Keeping Rabbits Out of Your Garden

Lisha Utt
Frederick County Master Gardener Program

Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits, the bane of the vegetable gardener. But do not despair there are many effective measure that can be taken to keep the rabbits out of your vegetable garden.

The type of rabbit found in Maryland is the eastern cottontail. They are very adaptable creatures and live not only in rural settings, but also in suburbs and even cities. Unfortunately the habitats of many of their natural predators such as foxes and hawks are quickly disappearing with continued urban and suburban growth. Rabbits like to live in bushy fence rows or on the edge of fields. With their gnawing, rabbits can damage flowers, trees, shrubs and of course vegetables.

In the vegetable garden rabbits prefer peas, beans and beets. In general they will not eat corn, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers or potatoes. Though I have had a rabbit "taste" a newly planted tomato plant, biting the stem in two then deciding it was not to his liking and leaving the stem on the ground.

So what to do about our cottontail friends………………

One of the best ways is to construct a two foot high fence around the vegetable garden out of poultry wire. I like the type that is coated in green plastic. I have found it much easier to work with. It is very important that your fence be tight to the ground or even buried a few inches. Rabbits are more likely to go under a fence than hop over it. Also make sure that your fence openings are not too wide allowing the rabbits to squeeze through. I would recommend using fencing with openings not bigger than two inches.

Rabbits can also be controlled by aroma . Sprinkling dried blood around the border of your garden can be effective, as is fox urine. One suggested method for using the fox urine is to tie cotton balls on the fencing around your garden, then every few days sprinkle the cotton balls with a few drops of the fox urine. Both dried blood and fox urine can be found at Southern States or other garden supply stores and are okay to use around vegetables. I have even used ferret feces around the outside border of my vegetable garden fence. Ferrets are another natural predator of rabbits and this method seemed to help keep them away. Any of these methods will have to reapplied after rain.

Human hair sprinkled around the garden can also be used as a deterrent and when the hair eventually breaks down it serves as a good fertilizer. Local hair salons I am sure would be happy to give you a bag of human hair.

Gardeners have also reported success sprinkling vinegar, hot pepper flakes and liquid chile sprays on and around plants. One method is to soak corn cobs in vinegar for five minutes and then place them throughout the garden. The corn cobs should be resoaked in vinegar after two weeks. I have tried just sprinkling vinegar around the bean plants but without much success.

Some folks use moth flakes to keep rabbits away but they should not be used around vegetable gardens or even where children or pets can get to them.

Finally clover is a favorite food of rabbits as is the plantain weed. Rabbits would rather eat that than your vegetables, so if you can tolerate clover and even a few plantain weeds in your lawn, that may be the best solution of all.

So try some of these methods, it may take a combination of them to keep the rabbits away for good. Best of luck and happy vegetable gardening!!

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