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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tales from the Rabbit Wars

Gather round, all ye gardeners young and old, to hear some tales from Rabbit Wars of past years.

I don’t remember too many skirmishes at other places where I’ve gardened, but there have been plenty of battles with rabbits here at May Dreams Gardens.

There was the great rabbit escape of last summer. Oh, yes, that was the day I stood in the rain in my garden, holding that rabbit caught in the trap, singing my victory song. And then the rabbit shot out of that trap like a shot from a cannon! I’ll never forgive that rabbit for leaving me standing there looking like a fool, a wet fool, holding that empty trap.

There was also the time when I first built my raised bed vegetable garden and had the brilliant idea to put some kind of barrier around each raised bed to keep the rabbits out. I selected some plastic fencing that was clearly labeled for use in keeping rabbits out. Then I nailed two foot high stakes on each corner of each raised bed and stapled that plastic fencing all the way around each bed.

When I was finished, my garden looked absolutely ridiculous and that fencing made it very difficult to get into each bed to actually garden. But I put that all out of my mind. It would be worth it to keep the rabbits out.

Then one day I went out to the garden and noticed that something, a rabbit, had been eating all my green bean plants, leaving behind little nubby stems. How did those rabbits get in through my fencing?

They chewed little doors in the fencing, that’s how.

When I saw those “doors” and “windows” and other openings in that ridiculous fencing, I ripped it all down, sent a letter to the manufacturer, and got my money back.

The next year, I stretched some chicken wire fencing across the entrance to the garden. With that fence and the privacy fence around the other three sides of the garden, I thought for sure I had won the Rabbit Wars, finally. And for good measure and just to be sure, I cut strips of hardware cloth and stapled them along the bottom of the privacy fence and then pinned the strips to the ground with landscape staples. There was no way a rabbit was going to get to my green beans!

Then one day I came home and there was a rabbit in the garden eating the green beans. Furious, I climbed over the chicken wire fence and chased the rabbit around the garden. That rabbit was in such a panic that with one flying leap it jumped over my three foot tall fence.

So I took that fence down, too.

Rabbits 3, Carol 0

But I still did not wave the white flag of surrender and go down in defeat!

I came up with a new plan, a new attitude, a new campaign against the rabbits last year. And though I had some set backs in the continuing Rabbit Wars with my new methods I had some success, too, so I’ll be using this method again this year.

It doesn’t involve foul smelling concoctions. Though I appreciate all the suggestions for foul smelling concoctions that I should spray around the garden, I live in a subdivision, and think my neighbors are too close to use something that smells.

It doesn’t involve using stuff that grosses me out. I don’t plan to get fox urine, coyete urine, my urine or human hair to put around the garden. After all, this is my Vegetable Garden, where I grow food to eat.

It doesn’t involve “wishing the rabbits away.” I know from experience that wishful thinking doesn’t work either. I’ve tried that, believe you me, and it was the least effective method.

What seems to work for me is to cover young plants with row covers and sprinkle cayenne pepper around and on plants like tomatoes and peppers. So I’ll try that again this year.

And I am also hoping that now that I have adopted some rules of engagement and given the rabbits their rules to follow for all future Rabbit Wars, it will be different this year and we will be able to live in harmony.

Let there be peace at May Dreams Gardens!

23 comments:

Gail said...

Carol,

I am so sorry the rabbits,( bunnies are cute furry toys, these are big bossy, thugs) are misbehaving.

Thank you for the laughs, when I got to Rabbits 3 Carol O, I was falling over laughing so hard..if the TV hadn't been on so loud (basketball) I am sure my husband would be in to see what Youtube I was watching!

Gail

Kathy said...

And maybe plant pots of catnip or other things cats appreciate? (I wouldn't plant catnip in your actual vegetable beds.) I know you don't want to actually keep a cat as a pet, but if you encouraged them to stroll through, the rabbits would at least be more nervous.

Mary said...

Carol,

I know you are very serious about your rabbit wars and woes, but I come here every evening to laugh, and gee how you deliver :o)

Cayenne pepper all the way!!!!

But I wonder if the hummingbirds and butterflies will mind if I sprinkled it among the bunnies favorite flowers :o/

Lisa at Greenbow said...

All I can say is good luck and I hope it works for you.

You could borrow Muncie for a week or so. Since Vinny went home from our house we haven't had any cats in the garden. This is a good thing. I bet Muncie could handle a couple of rabbits.

Cinj said...

Have you ever tried to put a "roof" over the fencing? Maybe made of chickenwire or some other non-rabbit chewable material? I haven't had trouble with rabbits yet, but from all of the rabbits I've seen around here I know I'll be in the trenches right next to you once I start planting vegetables in my "new" garden.

Good luck!

Diana said...

You just keep on trying, Carol. I commend you for your good attitude. Sounds like you have a good plan. I was feeling a little disconnected from your plight, thinking myself safe, when this week i spotted two rabbits outside. They were both outside of the back fence and the veggie garden, but still awfully close for comfort. One was under the bird feeders eating seed shoots, and one went scurrying just outside the back wrought iron fence with Tanner in hot, panting pursuit. I hope he can keep scaring them away without actually nabbing one. Best of luck.

beckie said...

Carol, I take back what I said about rabbits. They have eaten some of my tulip leaves this year. You didn't send them my way did you?:)

Sherry at the Zoo said...

Carol,

Happy to loan you a dog or a cat...I haven't seen any rabbits for several years now.

Sherry

Frances, said...

I, for one, want to hear your victory song at the Spring Fling, maybe part of your talk, at the airport, at the hotel, maybe at every stop on Saturday, and especially at the BBQ place! Oh and on a pedestal at Pam's.

Carol said...

Gail, I hope that score after this summer is Rabbits 3, Carol 2, because I am giving myself a point for last year.

Kathy, One of the neighbor's cats HAS been strolling through quite often, and it doesn't seem to help. Lazy ol' cat or brave rabbits, I guess.

Mary, Once the flowers get to blooming size the rabbits don't seem to bother them too much so I don't have to use the cayenne pepper later on. And, as for serious? Well, it is frustrating when the rabbits eat out of my garden, but I'll admit I have done some foolish looking things to get rid of them.

Lisa at Greenbow, Yes, I bet my sister's dog Muncie could take care of a few rabbits. It might be worth a try...

Cinj, Good luck to you with your new garden. Maybe the rabbits won't find it?

Diana, Yes, never let your guard down when it comes to rabbits. Remain vigilent! Rabbits are smarter than we give them credit for.

Beckie, I promise I did not send them your way. They've eaten some of my tulips, too. I was going to post a picture of that but forgot to.

Sherry at the Zoo, I'm thinking about it. A couple of dogs romping in the backyard for a few hours might be helpful...

Frances, Well, unfortunately, I sing it in my head, so it is hard to hear my victory song!

Thanks all for the nice comments and suggestions.
Carol, May Dreams Gardens

VP said...

Carol - I'm amazed how you can turn what must be an annoying problem into such a humourous post!

Perhaps you need to adopt a 'Rabbit Proof Fence' as in the film?

Carolyn gail said...

I wish I could loan Jojo my rabbit-chasing schnauzer to you. She'd happily guard the vegetable garden.

Those smelly concoctions I mentioned in my post are, as you said, not for the veggie garden, just the ornamental which I forgot to mention.

Old-timers used to plant double rows of onions and garlic around the veggie garden to ward off rabbits.

Good luck in your campaign this year.

Tina said...

Poor Carol!
I know how frustrating this is for you.
:(
I still say plant sweet clover. It's worked for us for many years now. They'll go for the clover over veg and ornamentals every time. I get to watch bunnies playing on my lawn right next to my veg garden and they never touch a thing. Ever!
I have no fence, no cat, no smelly urine stuff, and they never nibble a thing and I get to find tons of four-leaf clovers.
Of course, then you'd have to give up a lot of your grass for a lot of clover...

WiseAcre said...

I hate fences, foul smelling concoctions, using urine of any kind, the dog and cats in the garden, sprinkling pepper on everything, wishing and most of all losing my hair over the garden.

Nothing beats having a grumpy old man out in the garden all the time

Dave said...

Good luck with your war, I fear I may fight my own little rabbit Vietnam here this season. They have already take to munching one of my crabapples and two maple saplings got chopped. I was thinking of the cayenne pepper also, have you ever tried to turn it into a spray?

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Carol, you are such an optimist! I hope your optimism isn't misplaced. Those rabbits have had a whole winter to plot against the row covers. You'd better hope they haven't invented an opposible thumb & gotten hold of a pair of scissors!

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

I'm glad you can laugh at your misfortune. Those wascally wabbits!

We don't have rabbits in Austin that I know of. The suburbanites battle deer which are scarce here in the city center. My personal battle is with the raccoons--especially after the pond was installed. They view the pond as some sort of raccoon water park. When they chase the fish around, they tear up the plants. Or maybe they just tear up the plants for fun.

Before I was a gardener, I very much enjoyed "Watership Down". Having since seen huge rabbit warrens in England, I'm surprised Richard Adams wasn't driven out of the country by pitchfork-wielding gardeners.

Annie in Austin said...

The victory song mention made me imagine Carol in an Elmer Fudd hat singing opera style, "Kill the Rabbit, Kill the Rabbit" like the Bugs Bunny cartoon.
The original cartoon didn't show up on YouTube but here's another version.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Chookie said...

Keeping rabbits out will require some serious perimeter fencing, including underground fencing or a "skirt". Will your local council not deal with the rabbits? Are they not considered a pest?

Ah, Watership Down. YOu've read the book, seen the film, now -- eat the pie!

verobirdie said...

i'm glad I don't have rabbits in my garden, because I would be totally harmless. I guess I would sit and watch them...
My fight is rather against snails...
Anyway, thanks for this humourous post. And I do hope you'll get a point this year.

Carol said...

VP, Aren't most gardeners optimistic?

Carolyn Gail, I let my sister bring one of her dogs over yesterday. We will see if it makes a difference.

Tina, Okay, I'm going to give sweet clover a try!

Wiseacre, Maybe the grumpy old men of the neighborhood have chased all the rabbits into my yard!

Dave, I have not tried to turn the cayenne pepper into a spray, but I think you can buy a spray version. I buy cayenne pepper in bulk from the local warehouse store.

Mr. McGregor's Garden, If the rabbits get under the row covers or figure out scissors, I'll have to give up gardening!

MSS, We don't have rabbit warrens like they do in England, mostly just a tiny burrowed place. Raccoons are very destructive, too. I've seen them around here, and always worry they'll try to get to the corn once the ears form.

Annie in Austin, That video is absolutely hilarious! I'll be watching that over and over for inspiration.

Chookie, The rabbits are not considered a pest that local authorities will deal with. Now, if they were rats...

Verobirdie, Yes, cute little bunnies, fun to watch! Good luck with your snails!

Thanks all for the comments!
Carol, May Dreams Gardens

heirloomgardener said...

Thank you for your suggestion--I am going to try it today.

Debbie Mackie said...

I am so glad I am not the only one that has rabbits..we did this elaborate metal cage under the dirt to keep out the moles only to come back the next day to fin 7 of the 9 sweet potato vines had been eaten..the we found 7 baby bunnies buried in my rosemary!! then I noticed the dill, romaine and some of the snow pea vines were chomped down to nothing! How high does a raised bed need to be to keep them out!? If cayenne works, I will surely use that! thanks