As lovely and cute as rabbits are, they can be a pain when creating the perfect garden for both the professional and amateur gardener.
As a keen gardener, I have several beautiful flower beds. Fortunately, I haven’t had many problems with rabbits or other pests digging up my flowers and plants. But a few years ago, one of the neighbors planted some corn for his chickens. The chickens did their job, but the rabbits dug up all the stalks and ate them down to the ground!
“It’s an impulse,” said my neighbour. “The rabbits see a tasty, high-protein snack, and they just can’t hold back.” In other words, preventing rabbit damage is often not possible. But if you get in there before it’s too late, the potential for damage can be minimized.
Speaking of getting in there, you know how your neighbours set their rabbit cages next to the house? That way, they only have one door to open – the front door! And since rabbits are scared of everything, they don’t need to worry about anything sneaking up on them from behind either. Well, what happens when those pesky summer squash vines start growing up in that cage? Or what if little bunnies use that cage as a ladder to escape the garden but then get stuck there?
“My rabbit’s in the cage, but her babies are outside, and I don’t know how to get them back inside,” wailed my neighbor. “How do I keep rabbits out of flower beds?”
Here are some tips I have picked up over the years to help keep my garden rabbit free.
Let’s talk about fences first. Fences are sometimes a good idea, but they might present more problems than they’re worth. For example, if you want to plant flowers or vegetables close to the fence – forget it! A rabbit would tunnel underneath it anyway (they can dig straight down for several feet). So unless there’s another way to block rabbits from entering an area, building a fence may only work for a short amount of time.
Keep in mind that fences won’t stop the rabbits from hopping into the garden, but they can prevent them from escaping! So if you do build a wall, at least make sure it’s above ground and that there are no openings underneath it where little bunnies could slip through.
An electric wire around the edge will usually provide enough barrier to keep rabbits away from smaller gardens. I saw some gardeners use chicken wire with a plastic coating on top to surround their beds. Rabbits supposedly hate the feel of metal or plastic (I don’t know why), so if they touch that, the static electricity could kill them! This might sound extreme, but what about your carrot harvest? Now let’s talk about the home gardener.
It’s important to remember that rabbits (and other pests) can’t jump! So when building your raised beds or garden area, make sure there are no holes where they can get under! In addition, the sides of the bed should be relatively high, so they can’t hop over either.
I know this sounds obvious, but how often have I seen people grow vegetables right up against their house? Rabbits will jump on top of the house and then leap into your garden! If it has a roof, it’s an even better launching pad – because rabbits don’t like going upside down either! A good rule of thumb is to keep your precious plants and flowers at least 6 feet away from the house so they can’t reach them.
So what about plants? Growing vegetables close together will prevent rabbits (and other pests) from finding their way through. I’ve read that if you pack a lot of tomatoes or beans around a small space, the rabbits won’t be able to find their way between them and will eventually give up and leave. The theory goes like this:
Rabbits don’t want to go into small spaces and prefer wide-open areas where they’re more comfortable. So if you plant enough in one spot, there may not be any room left for them – they’ll be forced to move somewhere else instead!
What about rabbit-proof plants
If you don’t want to potentially harm Fluffy, but what do to keep your garden looking great? How about planting flowers that rabbits are not too keen on!
You can plant the following non-toxic and edible plants in your garden to help deter unwelcome, hungry furry visitors. Just remember that some of these plants are not native to your area. You may need to check with local nurseries for availability or substitute a native species.
In addition to the list below of plants that repel rabbits, you may also want to plant catnip, dill or mint around your vegetable garden areas.
Without further ado – here is the list of rabbit repellant plants:
Ageratum (floss flower) Basil Coleus (pepper leaf) Catnip English Ivy Garden Lavender Lemon Balm Lettuce (romaine) MarieIt’s also a good idea to grow vegetables in raised beds instead of large areas. That way, you can pack them much closer together and spread out the seeds, so there are no gaps! I don’t have any evidence that this would work for rabbits (although my mom swears it does), but if you’re having problems with slugs, insects or even deer – this could be your solution!
Consider the “territorial principle”, too. It says that most animals prefer to avoid areas where they feel vulnerable. So by making things look more formidable than they are, they’ll stay away because they equate it with danger. If you plant thorny roses all around your garden or use other similar plants throughout the space, then rabbits and other animals will see it as far less welcoming; to be honest, I’m not sure I’d want to get repeatedly pricked when trying to eat, either!
Here are some great planting ideas for a (hopefully) rabbit free garden:
Ageratum, also known as Floss Flower, Indian Hollyhock or “Joe Pye Weed”, is a plant that repels rabbits. When the plants are dried and then burned, they produce a thick smoke that will likely chase away rabbits from your garden. The dried leaves from this plant can be added to your compost bin to repel pests like slugs and snails.
As an annual herb, there is nothing quite like using basil for culinary purposes in your kitchen, but did you know it’s toxic to animals? That’s right – try planting basil to ward off rabbits.
Coleus is another plant that repels rabbits. The smell coming from the leaves of this lovely looking succulent should be enough to keep at bay those pesky bunnies who seem to enjoy chewing on your prized flowers and vegetable plants. You can also try planting coleus in pots around your house to protect from mice and squirrels if you don’t have a yard.
Did you know catnip is toxic to cats? It’s true! Cats will run away from it whenever they catch a whiff, but shouldn’t we all avoid catnip in the first place because of its very high toxicity level? Just think about it -we plant catnip in our gardens to lure cats away from the garden – now you know why. If something that repels mice and rabbits is toxic to a cat, what does it do when ingested?
5) English Ivy:
English Ivy is not only great for hanging baskets as an ornamental indoor plant, but it can also repel rabbits. You can either trim branches off your existing ivy plants and place them around your garden (make sure they are tied up or stuck into the ground). Or you can divide some clippings from the mother plant, transplant them into pots, and put them outside with rabbit protection purposes in mind. Keep in mind that both methods should work well at keeping those pesky rabbits out of your garden.
The smell that marigolds give off is not only pleasant to humans, but it is also very offensive to rabbits. So if you have ample space in your yard or garden to plant this beautiful annual flower, consider putting some of them there as rabbit protection. You want the stalks and leaves in particular. So you can either trim branches from the mother plant and put them around your garden (make sure they are tied up or stuck into the ground) or divide some clippings from the mother plant and transplant these into pots and put them outside with rabbit protection purposes in mind. Either method should work well at keeping those pesky rabbits out of your garden.
Mint isn’t just good for making tea – it also repels rabbits. A few plants of this perennial herb by your garden or flower beds will ward off such unwanted pests to your vegetable plants and bulbs.
Oregano might make a delicious addition to pizzas, but it is what you should consider planting as rabbit protection if you’re trying to keep them away from certain areas of your yard or garden. Foxes are also said to dislike the smell of oregano, so perhaps choosing a spot where both foxes and rabbits will be kept at bay would be ideal! Lastly, marigolds do well in pots around the house as a protection against mice and squirrels without giving up yard space.
Consider planting sage in your garden as snake and rabbit protection. It is claimed that both snakes and rabbits do not like this herb for unknown reasons, but if it’s good enough for an excellent roast chicken recipe, perhaps it will save your other plants from being eaten up too! Also, marigolds do well in pots around the house as a protection against mice and squirrels without giving up yard space.
Tansy can be used similarly to oregano by using its leaves alone or placing sprigs in the ground near the area of your garden you’d like to protect from rabbits. However, if you are looking for a more dramatic rabbit repellent, you can always try using the flowers as well.
By their nature, gardeners are a gentle sort. They prefer to grow plants rather than kill pests. But if you’ve been raising food in your garden only to lose it to rabbits, you may be tempted to get mean and try poison baits, traps or other exterminators of the bunny kind.
Spray water is not considered cruel because it doesn’t harm rabbits; they run away when they hear the sound of a hose being turned on. Another visual trick involves “confusing” them by scattering corn cobs around your garden or yard with rabbit-sized holes bored into them. The cobs could be hidden by mulched leaves or straw piled high enough so that the ends stick up from the top like little trees, according to experts at the Cal-IPC.
Please do not use this method in areas where cats or dogs could quickly get to them. Also, do not leave cobs in place for more than a week because they will start sprouting.
Trying other methods of keeping rabbits out of your garden include hanging shiny helium balloons that can be buoyed up with a string. An early morning or late afternoon breeze might make them move silently, providing a visual distraction from the garden’s bounty.
Another, and more extreme, option is to find an owl to live in your neighborhood. Not all owls have equal powers of fear for rabbits, but if one moves in nearby, you can bet that rabbit raids will dissipate in your yard and leave enough food for everyone – including passing birds who stop by to eat what the bunnies don’t. There are ways to attract owls to take up residence near you because even small numbers of these wise creatures can keep most other critters under control, such as rodents – and maybe even some human neighbors too!
The Humane Society cleverly suggests one final trick: put an owl box in your yard. These are available at leading garden centers or online. Or, if you are handy with a saw, why not make your own owl box. Once an owl moves in, it may decide to make your neighborhood a permanent home. The great thing about owls is that they eat rodents and insects, so they could be a friend to all the other creatures who live around you!
Trying to keep your garden safe from rabbits and other creatures can feel like a losing battle at the end of the day. However, by following some of the above tips, we can try and put up a fight!
Let us know how you keep rabbits out of your garden in the comments section below.