With apologies to Bugs, Peter and Thumper, rabbits are real pests in the garden. Parts of the Denver metro area are inundated with them, while others are not – at least yet. I’ve been seeing them in my central Denver neighborhood for the last few years. They reliably devour my lettuce each spring and feast on Goldstrum Rudbeckia in August.
If you’re not sure if rabbits are the culprits to your plant damage, look for clean, 45 degree angle cuts, mowed down seemingly overnight. Damage is usually up to 24″ high and most often on tender new growth.
While a hungry rabbit will eat many plants, in the vegetable garden they prefer young tender shoots of lettuce, beans, squash and broccoli. They also love to munch on many ornamentals such as black-eyed susans, pansies, marigolds, petunias, gazania and ornamental grasses.
Nothing will completely deter a brazen bunny, but a combination of the following practices may curb their ways.
Fencing – Erect 3′ high barriers with chicken wire with 1″ mesh openings around your garden plots. Rabbits love to burrow, so be sure to bury the fencing 6″ deep.
Plants – Colorado State University reports that sedum, foxglove, iris, lambs ear, red hot poker, yarrow, yucca, apache plume and blue mist spirea are somewhat rabbit resistant. Rabbits’ taste buds vary just as ours do, so no plant is 100% off-limits.
Predators – Wildlife such as foxes, coyotes, hawks, adult owls and rattlesnakes will send rabbits packing. So will your cat or dog, who will get the added benefit of a good workout from chasing bunnies.
Repellents – Products containing capsaicin (pepper extract) , castor oil, ammonium salts or predator urine can be effective when sprayed to a height of 3 feet and reapplied after heavy rains or watering. Some newer eco-safe sprays deter rabbits and deer, are less effected by moisture and emit a long-lasting scent (undetectable by humans) which repel rabbits. These are not recommended for edible plants.
Winter Care – Rabbits feast on our landscape in the winter by chewing on woody shrubs and the bark of your trees (fruit trees are a favorite). Protect these plants with fencing. Also remove thick underbrush and tall weeds and grasses which create comfy winter shelter. Seal up openings around decks, sheds and crawl spaces, too. By removing an inviting resting place, rabbits are encouraged to seek shelter elsewhere.
Have you had success in preventing rabbit damage?
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Written by Linda McDonnell, Denver County Master Gardener