Almost every gardener has to deal with some kind of “critter” in the garden. I’m glad to say that I don’t have a problem with deer like a lot of PA gardeners. No, my nemesis is the rabbit.
Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different things to control rabbits. Back when there weren’t quite as many, dried blood sprinkled on newly planted beds worked well. I also tried Liquid Fence and this seemed to keep the rabbits at bay.
But what used to work doesn’t work any longer – things have changed in the area around the garden. There’s no longer a dog in the house so the scent of a predator is gone from the yard and the rabbits feel right at home. The other change is that the next door neighbor put a tool shed in the backyard and the rabbits love living under it – it provides protection and a safe place for them to multiply. So where there was once a few rabbits, now there are lots of rabbits.
I thought I knew which plants the rabbits would eat and which ones they’d leave alone but even that’s changed. In the vegetable garden the only truly rabbit-proof plant is garlic. I’d always thought that onions were safe from rabbits but this year has proved me wrong – they seem to have developed a taste for onion leaves. Iris, daylilies, shasta daisies and echinacea don’t appear to be on the rabbits’ menu but lilies, phlox and asters are. And while vinca and cleome seem to be rabbit-proof, zinnias and petunias are a different story.
I was recently surprised when a small rose bush that I’d been keeping sprayed with Liquid Fence was completely defoliated in one night. The rose should survive since there are buds along the nodes of the stem that will sprout and give the plant another chance at life. But this is just one more victory for the rabbits.
The only thing that I’ve found that really works to keep the rabbits away from plants in the garden is 1″ chicken wire. I’ve read that you need the bury the wire in order to prevent rabbits from burrowing under it but I’ve never had that problem. I guess my rabbits are lazy; they don’t burrow. A circular cage of chicken wire that I work an inch or two into the ground is enough to keep them away from peppers and tomatoes. I’ve attached chicken wire to all of the raised beds in the vegetable garden and this has kept the lettuce and beans safe. I’ve even learned to fence in the asparagus bed to keep the rabbits from eating the spears!
But when it comes to the flower beds, I think I’m just going to admit defeat and grow only plants that are rabbit-proof. While I don’t mind wire cages in the vegetable garden, they don’t fit as well into the flower beds. At least there are a good number of flowering annuals and perennials that rabbits don’t like.
I’m learning to work with the rabbits. Between choosing the right plants and protecting the ones that the rabbits like to eat, I’m able to grow vegetables and flowers without losing too many of them. I know to a lot of people rabbits are cute and sweet but to me they’re nothing but marauding eating-machines.