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Most vegetable gardeners name rabbits as a top pest. The little long-eared mammals can cause great damage to young gardens in particular. There are numerous ways to keep these garden pests out of, or at least control the damage they cause to, the precious vegetables in a home garden.
It is important to note that rabbits have particular tastes when it comes to vegetables. They will usually attack peas, beans, beets, lettuce, mustard, spinach, chard, any small young plant since they have tender leaves. In general they will not touch corn, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, or potatoes. In a garden full of their most tasty draws, it is a necessity to take measures to avoid their little nibbles.
The most effective form of protection is a two foot(.61 meter) high poultry wire fence. It should be buried at least 2 inches (5 cm) or put as close to the ground as possible to keep the rabbits from digging under the fence. The mesh should be 1-2 inch (2.5-5.0 cm) width at the most, with a fence post placed every 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 meters).
Other natural deterrents are fox or coyote urine, dried blood, or human hair. These should be placed around the fence. The idea with these items is that the rabbits will smell them and sense danger, causing them to retreat. The urine and blood can be purchased at most stores that sell hunting equipment, while most salons are willing to turn over their garbage hair to those who ask.
Some home made deterrents include vinegar, hot pepper flakes, or liquid chile sprayed on the plants. When using liquid chile, the recommended dilution is 1 tbsp (14 ml) per gallon (3.8 liters). These remedies have had mixed reviews as to their effectiveness, so they are best combined with other proven methods. Moth balls used to be recommended, but have since been pulled from just about every list because of their toxicity.
Some gardeners choose to use traps to catch and release wild rabbits. Trapping should be set up close to the garden area with tasty bait like apples, carrots, and cabbage. Once the rabbit is caught, it should be released in a rural areas where they also won't bother others gardeners.
There are other logistical ways to deter rabbits as well. Motion detection sprinklers can activate when they are close and scare them away. Rabbits are not good climbers, so raised beds can be a great way to keep them from a gardeners most prized vegetables. A bed raised 18 inches (.45 meters) is enough to keep them away, while adding a surrounding cage of poultry wire will compound the effect.
The final way to deter rabbits from a vegetable garden is with strategic planting. Since rabbits find onions particularly unappealing, trick them by planting a double row of them inside the fencing. Encircle the plants they like best with plants they don't like. Clover can also be planted in a garden since it is one of their favorites and they will most likely take it over the vegetables.
The best way to keep rabbits out of a garden is an all-of-the-above approach. Fencing is a must and add in other protection as desired. If one deterrent does not seem to help, try another. With some trial and error, any gardener can do a good job of protecting their vegetables.
The introduction of rabbits to places like New Zealand and Australia was a real mistake and people are still paying for it now.
While farmers will often shoot rabbits to keep their numbers down, you have to be careful if you want to use them for food, for people or animals. Diseases have been released to try to control rabbit numbers and it could be dangerous to do anything with a rabbit carcass, as it might be infected.
I find one of the best ways of keeping rabbits out of my garden is to let my dog wander around it. Gives my dog some exercise, and scares the rabbits away, but she hardly ever gets near them.
Of course, when she is having a lazy day, I have to rely on the fence, which doesn't always work.
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