While the weather may still be cold out, avid gardeners’ thoughts are already turning to springtime, and planning out their gardens. Aside from fickle weather, however, one of the greatest threats to most gardeners is that of pests. Whether insects, fungi and viruses, or rodents, nothing can make your gardening less enjoyable than to see all the hard work you’ve done go for nought once pests ravage your garden.
One of the common pests that devastates most gardens is the rabbit. You’re probably familiar with the stories of Peter Rabbit, who loved to nosh on the fine vegetables in Mr. McGregor’s garden. But while children may sympathize with little Peter Rabbit, the gardening parents reading these stories to their children may find it easier to empathize with Mr. McGregor.
Rabbits seem to be everywhere these days, because they breed like, well, rabbits. And if you don’t take proactive steps to keep them out of your garden and away from your seedlings and plants, you may find that your gardening will become an exercise in frustration. Here are five ways that you can keep rabbits out of your garden.
Often the first line of defense against nuisance animals is to create a physical barrier against them. For rabbits, chicken wire used as fencing can be an effective barrier, as the gaps in the wire are too small for them to fit through, and the wire is too strong for them to chew through.
You’ll have to make sure to build the fence up at least 2-3 feet, however, in order to keep them from just jumping over it. And if the fence is tall enough, you’ll have to think about building gates, which will have to be able to be securely latched. Make sure that your fence posts are secure, and that any potential gaps in the fencing are closed up.
One of the downsides to building this type of defense is the additional cost, as the price of wire, fence posts, gates, etc., can quickly spiral, especially with a bigger garden. But if you depend on your home-grown fruits and vegetables for sustenance, you may find the cost to be worth it.
2. Raised Beds or Pots
Putting in raised beds or pots can be a deterrent to rabbits. They can’t see to the top or over the top of raised beds or pots, and they’re not sure they want to be up there. Being elevated also exposes them to predators such as hawks or owls, something they don’t want to happen.
I found out the hard way last growing season in a new area how beneficial growing in pots can be. Every seedling I planted in the ground was nibbled by rabbits or chipmunks. But the stuff I planted in pots? It wasn’t touched.
Sometimes physical removal may seem like your best option. Depending on how many rabbits you may have, a Havahart-style trap could be an effective way to trap rabbits and dispose of them. If you have too many rabbits in your area, however, you run the risk of them eventually getting wise to why their comrades are disappearing, and the trap may lose its effectiveness over time.
If you have enough land and not a lot of neighbors, hunting rabbits could also be effective at removing them, as well as enhancing your marksmanship. In many areas rabbits are largely nocturnal, so thermal vision or night vision might be needed, as well as a sound suppressor to keep noise to a minimum. And if you’re sure that no one around you has used poison to try to control the rabbits, you could even incorporate a little rabbit meat into your diet if your hunting is successful.
5. Give Them Habitat
This one seems a little crazy, but you could also give rabbits a little bit of their own habitat. If you have enough land, you could keep part of it covered with long grass. That gives the rabbits both cover and a food source. And if it’s far enough away from your garden, they may just spend their time there in cover, rather than venturing out into the open and risking predation just to loot your garden. Even the feistiest of rabbits might eventually prefer the safety and comfort of tall grass to the risk of plundering your crops and getting caught.