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 underbrush 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 where 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 shortlist of plants rabbits avoid.
Lily of the Valley
Monk’s Hood (Aconitum)
Rose of Sharon