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How to Keep Rabbits And Other Animals Out Of Your Garden – Humanely, Organically, Frugally, & Sustainably

Jackrabbit In Our Geyserville Yard

 

My sister Lori wrote me last year asking for advice about her new vegetable garden in St. Louis.  They have loads of little bunnies.  Apparently they’re extremely persistent and have been known to eat even jalapeño peppers!  She was worried they will eat her yummy new lettuces, carrots, radishes – and considering their track record, even her tomatoes. 

 

We had jackrabbits at our Northern California home.  Have you ever seen one?  They’re not your little St. Louis bunny:  they are amazingly fast, and they are much bigger than our dog!  They eat grass and clover, and presumably they would find our carrots and lettuce absolutely delightful…. but guess what?  They were everywhere in our yard EXCEPT in our vegetable garden.  I never saw – or found evidence of – a single nibble.

 

It could be luck, but considering that the rabbits regularly hopped within inches of the vegetable garden, I think it may have to do with a few other things. So I wrote this post to help Lori and all the rest of you who have bunny problems!

 

How to Keep Rabbits Out of the Vegetable Garden:

Humanely, Organically, Frugally, and Sustainably.

 

Note that many of these solutions will work for deer, raccoons, coyotes, and various varmints as well.

 

1.  Build Raised Beds. You don’t have to build formal raised beds, but even if you mound up the dirt as we did, it confuses them.  Ours beds were also sloped, so that may be a further deterrent.

 

2.  Create Narrow Pathways Between the Beds. If you think about it from a rabbit’s perspective, there are these mounds about 1.5 to 2 feet tall.  If I were a rabbit and tried to hop between those mounds, I’d be a sitting duck for any cat or coyote standing on the mound.  No way, not worth it!  Our pathways were about 1′ wide, just enough for us to walk through.

 

3.  Mulch. I’ve read over and over that for whatever reason, mulch deters deer, rabbits, gophers, moles, voles… I don’t know why, but seems to work.  We use straw mulch, because it’s cheap and plentiful, and eventually it will decompose and become plant food.

 

4.  Interplant. Again from the rabbit’s perspective, I am hopping around finding a nice clover patch here, another one way over there, and then… wow, a whole row of tender, organic greens all to yourself.  But, if that row is interplanted with things I don’t like – like onions – suddenly, maybe it’s not worth it to me.  This goes for all sorts of pests, including aphids, powdery mildew, voles, and so on.  For example, we planted carrots and scallions together.

 

5.  Plant a Perimeter of Things They Don’t Like. Garlic, onions, chives, catnip, lavender, and marigolds are all deterrents according to several sources.  The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends planting a double row of onions.  You could also try a low, dense hedge.  Here is a list of plants rabbits (and deer) reportedly do not like.  If you don’t find anything there, many more are listed here.

 

6.  Build a Fence Around the Beds, or Around the Plants. You probably want to build a fence at least 2 feet high.  It can be made out of a number of materials, so you can make it quite attractive:  bamboo, chicken wire, wood, wire mesh will all work.  If you don’t have raised beds, you should dig a trench at least 6-8″ below ground, and start the fence there.  If you’re using a bendable material, bend it outward for added benefit.  Rabbits (and voles, moles, etc) can burrow, so you want to cover above and below ground.  And incidentally, this is what Lori ultimately used on her garden – there are pictures here.

 

7.  Put a layer of mesh or other material over the hardest hit plants. You can use wire mesh, burlap, or hardwire cloth for this.  You can build a loop-wire tunnel as well (we usually have one over our greens).

 

8.  Try Other Alternatives. Fake snakes or owls, soap flakes, sulfur, blood meal, wind socks, human hair, motion-sensor sprinklers, a mostly buried bottle, dog, coyote, or fox urine, and cat litter are some I’ve found but haven’t tried.  There are also some store-bought remedies, but I’d suggest trying some of these cheaper, organic, and sustainable methods first.  (Note cat litter should not be put in the vegetable garden, only on the perimeter, to avoid consuming potentially harmful bacteria.)  Have fun!

 

9.  Plant Clover and Other Bunny Favorites in Another Area of the Yard. This is the decoy effect:  if you feed them well with their favorite foods, they won’t need to eat your veggies.  What do bunnies like?  Goldenrod, wild strawberries, clover, dandelions, wildflowers, alfalfa, and long grass.

 

10.  If All Else Fails, Plant Extra for the Rabbits. They need to eat, too, and goodness knows we have altered their world by putting up roads and houses where they used to graze happily.  Why not give them a little bit of extra food to survive in their human-altered environment?*

 

Note that you’ll probably want to try at least a couple of these methods together to make it work for you.

 

Non-Humane Methods…

 

I would not try poisons, pepper spray, or fire arms.  I personally feel all of those are dangerous to you, your neighbors, and other beneficial wildlife.

 

I also don’t think trapping is a great option.  The problem with trapping is that you are relocating a rabbit from its home, family, and established territory:  the place where it knows its predators and food sources.  It could be pregnant or have babies.  And you could be relocating it to a place where it doesn’t have a good food supply or is eaten quickly by a predator.  And you may end up putting them where someone else has to deal with them in their yard – someone who may or may not use humane methods to deter them.

 

Please consider trying the many humane methods above.  You may have to work a little harder at it.  But in the end, your family, community, and the planet as a whole will be better off for your efforts.

 

*Note that in Australia and New Zealand, rabbits have been introduced into the area, and have created havoc with the native ecosystem.  In that case, I would avoid feeding the rabbits, and in general discourage their presence – your local municipality likely has a policy that you should follow in these areas.  If you have the choice, try the sustainable, integrated pest management approaches to the problem.  Indiscriminately poisoning and shooting them has proven time and again not to work!

 

Fleeing Jackrabbit

 

Do You Have Any Other Tips?

 

Similar Posts:

19 comments to How to Keep Rabbits And Other Animals Out Of Your Garden – Humanely, Organically, Frugally, & Sustainably

  • I’ve got a picture on my blog of the EXCELLENT fencing system my boyfriend built around our raised beds. When we want to access the garden, we simply lift up one of the thin strips of wood and it comes right out of the little loops we bolted to the beds. Then we roll back the wire and get to work. It’s VERY easy to build and use, and definitely will keep most critters out (except maybe a giraffe, and birds, obviously). :) Check it out!

  • Rob

    Some would say rabbit meat is high in protein. Not condoning, just saying. Like I always say to the wild rabbits at work “don’t be afraid I would never eat a little bunny rabbit”!

  • Thanks for the list of suggestions, Melinda. While we don’t have a problem with rabbits in our desert yard, I suspect we will whenever (wherever!) we move somewhere more lush. Another point to make with poisoning is that I suspect the remaining (surviving) rabbits would respond to the decrease in population by increasing their reproduction. That’s what coyotes do and why no eradication efforts have ever succeeded at anything other than increasing their population.

    I do have to agree with Rob, though. If a person insists on eating meat and concurrently has a problem with pests in the garden, why not eat the pest? It’s local, organic (if it’s been eating your garden!), and sustainable since another one is sure to show up soon.

  • What luck, I was asked a few questions about these things during my gardening class. Thank you for the suggestions

  • Here in coastal Virginia, we have rabbits and squirrels in ridiculous numbers. The rabbits were actually really easy to deter. Raised beds that go to about head height for your local rabbit size is almost foolproof. They just won’t jump up where they can’t easily see predators. In a single raised bed of 4×8, you can plant one square of onions and they avoid the area. I leave lots of weeds like purslane, clover and such around the naturalized part of the yard. No problems since.

    It is the squirrels that are hard. I’m actually posting today on what they are doing. Since they like a raised bed and don’t seem to care about onions and such, they are digging up corn like crazy. It is just so sad.

    Luckily for me I have a true predator, Great Horned Owl, nesting nearby and he (actually probably she) eats a few of the squirrels and rabbits for me. :)

  • Great post. Thankfully we don’t have a problem with rabbits.

  • I’ve had good luck with my raised beds so far. I have 2′ high fencing around the edges, and last year I topped it with bird netting to deter the squirrels – this stayed in place until the plants grew taller than the fencing.

    This year I added a second planting bed, and I’ve placed most of my “goodies” below a row cover – this seems to have prevented those pesky rabbits from ever knowing the plants are there. So far, so good!

    In our perennial garden out front, we had two coreopsis plants. I just happened to plant something labeled “mosquito plant” (intended to ward off the bloodsuckers) near one of them, and it seemed to ward off the bunnies. The other one, less than 5′ away, became bunny food all season long – they’d wait until it just started blooming, then “mow” the tender tops…

  • This is precisely the type of advice that I’ve been looking for because I’m just about to create my very own “first garden ever” in the foothills of Colorado. I’ve been hesitant to do it before now because of the major competition I will undoubtedly have with all manner of critters (including deer, elk, foxes galore, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, mice, rats, mountain lions and bears). I prefer to exercise humane methods to skeddaddle hungry invaders, so I will be sure to follow your suggestions to the “T”. Would you consider posting this article on http://www.greenwala.com? (It’s an online green social network.) I am SURE that my fellow community members will go beserk for this information, and hopefully you might enjoy the environment and want to stick around. We could really use interesting writers like you to help our community thrive even more. Please feel free to contact me with any questions!! I hope that you go for it!!!

  • bestromann

    I used “Scarecrow Sprinkler” it really work to keep animal out of garden,especially deer.
    When the Scarecrow detects an animal heat and movement, senses the same security lights detect people, it instantly releases a short but startling burst of water. The sudden spray of water and the movement and noise of the sprinkler scares animals away. Animals associate this negative experience with the area and avoid your yard in the future.
    Also entertained me when the scarecrow scared them! recommend!

  • kathy

    im having a problem with chipmunks, ate 4 of my hot pepper plants, now starting on watermelon, do u think the hair would work? what about cutting onions & throwing around garden?? thanks

  • [...] box without a bottom that has a screened door on top.  This is one solution to my dilemma.   An article I read on the internet had other great suggestions.  One of the recommendations was to  plan [...]

  • Maria

    great advice,i was happy about having my garden untill early this morning i walked outside to water my garden and my golf ball sized watermelon was pulled off my watermelon plant and was chewed nothing else was touched except that, my husband is bring home fencing to see if that may work, if it dont at least i have some other great ways to get rid of them, kinda hard when u have 5 acres of land and rabbits and all kinds of wild animals everywhere. thank you for the advice

  • I live in Southern CA and the first year that I planted a garden I had problems with gophers more than rabbits. I also wanted a flower garden so I dug the soil out of the area to be planted, laid chicken wire down and put the soil back in, planted my flowers and WA-LA! No gopher problems! I recently saw a gardening idea on Pinterest using wooden pallets and decided to take this project on. Using a staple gun, I covered the bottoms of the pallets (3)with chicken wire before laying them down and filling them with the prepared soil. I then placed them where needed and enclosed the area with the remaining chicken wire, leaving a small gate for entering. This is going to work perfectly. It will keep out the gophers and the rabbits that we have in our backyard.

  • mimi

    I use 2 raw eggs to 1 gallon of warm water. I pour it into an empty syrup bottle or dishwash detergent bottle and squirt it around my garden and on the plants. I had problems with deer and rabbits before I started doing this. No more problems. I do this once a week and after it rains or I water heavely. Works in the flower beds and on shrubs too..

  • Toni

    I have only used rubber snakes in my gardens, vegi and flowers, and haven’t had rabbit troubles as long as I have had gardens….30 plus years. I put them throughout the plants the bunnies would like best, and they never touch them. I see them in my yard often, but, they only eat the plants I forgot to protect. Sometimes, just a few around the premiter of the garden is enough. The part I love best is how they can make a grown man jump at first sight, lol!
    Now, if someone could give me a surefire, humane way to get rid of moles, I’d be eternally grateful!

  • Jeryl Nielsen

    What can you use to keep racoons out of corn. Last year we had our first experience with them. They ate all of our corn in about 3 days. We planted about 15 rows, 20 feet long. We need help!

  • Cindy Hill

    Live in California high desert and was having BIG problems with Rabbits, Gophers, Squirrels, and Rats eating EVERYTHING in sight!! From cactus to rose bushes, citrus trees to palms, they were eating anything green and girdling my old and young trees, literally destroying all my landscaping. I tried many organic methods, soap, blood meal, hair, urine, garlic, onions, fake owls, wire cages, and the list goes on. I finally rescued 5 cats who have solved all the problems. They are great hunters, and companions as well, and keep my yard clear of all rodents, rabbits etc. I LOVE my CATS!!!!

  • Jim

    Lights. Use lights with motion sensors near your garden. Animals get scared of them when they are turned on. @ Jeryl Nielsen, predator urine works for raccoons and squirrels.

  • ashwin

    my papaya crop eaten from rabbit,I try all method,but not resolve problem.what I do

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