by Paul James
I moved into my current home just over four years ago, and from day one I’ve dealt with rabbits ravaging my vegetable gardens. I actually made the situation worse by building fences to keep my three dogs out of the gardens, which basically created safe havens for the rabbits (and squirrels, but that’s another story).
I’ve contributed to the problem in other ways – a pallet of stones that I bought a while back but haven’t figured out what to do with, and several hay bales that I buy every year and allow to rot for months before applying to the gardens as mulch. Both are ideal habitats for rabbits. And I have a deck and storage building that rabbits burrow beneath to nest. I routinely seal the openings, but invariably they create new ones elsewhere, or my beagle creates new ones for them as he relentlessly but futilely tries to get at them.
I’ve used various repellent products, which offer limited control and must be reapplied often. I’ve tried fake owls, which must be moved every day, and even then don’t seem to work more than a few weeks. I’ve tried blood meal with some success, but you can only apply so much pure nitrogen to plants. I’ve tried coyote urine, manure from zoo animals, dog hair from the groomer, shavings of Irish Spring soap, dustings of cayenne pepper and homemade garlic sprays, all with mixed results. I have had some success by planting white clover in my lawns as a trap crop. Rabbits love clover, but they also like a diverse diet, one that includes lettuce and spinach and just about everything else I grow (although they don’t like mustard greens – yippee!).
And that’s the way it is with nearly all rabbit controls, whether store bought or homemade: They definitely work, but they don’t work indefinitely.
(My wife says we need a cat to roam free in the backyard, but I’m allergic to cats, and my numerous raised beds would serve as nothing more than gigantic litter boxes.)
If you scour The Google for ideas, you’ll ultimately discover that the only tried and true way to keep rabbits out of the garden is to fence them out. But not just any fence will do. Ideally, it should be made of ¼-inch galvanized mesh screening, should be at least two-feet tall, and should be buried below ground at least six inches. Great. So how am I supposed to work in my garden beds when they’re wrapped in fencing?
I’ve spent decades giving advice to fellow gardeners. Now I need advice from you. If you’ve discovered a way to keep rabbits out of the garden (other than using products made by Winchester or Remington), please tell me about it. And hurry. My fall veggies are germinating, and the young seedlings are an enticing smorgasbord to all the wascally wabbits that call my home their home.