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Ask a Gardener - Rabbits in my Garden

July 19, 2014

 

Question How do I get rid of rabbits, they are eating my new plants and new grass, they seem to leave the older vegetation alone. - Sharon  

We’ve been getting lots and lots of rabbit questions.  Rabbits have a tendency to bring out the inner Elmer Fudd in every gardener.  But before you start singing “Kill da wabbit!,” There are some things you can try to get the little bunnies to politely leave.   

Organic Fertilizer
Sometimes, switching to an organic fertilizer can help keep rabbits from your yard.  Many ingredients in organic fertilizers like feather meal, bone meal and chicken manure act as natural rabbit repellents.   Not only that, but it helps promote healthy growth in your plants and grass, which makes them more resilient to damage.  Check out the Colorado’s Choice WaterSaver plan on our website. 

Unpalatable Plants 
There are a lot of questions about “rabbit proof” plants.  Unfortunately, no plant is truly "rabbit proof."  A hungry animal will eat just about anything when it comes right down to it.  Rabbits, just like us humans, have diverse tastes that can differ from rabbit to rabbit and change from year to year and area to area.    But animals don't eat indiscriminately.  There are some plants they love and there are some plants they don't like at all.  We do have a list of plants that, generally speaking, are not preferred by rabbits.   Planting some of them throughout your garden can help dissuade animals from feeding there.  See the list of Rabbit Resistant Plants on our Repelling Rabbits Fact Sheet.   

Repellents
There are many kinds of animal repellents on the market, but they all work pretty much the same way, producing a harmless sensation that animals dislike and try to avoid.  There are smell repellents like predator urine or blood meal, taste repellents like castor oil or touch repellents like hot pepper spray.   CSU Extension recommends using repellents that use capsaicin (pepper extract), castor oil, ammonium salts, predator urine, chicken egg repellents or some combination thereof. 

 

One repellent with which a lot of people have had success is Bonide's Repels-All.  It combines both smell and touch repellents that are effective on a wide range of animals, from rabbits to deer to squirrels.  It contains garlic, clove, castor oil, onion, wintergreen and a lovely little ingredient called Putrescent Whole Egg Solids.  Yum!

A brand new repellent that's been very successful is the I Must Garden Rabbit Repellent.  All

the I Must Garden repellents are made by gardeners for gardeners.  They contain Castor Oil, Mint Oil, Rosemary Oil, White Pepper, Thyme Oil, Lemongrass Oil and Wintergreen Oil so they don't smell too bad.  They're great for use around the house or the patio. 

The trick with any repellent is not to set up a barrier, but to slowly move the animals out of your yard.  Start with a small circle of repellant around the garden. Then, over the course of a few weeks, gradually make bigger and bigger concentric circles of repellent, pushing the rabbits away.  

Fencing
Finally, you might consider a physical barrier to keep the bunnies out.  Place chicken wire or plastic around any trees or desirable plants. Bury the wire at least 6” underground to deter rabbits from burrowing underneath. Make sure the holes in the wire are smaller than a rabbit’s head because they can squeeze through small spaces.

There is no silver bullet in the bunny battles.   Animals will quickly adapt and become accustomed to new stimuli.  Try to keep them off kilter by using different strategies and changing things up.  And be creative.  One gardener we talked with got bags of cut hair from her stylist to spread around the garden as a deterrent.  Whatever works! 

 

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