Rabbits in the garden? Oh no! Yes, rabbits can be a very detrimental pest in any garden, whether growing vegetables, cut flowers, or fruit. I deal with the problems associated with rabbits every season, and spring and winter the most. Keeping them out of the garden is not easy, and many of the things most recommended by garden centers have limited success.
While it is certainly possible to grow plants that deter rabbits from the garden, they may just move around them to others. Different deterrents have limited use, and fencing must be just right to work. Sometimes, scare tactics and animals are the best deterrents. But we will discuss all the options and their successes below.
Planting to Deter Rabbits
While it is unlikely that any of you would be willing to sacrifice your most beloved plants just to keep rabbits away, there may be one or two gardeners who see it as a challenge to grow only plants that rabbits detest. Planting these around the garden may or may not deter them from entering and devouring your prize cabbages, or eating the canes of your heirloom roses.
Plants that Rabbits Detest
There are a variety of rabbit-proof plants with aromatic leaves, or oils in the leaves, which grow well in the garden and may work to deter them. Some of them I use extensively in the garden. What plants can you think of that have strong odors or tastes, which you would not prefer to eat? Members of the mint family are some. Also, members of the onion or garlic family are others. And, some plants with hairy or spiky leaves or thorns (though roses and blackberries are not immune).
Mint Family Plants
Many of the plants in the Mint Family (Laminaceae) have strong smells and tastes which rabbits leave alone.
- Mountain mints (Pycnanthemum species)
- Bee balms (Monarda species)
- Catmint (Nepeta species)
- Hummingbird Mint (Agastache species)
Garlic Family Plants
Plants in this family propagate mainly from bulbs or cloves, and include such plants as amaryllis, garlic, and onions.
- Ornamental onions
- Chives and Garlic chives
- Walking onions
Other Plants that Rabbits Usually Avoid
- Red hot poker (Kniphofia)
- Spurges (Euphorbias)
- Barrenwort (Epimedium species)
- Silver Mound
- Lenten Rose
- Wild gingers (Asarum species)
Fencing the Garden
This may not sound like the best fix to keep rabbits at bay, but it is. But it has to be done right. I have seen full grown rabbits squeezing through 2 inch by 4 inch welded-wire fencing, as well as chain link. And rabbits can dig under a lot fences too. If you want your garden to be pretty as well as functional, you can use your picket fencing, but you need underground and attached chicken-wire or hardware cloth too.
Depending on what kind of fencing you desire, adding in fence with hole sizes smaller than 1 inch should not be imprtactical. Currently, I have chain-link around the bulk of my garden, separating it from the brush pile and pastures, where the rabbits hang out. I also have chicken-wire with 3/4 inch holes that runs 2 feet up the chain link and 8 inches into the ground. Also, using fieldstones or boulders along the fences keep both rabbits and predators from digging their way under.
If you would rather use another type of barrier than fencing around the garden, try stone or block walls. Even brick walled gardens at least 3 feet high will keep rabbits from your veggies and flowers. Stone walls should be kept free of holes or gaps bigger than 1 inch to keep pesky varmints out.
Scare Tactics and Animals
What do I mean by scare tactics? Anything such as noises, lights, water, or fake animals which may deter or scare off rabbits from the garden. One of the problems with using some of these, is that you have to move them around to be successful. Though that may be better than having to build a wall or fencing. The most common way to scare rabbits away from the garden is with fake owls, snakes, or raptors. Because these are natural predators of rabbits, they do a decent job of keeping them away. When used in conjunction with sounds, they make very good deterrents.
However, using fake birds or snakes causes more work for you. You have to move them at least 2 times a week to make it convincing for the rabbit. Otherwise, they will soon find out that your owl with the glass eyes is fake. There are decoys now which either rotate their heads, rotate on swivels, or move kinetically with wind, making them more realistic and better for scaring away pests.
Another problem arises though if your garden has taller plants scattered throughout the space. If you use a decoy, you may need several to keep animals at bay.
That last choice for preventing rabbits from damaging plants in your garden is repellents. Now, I have had no luck with repellents. Not that I used them for rabbits though. I used some all-animal repellents for cat problems in my front garden, and nothing worked. Most of the formulations have varying amounts of irritants or oils of clove, garlic, thyme, or peppermint in them. I even tried a mixture of habanero and cayenne powders, which worked partly.
Maybe you have had good results from repellents. If so, keep using them, do not let me deter you. I just know they do not work for everyone in every situation.
Scaring away rabbits from the garden can be a tricky time. The best ways to keep them and other animals from the garden is either a low wall or fence, but this can be a problem for gardeners who live in HOAs or have strict building permit requirements. But, in the long run, having a way to keep pesky rabbits from the garden may make the difference between a good crop or a poor one.