What a difference a month makes! Green is the predominant color nowadays, with pepperings of vivid floral hues. Unfortunately, there are more brown patches in my raised beds than I would like there to be, and the culprit? Good ole’ Peter Cottontail et. al. It seems every year I find a new and interesting challenge for our tiny backyard. Withering heat, a swarm of yellow jackets, and cabbage worms to name a few. This year? A more adorable, though equally exasperating critter has taken a shining to what I so lovingly have planted so far.
When I first noticed all of my beautiful little spinach babies seemed to be headless, and the kale no longer more than a nub, I realized perhaps we had a visitor. My husband confirmed this the following night by remarking that there was a rabbit in the backyard. Oh boy. Potentially one of the cutest garden criminals this side of the Blue Ridge. We determined there were no holes in the back or side fences, but more that they could squish their agile bodies in between the planks in the fence itself. Not ideal. Obviously we do not wish our furry thieves harm, and plan not to hurt them in any way (aside from depriving them of some sweet sweet leafy greens), but the problem led me on a research trip through the internet for advice.
The first suggestion is a concoction of water, dish soap, garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. You fill a gallon milk jug with water and add to it about five garlic cloves, a tablespoon of red pepper flakes and a teaspoon of dish soap. Let it soak for a few days in the sun and spray at anything you wish to repel rabbits from. I have not tried this method, however, a neighbor and fellow garden enthusiast said she had tried that idea with some cheeky squirrels in her container garden a few years back to no success. The desire to eat something fresh and green overruled any potential icky initial tastes. There are commercially made, organic rabbit repellents on the market in varying scents seemingly unpopular with the big-footed rodents that may be worth a gander as well. If anything, perhaps it could deter them enough to provide time for the plants to regrow. Just keep in mind when it rains and re-spray often.
Second, and perhaps more obviously, is to put up a fence or cover the plants with mini chicken wire cages. The nice thing about rabbits is that they aren’t super agile climbers, so the fence around the garden need not be six feet tall and impossible for you to access as well. You can construct something from chicken wire and scrap wood that should do the trick, or if you are less inclined to take the DIY route, most hardware stores and garden centers will offer pre-made, easy-install solutions. Whatever you choose if you go this route, remember that you want to keep rabbits out but perhaps not yourself! Lettuce, kale, and cabbage can’t adorn your dinner table if you can’t reach them!
Finally, the method I plan to try next, is a more off-beat concept: a fake snake! The same gardening enthusiast neighbor’s neighbor found success in the inflatable snake she weaved through her lettuce patch one summer and has been using it since. A quick search on the internet brings back several different species and sizes of snake to try, however I imagine a realistic rubber snake might do the trick as well. Rabbits are not one to mess with their scaly neighbors, and the sight of one writhing through the garden bed may just be enough to spook them into vacating the yard entirely. Obviously if you have a particularly intelligent group of rabbits in your neighborhood, this may work once or twice and then no longer so perhaps have a few other methods to use in conjunction with this one. I am trying to decide if I want to go the inflatable or rubber route myself!
While I have not had success with this endeavor yet, I am hoping to report back in July with success stories about my luscious spinach and kale plants providing me fresh salad greens daily. I will track what I have tried and whether or not it was successful. Perhaps you will hear from a triumphant amateur gardener, or perhaps you will instead find a humbled and greenless lady with a plump and happy rabbit.