While I haven’t seen Thumper, Alvin, Simon or Theodore in my yard, their distant cousins have taken up residence. My grandchildren take great delight in rabbit, chipmunk and squirrel sightings. I, however, don’t quite share their enthusiasm. Even more frequent visitors to my “not to secret garden” are rabbits and other furry creatures like squirrels and chipmunks.
If your yard is like mine you probably have a family of rabbits that inhabit the back yard. There are at least five of them frolicking around the lawn and plants. Keeping them from devouring your plants takes some time and effort.
Garden Enclosures – Wire, Mesh & More
Enclosing a vegetable garden not only deters deer from plants, but rabbits also. Rabbits are fond of tender plants and can devour them before they have a chance to get started. If your garden is not enclosed, bean seedlings and other young plants might be prime targets.
What do you do about flower gardens?
Enclosing a flower garden is not practical. Flowers are meant to be seen – not hidden. Certain plants are more vulnerable than others. For example, this spring a young perennial planted last year was being eaten as soon as it started to grow. This plant had to be protected quickly before it was too late. It was also in a small space so a large fenced enclosure was not practical.
Local garden supply stores sell small wire mesh tents. This is a great solution. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available without pre-order. The plant was already being eaten and time was of the essence. The idea of this tent sparked a memory of a food tent (meant to cover picnic dishes to protect against flies and other insects) at a local discount store. This was a quick, local, and best defense.
After purchasing both the small and large tents, the larger tent covered the perennial best. The plain mesh in the tent allowed sun and water to reach the plant. After tacking down the edges with coated wire and rocks to keep the rabbits from digging underneath the tent – it was secure. The solution worked and the plant grew.
Total cost: $1.29.
The same wire enclosures that prevented deer from eating the plants has also been successful at keeping the rabbits away. The forsythia, burning bush, roses, and spirea had been a regular part of the rabbit’s diet until the enclosures were placed around them.
When planting young trees, it’s important to protect the bark by enclosing the bottom foot of the trunk. To do this you can use about a foot-long length of PVC pipe. We used some left over from a previous house project. Then saw it in half lengthwise with a jig saw. Place the pipe around the bottom of the trunk and tape it together with electrical tape. Decorative duct tape would work just as well. This method has been a success. The photo shows our efforts to save a Japanese Maple tree from rabbits.
Although the rabbits were kept away, the tree was lost to a gust of wind that tipped over the enclosure. It snapped off the tree. We used this method for the young crab apple tree and it worked well. The tree is doing very nicely and we have since been able to remove the piping.
Other Rabbit Deterrents
For added insurance, I planted marigolds in front of the perennial I had saved with the tent. Why marigolds? Rabbits supposedly do not like the scent or smell of marigolds and will stay away from them. Some folks don’t think this method works, but why not try it anyway? I actually don’t care for the smell of marigolds either, so maybe it works. The rabbits seem to avoid plants with the marigolds around them. Whether it is the marigold, coincidence or just plain luck, I’m not sure. Something devoured my variegated sedum last year, I put marigolds in front of that this year. The sedum were not eaten. Success!
Commercial deer and rabbit repellents are available to spray on plants to keep plant-loving critters away. A spray of predator urine is meant to deter herbivores. The repellent needs to be reapplied after a rain.
A reader offered their own homemade remedy for deterring deer. “ Mix 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon baking powder mixed with 1 liter of water. Spray it on your plants every two weeks. This mixture is rain resistant.” Many thanks for offering that suggestion.
Chipmunks & Squirrels
Chili powder and hot pepper are suggested ways to keep squirrels and chipmunks away from plants and bird feeders. Birds can’t smell these spices, but squirrels and chipmunks can. I personally have not had much luck using this method. Chipmunks still dug into the potted flowers and squirrels still went after the birdseed.
The most efficient way to deter squirrels from bird feeders is purchasing a squirrel-proof feeder. My current feeder is several years old and has not had a squirrel on it yet.
Although no squirrels have scaled the feeder, a chipmunk managed to get inside. The chipmunk was panicked by the time it was released. There have not been any other instances of chipmunks at the feeder.
Birds aren’t as large of a problem as other critters. They are mostly enjoyable to watch and listen to. However, some birds have eaten strawberries from my small patch this year. Next season, I will try some netting or maybe some flashy metal pans swaying in the breeze. Netting is probably the most efficient.
Let Them Eat… (something else!)
Rabbits – Clover. Most lawns are not entirely grass. They typically have plenty of “weeds.” It’s better to let rabbits munch on clover in the lawn than eat your flowers and vegetables. Every morning I can look out to see the rabbit family happily munching away on the lawn. I have never used pesticides on my lawn. Keeping a lawn well fed and healthy is the best deterrent to weeds. But if rabbits like what’s there, good for them.
Squirrels, chipmunks, and birds will eat whatever is available to them. If you have valuable plants, the key is to make the plants “unavailable”, by either enclosing the plants or making them less palatable.
Peacefully coexisting takes a little time and effort, but it is well worth it. These methods are safe, natural, and can help all creatures live well in your yard.