Stop the Rabbit Raiders!

Fork_Beans
Image courtesy of http://www.maydreamsgardens.com/2014/05/i-forked-my-beans-to-keep-rabbits-away.html

 

After visiting the garden (and the explosive number of cute, fluffy, pesky, pea-snatching inhabitants…RABBITS!) over the past couple of weeks and hearing various voiced concerns about the rabbits and their handy work in the garden, I’ve started to do some research into some alternative solutions to keep the gardens undisturbed by our “new tenants” while keeping the garden and community association inviting to community members and visitors.

As well as initiating contact with other Calgary community association gardens and the Horticultural Society for some of their own tips for the trade, below are some methods to consider practicing before continuing to consider rabbit relocation or the construction of a permanent structure around the circles of the beds.

Repellents

If there are plenty of other food choices available, rabbits may be deterred from eating a particular crop by spraying it with granular repellents, garlic clips or fish emulsion. But if they’ve already grown fond of the crop (who doesn’t like fresh peas!), or there is nothing else tempting nearby, repellents may not be effective. That said, repellent sprays can at the very least be used to break a feeding cycle and give young plants enough growing time to get ahead of the rabbits. It’s key to remember that most repellents to need to be reapplied every few days, and after rainfalls.

There are also multiple electronic pest control products on the market, but we would suggest our neighbours and community members to reconsider using these devices within the community garden as this can also deter bats, some birds, and visiting pets. We often have neighbourhood dogs on their daily stroll in the park with their humans, and an undetectable frequency for humans would be enough to send a dog into distress!

 Natural Repellents

Strong scents and barriers can deter and trick rabbits into thinking the plants are inedible, predators are nearby, or make it difficult for them to access the plants.

  • Blood meal, cayenne pepper, or dog/human hair around plants.
  • Spray plants with a solution of hot sauce and water or vinegar. Be sure to reapply after each rainfall.
  • Crushed eggshells – when scattered around plants, they will be sharp and unwelcoming to critters that crawl into the beds. The calcium from the eggshells will also provide nutrients for your garden.

Plants

There are both annual and perennial plant options for warding off rabbits. Most fragrant plants will help to deter rabbits such as lavender, cat nip, garlic cloves, daylily, and bellflower to name a few.

  • Annuals: goat weed and verbena.
  • Perennials: Echinacea or coneflower (zones 3 to 8), columbine (deters rabbits and attracts hummingbirds, zones 4 to 7), and honeysuckle.
  • Ground Cover: Big periwinkle (aka Vinca major) is a flowering evergreen groundcover and thrives in almost all soil conditions.
  • Shrubs:
  • Trees: Alder and birch.

Eliminate Cover

Rabbits inhabit areas with tall grass, debris and excessive plant growth that provide them with shelter and protection from elements and predators. Eliminating these elements will help the garden to become an unsuitable environment for rabbits by taking away their opportunity to hide.

  • Mow grass and rake fallen leaves often.
  • Pull weeds to prevent overgrowth.
  • Trim back excessive vegetation.
  • Clean or eliminate piles of debris, brush and wood.
  • Fill in any abandoned burrows with gravel as these are often taken over by rabbits in cold or wet weather.

Stay tuned for more helpful tips from our neighbouring Calgary community associations and the Horticultural Society!

Nicole MacDougall

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