. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, rabbits are known to eat almost all common types of plants like pears, apples, berries, grapes, lettuce, cabbage, peas and beans. Unfortunately, these are also the most commonly grown garden fruits and vegetables. This makes it highly challenging for a dedicated gardener to protect his or her prized produce from rabbits; especially at all hours of the night and day. Nevertheless, there are a few tried-and-tested methods that every gardener can use to keep rabbits from making a meal of his or her garden.
How do rabbits destroy a garden?
Although they are herbivores, rabbits are voracious eaters. A pair of adult rabbits can single-handedly demolish an entire garden of vegetables overnight. Rabbits eat almost all the commonly cultivated plants and vegetables. Stems and leaves will be nibbled off in clean strokes. Tuberous roots may be dug up and eaten and even flowers may be chomped off by a pack of hungry rabbits. Rabbits also like grass and if you have a lawn of any kind, you may find rabbits nibbling off patches of the grass. This could make your lawn look uneven and patchy. Rabbits are also known to gnaw on the bark of young trees when there is no other food available at ground level. They especially prefer fruit trees. If not properly protected, a young fruit tree could be damaged considerably within a few hours.
How to keep rabbits out of a garden
You can successfully keep rabbits out of your garden by using a few simple techniques such as chicken wire (poultry wire netting) fencing and physical or chemical repellents.
- Chicken wire fencing: A well-made chicken wire fence about 2 feet high from the ground is one of the simplest ways to keep out rabbits.
- Chemical repellents: If you have a pet cat or dog, you can leave their dry feces near your garden to scare rabbits away. You can also sprinkle commercially available animal urine and feces as well as blood meal around your garden. These are usually of some predator such as foxes, and are very effective at warding off rabbits. An added benefit is that these are organic wastes that contain nutrients beneficial for the growth of plants. Human or animal hair can also be sprinkled around the garden.
- Physical repellents: Being timid animals, rabbits can be frightened easily. Simple tricks such as leaving a garden hose or a rubber snake next to your vegetable patch can prevent rabbits from coming close. For added effect, you can leave some old worn shoes around the garden. The look and smell of the shoes will give the impression that the garden is frequented by humans.