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Rabbits in the Garden

Aw, aren't they so cute, though?

Rabbits are a fact of life for gardens, landscapes, and food plots in South Central PA. They may seem like more of a pest at times, but they are part of the wildlife that make up our ecosystem. They are just out there trying to live their lives the best they can like the rest of us! Rabbits don't know how much you love that coneflower! They think that lettuce is as tasty as you do!

Ok, ok, you want to protect your plantings from the rabbits. Let's start by accepting that at some point, some of your plants are going to get nibbled. But we want to give them the best start they can have. Here are some strategies we can employ to help us, our plants, and the rabbits live in harmony:

  1. Physical Barriers: Shrubs, perennials, vegetables, and sometimes even small trees can all be susceptible to rabbits, even during the winter. an 18" high wire fence will keep them out. While you may need to keep your edibles permanently protected, your perennials and woodies may only need protection for a few years until they are more established and can fend for themselves. You may not like the look of it, but it will protect your investment.

  2. Gadgets: There are ultrasonic and noise gadgets out there, but I say save your money. If you're that desperate to keep away the rabbits, just put up the fence.

  3. Chemical Barrers: I'm not so keen on using unnecessary chemicals in the garden, but there are deterrent sprays and granules available. I would avoid using these. I once tried one that was supposed to mimic the smell of fox urine. The bottle leaked and got all over me. Avoid. These products need to be reapplied after every rain, and even if they claim to be "natural" or "organic", let's try something that we know works and really is natural...

  4. Planting Strategies: There are plants that rabbits do not like, so you can try to create a barrier around your garden with them or intermingle them with your other plantings. Sometimes even planting a non-preferred plant with a preferred plant in the same hole is a good strategy. Plants with a strong smell will usually do the trick (and try to keep those tasty plants deeper in the bed where they're harder to access):

  • Mountain mints (Pycnanthemum)

  • Onions (Allium)

  • Grasses

  • Bee Balm (Mondarda)

  • Yarrow (Achillea)

  • Columbine (Aquilegia)

  • New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae - sometimes)

  • Lavender (Lavendula)

  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)

  • Pot Marigold (Calendula)

  • Lamb's Ear (Stachys)

  • Annual Marigolds (Tagetes)

  • Viburnum

  • Boxwood (Buxus)

  • Juniper (Juniperus)

  • Holly (Ilex)

Keep in mind the rabbits may go after these plants, too, if they are hungry enough.

So, let's tuck those tastier plants deeper into the flower beds, give those extra special plants some extra protection, plant a little extra veg for the rabbits, and keep in mind that they are here to stay and part of world!

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