The story of Peter Rabbit has infinite charm until you are faced with the devastation wreaked by his living descendants. Rabbits prefer vegetable gardens, just as in the story, but can produce considerable damage among tender flower seedlings. Patience and a little ingenuity can keep rabbits out of your flowers. Just remember that you may have to be as persistent in keeping them out of your garden as they are when trying to get in.
Install rabbit-mesh or chicken-wire fencing around flowers you want to protect. Both types of fencing are small mesh, designed to keep large and little rabbits out. Fencing need only be 2 to 3 feet high; what matters most is its function as a barrier against burrowing. Before tacking fence mesh to posts, dig a narrow trench 6 inches deep around your flower bed. Seat mesh at the bottom of this trench, then affix it to the posts. Replace dirt, and you will have deterred all but the most persistent diggers. Walk the bounds of your fence from time to time to make certain it remains intact.
Make your tender annual seedlings less appealing by planting bulbs from the allium family around the perimeter of your garden. Alliums include colorful spring bloomers, onions and garlic, all of which share a scent rabbits tend to avoid. Onions and garlic give you the added benefit of fresh scallions, larger onions and garlic for your kitchen. Bulbs can go in the ground in early spring, and blooming alliums are perennial.
Ring your flower bed with predator urine. This liquid deterrent is easily applied on the ground close to rabbits' sensitive noses. You will not smell the results. The only caution for urban and suburban gardeners: actual predators may be scarce or completely absent (one reason you have so many rabbits!). In that case, the memory of danger may also have faded; rabbits will wrinkle their noses at the funny smell but not connect it with potential danger.
Install motion-detector lights to illuminate your garden. Rabbits startle easily, and evening visitors may be deterred by what could signal a sudden human presence.
Have patience. Rabbits have a particular fondness for small, tender, close-to-the-ground plants. Your flowers are most vulnerable before they have gained the height, woody or prickly stems and stronger-tasting mature leaves that make them less appealing. Once they are established, thanks to your deterrents, rabbits usually return to nibbling on grass and leave your flowers in peace.
Things You Will Need
- Mesh fencing and posts
- Allium family bulbs
- Predator urine
- Motion detector lights
- Some gardeners swear by surrounding plants with human hair. Ask your hairdresser for sweepings and experiment. Hair has also been used as a deer deterrent. It's free and worth a try.
- Especially if you have small children or curious pets, avoid chemical deterrents such as mothballs. Their preventive powers have not been proven and are dangerous to garden visitors. Some gardeners use a solution of Tabasco sauce and water, or sprinkle cayenne from a restaurant-sized container (do not attempt on a windy day), but this must be renewed after every rain.