Aside from the erratic temperatures May and June bring, perhaps nothing says summer is coming to Boston like the appearance of the eastern cottontail rabbit. The first few bunny sightings of the season may have you fawning over their cuteness, but that feeling of adoration often gives way to dread once you realize how much damage these cute creatures can do to your landscape. These voracious herbivores have long been the bane of many vegetable gardeners’ existence, but their appetites are certainly not limited to “people food.” The list of things rabbits are known to eat is exhaustive and includes almost all varieties of grasses, flowers, twigs, and buds. In short, if you grow anything at all in your yard or garden, odds are good the eastern cottontail can and will make a meal out of it.
If you want to enjoy your outdoor space without fear of it being destroyed, you are likely to be in need of some rabbit-proofing solutions. Unfortunately, no method is completely guaranteed to keep rabbits away, but it is certainly possible to create an environment that is less inviting to them.
The most effective ways to reduce the number of rabbits that visit your yard is to create a physical barrier. Many gardeners have great success using chicken wire to section off areas, but if aesthetics are of utmost importance this is, admittedly, not the best option. However, installing a metal or wood fence is a great alternative, depending on the amount of space and budget you have to work with. The key is to make sure your fence is deeply anchored into the ground in order to prevent the rabbits from being able to crawl underneath. You will also need to make sure your barrier, whatever you choose, is at least three feet high, as it is believed wild rabbits can easily jump about two feet.
If creating a physical barrier is not an option, there are countless other methods that may prove helpful. Natural rabbit repellent, both homemade and commercially available, may be an easy fix. A few DIY options include sprinkling cayenne pepper around the perimeter of your garden; soaking rags in ammonia and placing them discreetly behind planters and other out-of-view locations; or combining a mixture of garlic, red pepper flakes, dish soap, and water into a spray bottle and frequently spraying the area you hope to protect. You can also purchase ready-made repellent and ultrasonic deterrents from most hardware and lawn and garden stores. Some people even claim to have success by filling their yard with plants rabbits tend to avoid- snapdragons, salvia, and geraniums, to name a few- although, of all the options available, this may be the least effective as hungry rabbits aren’t too picky.
Since there’s no way to control the ever-expanding rabbit population, the best solution is to try multiple options in hopes that your yard or garden becomes too much of a hassle for cottontails to bother with. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin, our team at Christie Dustman and Company can help you create barriers and choose plants that make for a rabbit un-friendly space. The good news is that whatever works for rabbits often works for other animals as well. With a little experimenting and perseverance, you’re likely to have your outdoor space all to yourself in no time.