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Monday, March 23, 2009

Migratory Path of Rabbits, Right Through My Garden?

I now believe that my garden may have been built on a long-established migratory path used by generations of rabbits to traverse through this land, which was at one time a field of some kind.

The evidence for this theory lies just to the other side of my little sign that says “enter with a happy heart” where there is a well-worn path under the fence. I’ve tried many times to put mulch here, to build up the dirt on this spot, but it never stays long, as rabbits, and probably other critters, keep using this spot to get into the garden. How ironic my sign now seems. It’s almost as if I am subconsciously welcoming the rabbits to ignore the fence and come on in. “Enter with a happy heart” might as well say “Welcome to May Dreams Gardens and make yourself at home. What would you like to eat?”

But the rabbits are not welcome in my garden. They are a bunch of freeloaders. They watch while I do all the work of sowing, watering, and planting, and then as soon as my back is turned, they do all the eating.

So this weekend, I am going to take matters into my own hands and seal off this opening so that no more rabbits can travel via this migratory route into the garden.

This leaves the question of what to do about the rabbits who are already in the garden, who presumably won’t be able to get out of the garden once I seal that opening. Or at least they won’t be able to leave by that migratory path. Am I obligated to continue to feed and house them as long as they are here?

Perhaps, but it will be under my terms and conditions, the primary one being “no eating in the vegetable garden or in any flower beds”. Or more specifically, “eat as much lawn as you want, but leave everything else alone”.

To ensure there is no eating especially in the vegetable garden, I will again use a variety of methods.

For early spring vegetable crops, I’ll cover the entire raised bed with a row cover. This is a white woven cloth available in most garden centers or mail order sources.

For my tomato, eggplant, and pepper plants, I’ll sprinkle cayenne pepper on them until they are large enough to withstand a few nibbles from a bunny.

For the green beans, I’ll once again employ the method of building a fortress around each row using plastic spoons or forks, or maybe even sporks, or foons.

Why is it that I use different methods for different crops?

Let’s move on because I don’t know why I use different methods like this. I know there are other methods I could try.

Someone once suggested planting clover nearby, because clover is a favorite food of rabbits. They would presumably eat the clover instead of what’s planted in the garden. But I’d be afraid they would just consider the clover one food crop of many, the “many” being in the vegetable garden, and they would eat all of it.

Others have suggested using one of those awful smelling sprays on the garden to keep the rabbits away. I’d be afraid that the neighbors might get a whiff of it if the wind was blowing in their direction and call the authorities, who might come and do a yard by yard search and discover that it was me.

Others have suggested that I secure the entire perimeter of the garden because my yard is fenced in. I attempted that one year by securing strips of hardware cloth along the bottom of the fence. I don’t want to get into the details, but this ‘secured perimeter’ was quickly breached by the rabbits. Such is the lure of my garden to the rabbits that even this didn’t stop them.

So it seems I have no options other than to try to co-exist with the rabbits, to come up with my rules that they may refuse to learn and understand, and then to go beyond that to make it very obvious what should and should not be eaten.

I’m good with that. I can live this way, but the rabbits need to meet me halfway, learn my ways, and learn what not to eat.

It seems so little to ask…

28 comments:

Gardeness said...

Seems like there's a lot of options out there. I hope you find a successful one!

Karen said...

We talked about critter repellent a lot at our recent bloggers' gathering here in Seattle. Cayenne came up a lot, plus Matron from the UK was here and she mentioned some wacky idea about ripping the arm off a thrift store fur coat and making it look like a scary predator is sleeping in your garden bed. I love your spork fortress and appreciate that you are willing to battle them with humane means instead of the alternative. Good luck and hope they leave you something to enjoy after all your hard work!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

The one thing you haven't done yet is to actually call a meeting for truce with the rabbits. Have them all come into the garden for a nice spring salad and talk to their leader. The alpha rabbit should be able to keep the other in line with the truce. That is the only thing I am saying could be done.

chzplz said...

Depending on what is on the other side of the fence, I've heard that you can tack roofing shingles on the outside of the fence so that they're attached only at the top. Critters can push their way out (the shingle lifts like a flap), but can't figure out how to lift the flap to get in.

I haven't tried this myself tho...

Kathy said...

I am glad you admitted you don't know why you use different methods for different crops. I know the floating row cover wouldn't work for the green beans, but probably the pepper would.

Janet said...

So if you create the spoon/fork defense...do you reach in to get the beans? I may be heartless- but I say hire a hawk. Those rabbits can wipe out a lot of 'groceries'.

Frances said...

Hi Carol, your sealing of the opening may give you permanent guests that have a way of becoming many, seemingly overnight! I thought about your spoon defense as I put up the chicken wire barricades. They are so unsightly, but between the eating rabbits, the digging squirrels and the major digging whatevers,(could be skunks!) there would be no veggie garden without several means of defense, defence in this case. Sorry for that. :-)
Frances

Gail said...

I am rooting for you Carol....no suggestions just support! I did like the fork defense you used last year. gail

Kristine said...

good luck to you, i opt for the cayenne pepper, but i feel your frustration!

Daphne said...

I do occasionally get rabbits, but my big dog does a good job of keeping them away. Not by chasing them mind you, she is fairly old, but she barks and smells like a predator at least. I get incursions about every other year, but not consistently. Good luck with your rabbit diplomacy.

Cindy, My Corner of Katy said...

I like Lisa's idea of a sitdown with the rabbits. Make 'em an offer they can't refuse!

Carolyn gail said...

Two words : Brunswick Stew :-) Seriously the rabbit population in just about every area of Chicago has gotten outta hand.

Grant Park's beautiful gardens suffered $150,000 in damages one year and the remedy they used was birth control pills. They didn't reveal the secret of how you get a rabbit to take their pills but I sure wish they would and that they'd make them available to the public.

I caught a rabbit eating my Bergenia in the front yard the other day and my rabbit-chasing terrier Jojo was in hot pursuit.

I've had some success in spreading Jojo's fur around the garden so I'll try that again this season.

Good luck with your rabbit strategy.

Laura said...

When I had dogs, the rabbits used my backyard as a breeding ground. Maybe now that the dogs are gone the rabbits will leave?????

One can only hope!

Dirt Princess said...

Carol...that is one of the down sides to gardening....dealing with the creatures that come with it...rabbits, squirrels, slugs, etc. I can tell you that cayenne pepper does work...but you have put of fresh sprinkles every so many days. Other things that help such as chicken wire, barb wire, etc., are so unsightly you hate to use it. I guess it is a matter of how far you are willing to go. You can always purchase a wild animal trap, trap them and haul them to a nice home in the woods :)

Rhonda said...

I have a similar rabbit problem with my gardens, the rabbits almost always win in the long run. And our pet buck Dutch rabbit actually managed to somehow breed through the fence with some of the local cotton tails - so now there are Dutch/cotton hybrids to contend with as well. One comment on rabbit repellant: a scientist [retired] for a large company suggested planting glass beer bottles around the garden area; supposedly the noise of the wind in the bottle keeps some rabbits away. I haven't tried this yet.

Bren said...

Can't wait to see what Tuesday Brings for you dear friend. I do the Tuesday Bloom after reading at your blogger many months ago!

Happy Spring!

KayGee said...

The rabbits eat my clover. They've never touched my veggies. Granted I do not plant peas this early. But last year they didn't eat anything...oh except for a couple of strawberries growing in a pot.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Rotten, rascally rabbits! I've tried the chickenwire along the bottom of the fence, and then resorted to large rocks set next to the fence. That has helped to deter the puff-tailed pigs. I'm in favor of starving them out if they get trapped inside. The only good rabbit is...

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

...a stewed rabbit.

Veg and Flower Time said...

Hi Carol,
A great blog or should i say great blogs,just came across the blog about companion planting and marigolds and zinnia, I love em. Starting my own little veg plot this year so certainly will be keeping an eye on u.

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

Such an exasperation for you, Carol! I know you've been dealing with this scourge of rabbits for a long time, and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. Perhaps posting recipes for rabbit stew, haussenpfeffer, etc around the perimeter of the garden might give them the hint? Or not.

John Walters said...

Carol, I feel for you but have I believe a cure for your rabbit problems. We have more or less resident rabbits and have never had any problem from them.
I must now declare my interest. I sell a row cover so if you are going to be upset at my mentioning my web site stop reading now and delete this post.
Still reading? Visit http://www.veggiecare.com
If you would like any further information please email me.
John

Kerri said...

I hope you've found a cheap bulk source for cayenne pepper, Carol. I'm wishing you victory in the rabbit wars!
Did the sporks and foons work?

Diana said...

Carol -- oh how I can empathize with you. Let me know how that "telling the rabbits the rules to co-existence" method works out for you! I blocked off some areas that were breached and haven't seen any signs of them in a month. (of course, now that I've typed that I have jinxed myself!) good luck!

Pam/Digging said...

I suggest that you chase down the ones already in your garden with a hoe and a watering can, a la Mr. McGregor. What a cute image!

What about attaching wire to the bottom of your fences? I suppose you'd have to bury it several inches though, eh? Sigh. They sound as troublesome as deer.

Susan said...

re your green beans being eaten: when I grew bush beans, every one of them was eaten by rabbits. When I switched to the local variety, Mountain Half Runners, not a single bean was so much as nibbled in three years. Unfortunately I haven't yet figured out what kind of beet or sweet potato they don't like so I still fence off those sections of the beds.

Sherry at the Zoo said...

Carol....when will you listen to your baby sister? YOU NEED A CAT! We have NO problem with little critters around our garden (of course a St. Bernard and an Aussie wrestling in the middle of a garden bed causes significantly more damage than those cute little rabbits!)

BTW....we've been unable to find the sweet, adorable, cuddly, half-grown kitten's family, so he's all yours. When can you pick him up? I think rabbit is on his menu......

inadvertent farmer said...

I hope the freeloaders listen up and move on. I am in the migratory path of a large herd of elk and unfortunatley only high voltage elictricty seems to do the trick for them! Kim