Every year in April, we get frantic communications from you: “My seedlings disappeared overnight.” “My bulbs were coming up, and now they’re gone!" You can't blame the rabbits for snacking. There’s not much green food for them as of yet.
Every year in April, we get frantic communications from you: “My seedlings disappeared overnight.” “My bulbs were coming up, and now they’re gone!”
Rest assured; they don’t suddenly vaporize on their own. They do face a perilous early life at the start of spring.
I saw our first rabbit of the season, appropriately enough on Easter Sunday.
He was out scouring my empty gardens, looking for those delicious morsels of early seedlings and bulb-leaf tips. You cannot blame them. There’s not much green food for them as of yet.
So he’s got his eye on my emerging hyacinths, daffodils and tulips. They can stand a little top chewing, but I get angry when they’re clear cropped.
What to do
Rabbit fences work but are ugly. They’re fine around vegetable gardens but you wouldn’t want them in your front yard.
Chicken wire is a good temporary rabbit fence. Buy the 36-inch tall stuff and secure it with wooden stakes. It’s a good idea to plant the wire 6 inches deep in the soil. Rabbits are good diggers.
Some of you have reported success placing the chicken wire flat on the soil of perennial and bulb gardens. Secure it with U-clamps made of coat-hanger wire. The bunnies apparently don’t like the wire feel on their feet. The plants will grow through the wire.
The flat-wire scheme also thwarts squirrels and chipmunks in their bulb-digging adventures.
Many rabbit chemical repellents are available. They’re expensive and often must be reapplied after rain. There’s a lot of hype in these products. At best, you must use them heavily and often.
To avoid constant respreading, try tying repellent in cheesecloth bags and hanging them over your plants. This will survive the rain.
Rabbits have a well-deserved fear of cats. Capitalize on this by spreading soiled kitty litter around your plants once a week.
Repellents work by spreading an odor that rabbits hate. Garlic, lavender and tansy plants also may send them packing.
A tea made of water and cow manure may be effective and is good for the plants. Put a cup of manure into a gallon milk jug and fill. Place it in the sun to steep.
Another home remedy is 85 percent raw linseed oil, 10 percent water and 5 percent dishwashing detergent. Spray this on the soil. Avoid contact with the plants.
Pepper flakes are said to work, but that can get expensive. They must be reapplied after rain.
Here kitty, kitty
A friend of mine plants catnip, which she insists rabbits hate. That stuff always attracts cats.
Trapping is not recommended. You most likely will capture a mother with a nest of youngsters nearby.
Rabbits are low feeders, meaning they ignore plants once they’re a foot high or so. They forage mainly at dawn and just before sundown.
When the clover starts in the yard, rabbit damage decreases. That’s their favorite food. You might consider planting early crimson clover. Rabbits will prefer it to your plants.
Rabbits have adapted well to life among us. One thing we should not do is to disrupt their natural habits by feeding them. They quickly will become dependent on easy food and will tell their friends.
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