Who is that nibblin at our greens? It might be a New England Cottontail – the only rabbit
New England Cottontail vs Eastern Cottontail
native to New England – but it’s probably an Eastern Cottontail (brought to New England for hunting purposes).
If it is indeed a New England Cottontail, we should probably make friends with it. They’re much rarer than the Eastern, and in the spirit of preserving biological diversity, we should let them live happily. BUT if it’s an Eastern, I say we bust out the figurative guns and defend our produce!
How do we know if we have rabbits sharing our garden?
1. You see a rabbit in the area.
2. You find rabbits living in a raised bed (true story).
3. You find circular scat about 1/2-inch in diameter in the area.
Deer and rabbit scat comparison
4. You find tracks!
Cottontail rabbit tracks
So now for an exercise in the hypothetical:
Lalala just watering the garden… OH MY GOODNESS A NEST OF RABBITS IN THE RAISED BED! WHAT DO I DO?
Well first of all, that means we failed to prevent them from getting in the garden. The best way to keep them away is to never let them in, so fine mesh fencing such as chicken wire laced along the bottom of the fence is a simple, basic, and cheap solution. Sometimes rabbits get desperate/clever and will dig under, so in an ideal world where we have a lot of manpower to dig a trench, we would sink the chicken wire in half a foot or so to keep them waskelie wabbits from sneaking past our first line of defense.
But now you’ve stumble across their home! The brash little buggers are living IN OUR GARDEN! Well, now that you’ve discovered them (let them know you discovered them by clearing out the nest overgrowth and letting them see your teeth… I’m serious…), they’ll probably flee that nest and take up residence nearby. But check on it throughout to make sure they’re gone from that nest.
Now, hopefully they’ve made a nest outside the garden perimeter. Throw up that chicken wire! Or pile rocks a foot high along the fence. But they still might find a way back in… since they’ve taste the forbidden fruit, they can’t resist…
Try some of these suggestions from www.ghorganics.com (more suggestions on the site):
1. Sprinkle or hang cheesecloth bags of bloodmeal around plants. If sprinkled it must be redone after rain.
2. Vinegar: Soak corn cobs (cut in half) left over from a meal in vinegar for 5 minutes, then scatter throughout the flower or vegetable garden. Two weeks later soak them again in the same vinegar. You can keep reusing this same vinegar again and again.
3. Soybean plants will repel rabbits or some say they attract them.
4. Onions will repel them. So will bonemeal.
5. Use red pepper, black pepper, cayenne, paprika etc. as a dust to repel. Rabbits are always sniffing so they snort this up and it sends them packing.
Mexican marigolds! Also edible!
6. Plant “Mexican Marigolds” (Tagetes Minuta) and garlic in the garden to repel them.
7. Try planting some crops that rabbits will eat instead with, we hope, the intention of deterring them from your other garden crops. Try annual crimson red clover, planted as a
strip border around the garden. Now even if it is not successful as a distraction the clover will up the nitrogen content of your soil. Soybeans are said to be good munchies for bunnies but some say they act as a repellant.
ifplantscouldtalk.rutgers.edu also has information on plants that are known to repel rabbits:
Annuals such as Ageratum, Campanula, Impatiens, Forget Me Nots, Scabiosa and Cineraria;
Perennials such as Achilleaa(Yarrow), Amaryllus, Aqualegia(Coral Bells), Artemesia, Aster, Tuberous Begonia, Campanula, Cyclamen, Dahlia, Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), Digitalis (Foxglove), Echinacea (Coneflower), Ferns, Gaillardia, Hemerocallis (Daylilly) Iris, Monarda (Bee Balm) and Verbena.
Groundcovers such as Bougainvillea, Hedera (English Ivy) Lantana, Pachysandra, Solanum (Potato Vine) and Vinca
Shrubs and Herbs include Buddlea( Butterfly Bush), Boxwood, Camellias, Holly, Juniper, Lantana, Lavender, Rhododendron, Rosemary, Salvia, Mexican Sage, Lilac, and Viburnum
These are things we could plant around the edge of the garden to not only act as deterrents but also perhaps to attract some butterflies and bees too!
And finally, if you happen to have a rabbit problem at home and someone in the area is into small game hunting – we don’t recommend trapping because rabbits carry diseases – here’s a recipe for rabbit stew from the Food Network:
- 3 pounds rabbit, cut into stew sized pieces
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 2 cups diced carrots
- 2 onions, finely diced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 cups water
- 4 cups red wine
- 4 medium-sized potatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup sliced sauteed mushrooms
Using half the flour (3/4 cup) coat the pieces of rabbit, shaking off any excess. Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, and brown the floured rabbit on all sides. Add the celery, carrots, onions, salt, pepper, bay leaves, 6 cups water and red wine, and stew for about 2 hours. Add the potatoes 45 minutes into the stewing process. Once the rabbit and all the vegetables are cooked, use some water to form a paste with the remaining 3/4 cup flour. Stir the flour mixture into the pot as a thickener. Add the already sauteed mushrooms to the stew and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings, if necessary, and serve.