Guide to Rabbit-Resistant Landscaping

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Wild rabbit in the grass eating clover

Having a backyard filled with cute, fluffy rabbits hopping around might sound like a scene out of a Disney movie, but you won’t be smiling when you see what they’ve done to your garden.

Rabbits might be fun to watch, but they love eating your fresh veggies just as much as you do. 

Work smarter than Elmer Fudd and you’ll get your Bugs Bunny to stop nibbling on your garden in no time. Read on to learn the best ways to rabbit-proof your garden and backyard. 

How to rabbit-proof your backyard

Barricade your plants

Don’t let pesky rabbits reap the rewards from your hours laboring in the garden. Barricade your garden from rabbits using chicken wire, plant cages, or similar fencing materials. 

What kind of fence should I use?

Chicken wire is the most affordable garden fencing option. The netting of the chicken wire mesh should be 1 inch or smaller.

  • If you’re dealing with cottontail rabbits, you’ll need to install a fence that’s at least 2 feet high. 
  • If you’re trying to keep jackrabbits out, it will need to be at least 3 feet high. 
  • Get an even higher fence if you’re also trying to make your garden deer-resistant. A deer-resistant fence should be at least 7 feet high. 

Install the fence at least 6 inches into the ground, otherwise, rabbits can dig under and begin to feast. If you’re also battling groundhogs, make sure to bury the fence 12 inches into the ground at an L shape to prevent the groundhogs from digging under.

If you don’t want to use chicken wire, electric fences are also an option. The most expensive option is hardware cloth, but this is the best long-term option since it’s more durable than chicken wire or an electric fence. 

For extra defense, use floating row covers at night.

When to use a plant cage:

When your plants are just beginning to sprout out of the ground is when they’re most vulnerable to rabbits. Use plant cages or wire baskets to cover the plants until they either grow out of the size of the cage or they’re big enough to survive a night of rabbit munchies. 

How to protect large shrubs and trees: 

If you’re finding scraps of bark around your bushes or trees, it likely means a bunny has been snacking away at their trunks. When a rabbit makes its way around the tree removing all of the bark it’s called girdling, and it can kill your tree.

Keep rabbits away from your trees with trunk protectors. You also can protect tree and shrub trunks by wrapping them with foil or burlap. If this doesn’t suit the shape of your shrubs, you’ll need to barricade them with chicken wire or another type of fencing. 

Buy rabbit repellent

Rabbit repellent is a spray, liquid, or container of granules made of organic material  — such as rotten eggs, predator blood or urine, and garlic — that smells bad to rabbits and deters them from certain areas of your yard. 

  • Repellent spray is the most convenient method. Simply spray near areas where rabbits frequent, or other areas of your yard that you want to keep them away from.
  • Repellent liquid needs to be mixed and put into a sprayer, but it covers more ground and is a better value than the other easy-apply repellents. 
  • Repellent granules usually come in easy-apply shaker containers and hold up against wet weather. 

Pro Tip: Rabbit repellent is non-toxic, but you avoid spraying it on plants you’re planning to eat unless you enjoy the taste of rotten eggs. 

Prevent rabbit nesting

You don’t want your rabbit problem to get any worse, so prevent wild rabbits from growing in numbers by removing potential nesting areas from your backyard.

Where to look for rabbit nests:

Rabbits like to nest in areas that are overgrown and grassy, so be sure to keep up with your mowing and weeding chores. They also will seek comfort in piles of leaves and under bushes. 

Keep your lawn free of debris, and get some rabbit repellent (or use home remedies) to keep them out of your bushes. 

What to do if you find a rabbit nest:

If you find a nesting mother with her bunnies, do not attempt to remove them. Leave them alone or contact your local animal control center to figure out the next steps for their safe removal.

Grow rabbit-repelling plants

Rabbits might enjoy many of the same vegetables we do, but they won’t love everything growing in your garden. Rabbits have a strong sense of smell, which enables them to find food they like as well as avoid pungent smells and food they don’t like.

If rabbits are destroying your garden, consider planting plants that rabbits don’t like to eat instead. Or, surround your garden with rabbit-repelling plants to deter them from entering your garden in the first place. 

Here are a few plants that rabbits don’t like to eat: 

VEGETABLES
Onions
Leeks
Asparagus
Rhubarb
Corn
Garlic
Potatoes
Summer squash
Zucchini
Tomatoes
FLOWERS
Marigolds
Columbine
Daffodil
Periwinkle
Lantana
Geranium
Strawflower
Snapdragon
HERBS
Mint
Oregano
Lavender
Bee balm
Sage
Spicy globe basil
Christmas basil
Lemon balm
Catnip
Yarrow

Use your senses

Wild rabbits are easily startled, especially by sudden sights and sounds. You can strategically place visual or aural deterrents in your yard to scare wild bunnies away from your garden’s gates.

Rabbits are most scared of their common predators — owls, hawks, eagles, wild dogs, feral cats, and snakes — so keep that in mind when planning which deterrents to use in your yard. 

Common visual deterrents include:

  • Metal pinwheels
  • Rubber snakes
  • Owl statues
  • Mirrors and reflective material

Common aural deterrents include:

Motion-activated sprinklers also can send bunnies hopping away from your home. 

Pro Tip: Move the visual deterrents frequently to different areas of your yard or garden. This will prevent the rabbits from getting used to their locations. 

Adopt a garden protector

Rabbits don’t want to be anywhere near a potential predator, including our fluffy little companions — dogs and cats. Having a cat or dog roaming around in your yard will deter the boldest of pests, especially jumpy rabbits. 

If you don’t want to let your indoor cats outside, collect their shedding fur and use that to deter the rabbits. Stuff a bag with cat (or dog) hair, then place it where the rabbits have been hanging out. The scent of a potential predator will do enough to scare them away from your growing carrots. 

If you don’t have any cats or dogs, you can stop by a local groomer to request some of their leftover fur. 

Try home remedies

Gardeners have invented plenty of home remedies to deter rabbits from munching away at their garden and flower beds.

While home remedies might not be as effective as other methods, they are great for keeping rabbits at bay if you don’t have the time or budget for a more permanent solution. 

Common home remedies for a rabbit-resistant landscape:

  • Red pepper — sprinkle around the garden; also will keep cats and squirrels away
  • Black pepper — sprinkle around the garden; also will keep ants away
  • Cayenne pepper — sprinkle around the garden; keeps most garden pests and bugs away
  • Garlic powder — sprinkle around the garden; also will keep deer, moles, and mice away.
  • Talcum (baby) powder — dust your plants with plain talcum powder
  • Irish Spring soap — place shavings in drawstring bags around the garden
  • Used coffee grounds — place in areas of your yard to deter rabbits; do not place in garden soil because coffee grounds are too acidic for most plants to handle
  • Banana peels — place around your garden; your plants will thank you for the protection and extra potassium boost
  • Eggshells — crush and sprinkle around the garden; your plants will be grateful for the added calcium

You also can make an organic rabbit repellent to keep them at bay. Create a spicy homemade spray:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of water
  • ¼ cup of ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap
  • One egg white

Directions:

  • Blend the ingredients together until thoroughly combined
  • Strain through a cheesecloth
  • Pour into a sprayer
  • Let it sit for 12 hours
  • Spray in areas of your yard you want to keep rabbits away from

Do not use: 

  • Mothballs: Mothballs are considered a pesticide. Chemicals in mothballs are highly toxic, will damage the environment, and can even harm the plants you’re trying to protect. Never place mothballs around plants you’re intending to eat.

Rabbit-resistant plants

Here are some of the most common rabbit-resistant and rabbit-repellent plants.

TREES
Ash
Eastern redbud
Hawthorn
Magnolia
Maidenhair

GROUND COVERS
Catmint
Creeping myrtle
Lily-of-the-valley
Virginia creeper
Wisteria
BUSHES and SHRUBS
Blue star juniper
Boxwood
Butterfly bush
Caryopteris
Coralberry
Holly
Lantana
Lilac
PERENNIALS
Columbine
Coreopsis
Daylily
Delphinium
Milkweed
Salvia
Lamb’s ear
ANNUALS
Floss flower
Geranium
Pot marigold
Sweet alyssum
Wax begonias
Vinca
VEGETABLES
Asparagus
Corn
Garlic
Leeks
Onions
Potatoes
Rhubarb
Summer squash
Tomatoes
Zucchini
HERBS
Bee balm
Catnip
Lavender
Lemon balm
Mint
Oregano
Rosemary
Sage
Thyme
Yarrow

What to know about wild rabbits

Appearance:

Cottontail rabbits live across the United States and are the most common type of rabbit you might find in your backyard. Chances are the fluffy pest that’s been chewing up your flowers is an eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus), which ranges from the Northeast to Colorado and south to Mexico. 

They are typically brown or gray in color, with short fur, a cotton ball tail, and big floppy ears. They are 2-4 pounds, and up to around 19 inches long. They have a powerful sense of smell, which is why so many of their deterrents are scent-based.

Dietary patterns: 

Rabbits are active year-round. They like to eat flowers and vegetables in the spring and summer and will gnaw the bark off of shrubs and trees in the fall and winter. 

To tell rabbit damage apart from other pesky critters, investigate the crime scene. Is the damage clean-cut or jagged? Leaves or stems with jagged edges indicate that another creature was munching on the plant, whereas clean-cut damage is a good sign that the culprit is a rabbit. 

Reproduction:

One female rabbit can have up to 12 litters in one year but usually only have three or four. In each litter, a rabbit can have one to 12 bunnies, but wild rabbits usually give birth to four or five bunnies per litter. Rabbits have a gestation period of 29 days.

FAQ about rabbits in your yard

1. How do I know if I have a rabbit problem?

Signs you have a rabbit problem:
You’ve found pea-sized droppings in your yard
Your plants look like they’ve been pruned
Your trees and bushes look like they’ve been gnawed
You find small holes dug into the ground
You find tufts of rabbit hair around your yard
Plants you recently planted mysteriously disappeared

2. What plants attract rabbits?

Common plants that attract rabbits include:

DECORATIVE
–Aster
–Bearded iris
–Black-eyed Susan
–Clover
–Penstemon
–Doublefile viburnum
–Germander
–Morning glory
–Pansy
–Petunia
–Tree peony
–Tulips
–Zinnias

EDIBLE
–Apples
–Beans
–Beets
–Berries
–Broccoli
–Carrots
–Grape
–Pear
–Peppers
–Lettuce
–Spinach

3. Is there a way to coexist with wild rabbits?

Do you enjoy watching wild bunnies hop around your yard, but aren’t wild about them nibbling the veggies in your garden? 

Rabbit-proof your garden with the methods mentioned above, then dedicate a special spot of your yard far away from the garden (and ideally near the woods) to be a rabbit-friendly zone. Plant native plants, clover, flowers, herbs, and vegetables that rabbits find irresistible in this zone designed just for them. 

Wild rabbits will feast on this patch of your yard instead of munching on the prize-winning veggies growing in your garden. Depending on what you plant, you may even attract pollinators such as honeybees and hummingbirds. 

With a rabbit-friendly area, you can still enjoy watching your Bugs Bunny from afar without having to deal with his antics. 

Are you constantly on the go like the Energizer Bunny? Hire a Lawn Love expert to help with all your lawn care and rabbit-resistant landscaping needs. 

Main Photo Credit: Pixabay

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