At the Extension office, we receive many calls from agitated gardeners on how to control pests in the landscape.
Recently, while admiring the handiwork of our Master Gardener volunteers out my office window, I noticed one such critter making himself right at home in our demo garden. The culprit — a rabbit!
Rabbits can do considerable damage. For the most effective control, a variety of methods should be tried, including habitat modification, fencing, trapping, chemical repellents and the use of “rabbit-resistant” plants.
Keeping a tidy garden is a good start. Remove any dense, heavy vegetative cover, brush piles, weed patches and stone piles adjacent to the landscape to eliminate rabbit habitat. Fencing made from chicken wire, with mesh less than 1 inch, can be placed around a vegetable garden or herbaceous plant border. The fence must be at least 2 feet high with the bottom buried at least 3 inches deep.
You can also use cylinders of 1/4-inch wire hardware cloth extending higher than a rabbit’s reach by placing them around the trunks of individual trees and shrubs. Bury the bottom of the cylinders 2 inches to 3 inches below ground level and place them 1 inch to 2 inches from the trunk.
As for capturing these “furry fiends,” live traps are most effective in winter. If you want to try trapping now, bait your trap with corn cobs, oats or dried apples or pears. Smear peanut butter on the bait to make it more attractive. But if you catch one, you must be ready to relocate the live animal.
Chemical repellents, which take advantage of a rabbit’s keen sense of smell and taste, can discourage rabbit browsing. Try options such as dried blood meal, Liquid Fence, Mole-Stop, Repel, Hinder, Bonide rabbit-deer repellent and Deer-Skid. I have also heard of gardeners placing human hair and dryer sheets around the garden to repel rabbits.
While some of these products are labeled as wildlife repellents, others are “home remedies” so use at your own discretion. Before applying, test the safety and effectiveness of products on a small area of your garden first.
Finally, if nothing else seems to work, try selecting plants that are not as attractive a food source as some others. These include yarrow, artemesia, aster, astilbe, bellflower, foxglove, daylily, red hot poker, geranium, iris, daffodil, yucca, sedum, globe amaranth and bergenia.
However, just because you select plants that are “rabbit-resistant” doesn’t mean that you’ll never have rabbit trouble again. Unfortunately, rabbits, deer and other wildlife will often eat “resistant” plants during dry weather or if their food supply is somehow limited.
Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.