How to Keep Rabbits Out of Your Garden and Stop Them from Eating Your Plants
No matter how soft-hearted you are, you probably don’t want rabbits nibbling on your plants, even if those bunnies look adorable hopping through your garden. It can take a little patience and persistence to find what works best to keep rabbits out of your garden and prevent them from eating your plants. What seems to work for one gardener may be completely ineffective for another. For example, your neighbor may swear by planting a few marigolds around the perimeter of a raised bed vegetable garden, but the bunnies happily munch on your marigolds and all the plants around them. Whether your long-eared visitors are cottontails or jackrabbits, your best options are to fence them out, stink them out, or try scaring them away.
How to Keep Rabbits Out of Your Garden with Fencing
The most reliable way to protect your vegetable garden from rabbits is with fencing. Putting up a fence takes some time and effort, but once it’s done you have a permanent barrier and you won’t have to run around spraying repellants after each rain. Rabbits hop but they don’t jump very high, so a 2-foot fence can keep them out. Wire fencing with openings of 1 inch or smaller is best, such as chicken wire ($36, The Home Depot) or rabbit wire ($37, The Home Depot). Support the fencing with sturdy stakes, secure the bottom to the ground with landscape pins ($5, Walmart) so rabbits can wiggle their way under. More determined rabbits may try to dig under the fence, so it's a good idea to bury the lowest 2-3 inches of fencing underground.
Alternatively, if you just have a few plants that rabbits consistently nibble to nubs, encircle individual plants with a chicken wire cage pinned securely to the ground. This may be especially important while plants are young or are putting out a lot of fresh new growth in spring. You can also try growing plants you know rabbits love, such as tender lettuces, in hanging baskets or tall containers to keep them out of reach.
The Best Rabbit Repellents
Where a fence is not practical or possible, your next best bet for stopping rabbits from eating your plants is to offend their sense of smell. Rabbits will turn up their twitchy noses at a garden repellent ($17, The Home Depot) that contain rotten eggs or garlic. (Bonus: These odors also help repel deer and are safe to use around pets and children.) Wear waterproof gloves while you’re spraying so you don’t end up smelling awful, too. You'll need to reapply the product after each rain. If you use repellent sprays on your vegetables, be sure the product is one of those approved for edible plants.
How to Frighten Rabbits Away
Chasing after a rabbit with a rake didn’t work well for Mr. McGregor in the story of Peter Rabbit, and it probably won’t for you either. Scare techniques are temporary fixes at best, because the rabbits will soon figure out that no actual harm comes to them. Motion sensor lights or water sprays, air horn sounds, flashing CDs hanging from branches, or sparkly streamers moving in the breeze may all help a little at first, but it won't be long before your resident bunnies will just ignore them. The one exception is having dogs that will enthusiastically chase any rabbit that dares to set a furry little toe in your yard. Otherwise, you're better off spending your efforts on fencing and repellents.