Nothing is more satisfying than growing your own food. Still, green-thumb gardeners and novice planters alike make the same mistakes when starting an outdoor garden. Everyone has had the experience of planting your favorite fruits, vegetables, and flowers in the fall or early spring only to have all your hard work disappear come harvest time. The most painful part of gardening is losing your produce to a pest. The thief in the neighborhood is often the same, too—rabbits.
Whether you grow vegetables, herbs, flowers, or trees, you don’t look at rabbits the same as the average person. While your neighbor might spot one of those tall-eared creatures in their yard and get excited, you’re trying to figure out top tips for how to keep rabbits out of your garden. If you’re imaging all the tactics that Rabbit used to preserve his carrots and radishes in Winnie the Pooh, be assured that there are more effective ways to protect your plants.
What Do Rabbits Eat From Gardens?
You must get into the mind of a rabbit to understand why it’s coming to your garden. With this information, you can redirect these cottontails elsewhere. The main thing attracting rabbits to your garden is what you are growing. They eat much more than vegetables. Some things you might have in your garden that rabbits love most include:
- Green shoots of tulips
Signs a Rabbit Has Been In Your Garden
The most common rabbit in North America is the eastern cottontail which lives for 12 to 15 months and generally resides in backyards rather than forests. Typically silent for most of their lives, these rabbits are around all year but begin to mate and repopulate beginning in March. Mother rabbits can have up to 20 offspring per year with three to six litters. Spring is not only a signal to rabbits to start mating—it is a signal to begin eating more food.
Identify Rabbit Damage In Your Garden
Cottontails emerge in the late evenings and early mornings. While you may not catch a rabbit causing damage, you can notice tell-tale signs. Traces of digging and removal of your garden bedding may be a sign of a rabbit. Further, rabbits will mow over your vegetables, biting low to the ground. Since they have incisors on the top and bottom of their mouths, they can cleanly bite through stalks. Gardeners who experience rabbit problems also report:
- Young sprouts disappearing overnight.
- Fur caught in branches or fencing.
- Pea-sized fecal pellets scattered in or near the garden.
- Gnaw marks on soft sprouts and bark.
Pro Tip: Groundhogs and woodchucks eat some of the same foods as rabbits. Check for burrows around your garden before determining if you have a rabbit problem.
How To Keep Rabbits Out of Your Garden With a Fence
Once you know what those fuzzy-bottomed critters are capable of, you can begin using top tips for how to keep rabbits out of your garden. The most effective way to protect your plants is with fencing. Use chicken wire with no more than a one-inch mesh to ensure rabbits cannot slip their paws through. For sprouting seeds and low-growing vegetation, lay the chicken wire directly over your plot. If you’re creating a garden bed, you’ll want your wire one to two feet high to ensure rabbits cannot get over it.
You should secure chicken wire to wood posts with high-quality fence fasteners and bury the fencing six inches into the ground so that rabbits cannot burrow beneath. Create a trench around your garden for the posts and chicken wire, and then fill in the trench once you have secured your fence.
Protect Individual Plants from Rabbits
For larger, prized plants—like trees and perennials—use mesh netting to wrap them securely. You can create a cylinder barrier using the same methods for creating a fence. Remember to keep the bottom of the enclosure tight to the ground or bury it about six inches below ground to keep rabbits from finding a way through the netting.
Make Your Garden Unsuitable for Rabbits
If your garden is hospitable to cottontails in more ways than one, you’ve probably built a rabbit resort. Rabbits in North America do not create their own habitats and instead use shrubbery, tall grass, and other animals’ abandoned shelters for protection. Removing low bushes, wood piles, nests, and other places where they can hide is one of the tried-and-true ways to keep rabbits out of your garden. While specific plants attract rabbits, you can also choose plants that may deter them, such as:
Entice Predators Into Your Garden
When a rabbit feasts, it is constantly worried about what is going to feast on it. If your garden is a safe sanctuary for rabbits to dine, more will come to the dinner party. One way to ruin a rabbit’s fun is to stop frightening away predators and let them do their job. Most animals that eat rabbits won’t attack you and rarely go after pets. Predators that eat rabbits include:
Use Rabbit Repellent
Sometimes pesky rabbits can be a challenge. Repellents make your garden vegetables and trees smell and taste bad so that rabbits won’t want to eat them. If you are using these chemicals on food, you will want to be sure they are safe for your consumption or can be washed off. The problem with repellents is that they don’t last long and have to be reapplied often.
For the most clever and destructive rabbits, you may want to turn to trapping. Laws for trapping animals differ by state. You should check your local guidelines—such as the Department of Natural Resources—for rules about dealing with pests. If the problem is bad enough, call a professional for help. Rabbits are considered agricultural pests and may carry disease, so experts recommend you don’t try to trap them yourself.
Don’t resign yourself to the final resort. Build your garden correctly the first time with Cat’s Claw Fastener’s Fence Claws. You can have a beautiful garden that is free of rabbits with proper fencing installation. Our fastener system holds four times stronger than any nail, won’t rust, and can be reused for any fencing project. Once you’ve used our fasteners to build a secure garden, you won’t need any more tips for how to keep rabbits out of your yard.