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How to Rabbit Proof Your Garden

I have lots of rabbits in the area and they are feasting on our plants, especially the rose bushes. How can I keep the rabbits away from the plants without harming either the rabbits or the plants? Springfield, IL

Short of encircling your property with a rabbit proof fence, there is not much you can do to keep Peter Cottontail out of your garden. Instead of launching a losing battle, I advise you to create a garden that will suffer the least amount of damage when they pass through.

Rabbits are timid creatures that will not hang around where they do not feel safe. You can make your garden less attractive by clearing out areas where they can hide such as clumps of under brush or piles of wood. Create flower beds that are out in the open, away from tree lines and shrubbery.

Encircle the base of young trees with 1/4 inch hardware cloth to prevent rabbits from eating the bark. Hardware cloth is a metal mesh similar to chicken wire. This is important in winter when rabbits’ food supplies are scarce. Set the hardware cloth up about 1 foot away from the trunk of the tree and bury it 2 to 3 inches below the ground.

A rabbit will try anything once, especially when it comes to tender new growth. If you have an area were new plants are emerging, cover it with bird netting. Make sure the corners are securely fastened. This is especially useful in the vegetable garden.

A final consideration is to choose plants that are unappealing to rabbits. These include plants that are highly aromatic, prickly, leathery or poisonous. There is no guarantee that these plants will not get eaten, but just maybe your neighbor will have planted something more appetizing. Here is a short list of plants rabbits avoid.

Annuals

Perennials

Trees/Shrubs

Bulbs

Herbs

Ageratum
Angelonia
Coleus
Impatiens
Nicotiana
Osteospermum
Petunia
Sunflower
Toernia
Verbena
Agapanthus
Ajuga
Amsonia
Anemone
Artemisia
Astilbe
Bear’s Britches
Black-eyed Susan
Bleeding Heart
Clematis
Columbine
Crocosmia
Daylily
Euphorbia
Ferns
Foxlgove (bi-annual)
Hellebore
Heuchera
Hollyhock (bi-annual)
Honeysuckle
Hosta
Iris
Lady’s Mantle
Lamb’s Ear
Lamium
Leucanthemum
Leucojum
Lily of the Valley
Liriope
Miscanthus
Monk’s Hood (Aconitum)
Penstemon
Peony
Rhubarb
Sea Holly
Sedum
Toad Lily
Aucuba
Azalea
Bottle Brush
Boxwood
Butterfly Bush
Dogwood
Elaeagnus
Eucalyptus
Hydrangea
Lilac
Mock Orange
Rose of Sharon
Sambuca
Allium
Bluebells
Daffodil
Dahlia
Muscari
Catnip
Dill
Lavender
Mint
Rosemary
Sage