Although rabbits can be very cute and adorable, they can wreak havoc on your garden, plants, and flowers. If you want to keep your garden happy and healthy this season, read on to learn more about how to stop rabbits from eating plants.
Why Would You Need to Keep Rabbits Away?
You might be wondering how much harm a small rabbit can actually do to your garden. They seem like harmless, gentle creatures, and they are. The problem lies in the fact that rabbits can have a voracious appetite for all kinds of fresh veggies and plants that you may be cultivating in your garden. This includes woody plants, annuals, perennials, veggies, and berries. Rabbits will eat a wide variety of things that you could be growing in your garden—so many in fact, it’s easier to list some of the things that they won’t eat as a way to keep them away.
The other issue with rabbits in your garden is that they have a very high reproductive potential. Before you know it, your garden can become completely overrun by wild rabbits. These furry little animals can produce up to three litters of six baby rabbits every year in the north, and up to six litters of three baby rabbits every year in the south. The first litter of rabbits will usually appear in March in the north and year-round everywhere else. A rabbit’s gestation period is also only 29 days. So it doesn’t take long for the rabbits to be born. This is only about eight more days than it takes for chicken eggs to hatch!
A rabbit’s main concern is to eat without being eaten itself—which is actually a very difficult task for a rabbit since there are so many predators out there that would love to have it for its next meal. Rabbits are eaten by over two dozen different types of predators. Therefore a rabbit’s mealtime is fraught with fear as it tries to enjoy it without becoming one itself. If it can find time to munch on the veggies in your garden it will do so, and this can cause a lot of stress and headaches for you if you’re trying to protect your garden from harm. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of rabbits feasting on your plants and flowers. Read on to learn how to stop rabbits from eating plants.
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Identifying Rabbit Damage
Rabbits will munch on almost everything in your garden if they have a chance to. Check the leaves of your plants and flowers to see what type of damage they’ve gotten so that you know for sure whether it was caused by a rabbit or some other pest. Rabbits will leave clean-cut damage on your plant’s leaves and stems. Insects and other pests will usually leave jagged edges or holes on damaged plants. The clean-cut damage the rabbits leave happens at ground level so check on the lower parts of your plants to see if they’ve been munched on as well.
Rabbits will stay low to the ground and sniff out the tender young shoots and crop them short. They’ll also graze on flowers, peas, clovers, lettuce, beans, and much more. You’ll also find that these plants are also loved by woodchucks or groundhogs. You can check your garden area for burrows before deciding if the damage is from rabbits or something else. Once your plants are larger and past the seedling stage, they are usually safer from rabbits.
Rabbit damage can occur during any season. As long as you have something growing in your garden, there is always the chance that a rabbit will come by and have a bite or two. It can be especially discouraging in the spring when rabbits are born and go around munching on young, small plants that are just getting started.
How to Prevent Rabbits
The best and most effective way to keep rabbits out of your garden and prevent damage is to use physical prevention methods like fencing. Having a good barrier around your garden can help keep rabbits of all types from entering your garden and destroying your plants.
Chicken wire fencing is a great fence type to keep rabbits out. You can install a fence that is 4 feet high and bury it in the ground at least 6 inches deep. Then bend the top foot of the fence away from the garden, just like a security fence, so that that can’t climb or jump over the top of it. For bulbs, you can try using a dome or cage of chicken wire secured over the bed.
What you want to do is focus on preventing the rabbits from setting foot in your garden in the first place. This is the best way to protect your plants. Also, rabbits don’t really like to stray too far away from their shelters (since they’re hunted by so many predators), so you can try to reduce the number of rabbit homes you find around your yard. You can do this by raking away piles of brush and leaves and then filling in any abandoned burrows.
You will also want to make sure that you seal off any holes you find under sheds or any structures on your property. If you can remove access to places that rabbits have to live and hide in, they most likely won’t continue to stay in that area. The more access they have to safe hiding spots, the more chances they’ll have to safely breed and raise more rabbits, so be sure that you’re diligent about finding their burrows and other living spaces and then removing them.
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How to Get Rabbits Out of Your Garden
If they have already found their way into your garden, you’ll need to try some different techniques to stop rabbits from eating plants and to discourage them from sticking around.
- Rabbits tend to sniff a lot. You can use this trait to your advantage by sprinkling dried sulfur around or on your plants. Rabbits also dislike the smell of onions, so you can try planting some of those around your garden to help keep them away.
- Try dusting your plant with plain talcum powder. Rabbits dislike this and will avoid the plant it is sprinkled around.
- Powdered red pepper can also help keep rabbits away. The smell is too spicy for their sensitive noses and they will avoid the area.
- Irish Spring soap shavings can be placed in small, drawstring bags and placed around your garden. It is said that this helps keeps rabbits away.
- You can try making a spray that will taste bad to the rabbits when they try to take a bite of your plants. Grind together three hot peppers, three large onions, and one whole bunch of garlic. Add water to cover and then place in a covered container overnight. The following morning, strain the mix then add enough additional water to make a gallon of the mixture. Spray this mix on your plants and repeat after each rainfall.
- You can try using a commercial spray product that has pungent garlic oil as an ingredient.
- Spray around or near (not on) your plants with a mixture of 1 teaspoon Lysol and 1 gallon of water.
- Try using commercially-available deer repellents that contain a mixture of dried bovine blood, garlic, and sulfured eggs.
- Some say that rabbits are afraid of their own reflections. If you’d like to test this out, you can try an old-fashioned rabbit remedy and place large, clear jars of water throughout your garden. You can also check your local garden center, as some may stock ready-made reflectors that are made for this very purpose.
- You can also check to see if they have crouching cat devices, fake snakes, owls, and other creatures that are designed to scare away rabbits and keep them from chowing down on your plants.
Plants That Rabbits Don’t Like
If all else fails, you can try planting things in your garden that rabbits don’t like. This is one of the ways you can almost guarantee that your plants won’t get eaten. Keep in mind that even though rabbits won’t eat these plants, it doesn’t mean other critters won’t try to. As a general rule, rabbits dislike any plant that has a strong scent, spines, prickles, or leaves that feel leathery. They also tend to avoid plants that exude a milky sap. An innate sense of danger also usually keeps animals away from plants that are toxic, but not always. Some examples of plants that rabbits will stay away from include:
- Bee Balm
Young, tender plants are especially at risk of being damaged by rabbits, so try to protect your plants as best as you can until they are larger and sturdier. Some rabbit resistant plants include:
- Japanese Maple
- Douglas Fir
Any of the plants above would make good options for planting in your garden, as rabbits will most likely leave them alone completely. If you would rather stick to vegetables and other things like delicate flowers, it’s best to put a fence around your garden as we mentioned before to prevent the rabbits from getting in in the first place. Also, remember to check your yard for signs that rabbits live there like burrows and holes in sheds or other structures. Preventive measures can sometimes be just as effective at keeping rabbits away.
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