Hardiness Zone: 9a
Limner from Katy, TX
A: Dear Limner,
The most effective long-term way to control rabbits is to fence off individual plants or erect a small fence around the entire garden. Chicken wire is inexpensive and can be effective at keeping out other small critters, too. You said the rabbit you discovered is young. Since rabbits are such a prolific species, it's likely that there are other young brothers and sisters nearby.
Rabbits are sometimes difficult to live trap in the summer because of an abundance of available food. Try baiting your traps with fresh vegetables like carrots, lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprouts or apples. You might consider sprinkling a few drops of vanilla or apple cider around the trap to mask any residual human scent. Live trapping can be an effective short-term solution, but keep in mind that when you empty a habitat of one animal, another from the outer fringes tends to move in to take advantage of the opening near the food source. This is why residential hunting of squirrels in some parts of the country seldom works-at least not for long. Removing the "inner-city" squirrels only creates the competition for the "country" squirrels, which eventually migrate into the city to set up residence near the food supply.
Rabbits do eat tomatoes. I've caught them tearing down the low-hanging plum tomatoes and taking a small chunk out of each. I've also had similar activity in some of my jalapenos, though there weren't as many peppers taken down as tomatoes.
I've heard that squirrels do the same, but I have visual confirmation that in my garden, the vandals are rabbits.
Rabbits don't eat tomatoes. Mine like my lettuce bed. You may have tobacco or tomato hornworms. They ate chunks out of my tomatoes and are mostly green and blend in with the stems and leaves so much that I almost didn't see them except that they make a clicking noise if you disturb them, which I did while trying to remove the "chewed up" tomatoes. It did look like an animal had taken large bites out of them. They pretty much ruined the plant, but I let them stay so they wouldn't get into the other plants in neighboring locations. They don't stay very long and I didn't want chemicals on my plants, so I just left them alone and they disappeared within a week's time.
I have a degree in landscape horticulture. My husband and I just bought our own home last year and this year I installed close to 50 young new perennials, to discover the next morning more than half munched rt down to the ground. Here are some quick and easy humane ways to rid of rabbits (I had to go dust off some old notebooks from school!)
Fencing, and burying it 6-8" deep, but of course make sure you have the smaller holes, like an 1" or so, and that you have no seams, otherwise rabbits will outsmart you. (by digging the fencing 6-8" underground and using something such as chicken wire you will not only keep out rabbits but also moles).
The next several items should be done in the evening since rabbits are night feeders:
Trapping would work but if you do have a family of rabbits you are going to be making a habit of trapping constantly. Also, the rabbits will be munching on plants before they make their way to the traps. Rabbits also eat some of our weeds and do offer a balance to the environment. So I would recommend the following on each of the plants we want rabbit-proofed:
Human hair does work well and I had remembered this, so I decided it was time for my hubby to have a haircut. I stuffed hair in amongst the foliage and around the base of each plant. Only prob, blew away easily after a couple of days. But also understand it keeps other critters away such as deer, groundhogs, and poss even moles.
Bone meal or blood meal sprinkled around the base of the plants, it also adds extra nutrients to the soil. Don't work it into the soil though or it won't be as effective. May need to reapply weekly or so, and it doesn't look as nice to see the white (from the bone meal) if you have an attractive flower border.
Black pepper, if you mist your plants first, or after you water your garden, sprinkle black pepper on the damp leaves and around the base of the plants. I have found that more finely ground pepper works better. Needs to be redone after rain or watering. Neighbors might look at you funny out in the garden with your pepper shaker, but hey, they'll be moaning the next day when their gardens were dined on by rabbits. This method is also good at keeping other pests and insects away from plants, as well as the next method, especially for aphids and other plant eating insects.
Hot pepper concoction. In a blender, put one part tobasco sauce (the hotter the better), 3 parts water, and throw in a fresh garlic clove or two and a couple of drops of dawn or ivory dishsoap in a blender. Strain and put in a spray bottle and spray on plants. Needs to be redone after rain or watering. This is my preferred method, since I go out in the garden everyday anyhow, and this method also protects from so many other garden pests.
Another note: Rabbits don't normally eat tomatos, but groundhogs, and even a desparate raccoon would be more likely culprits. There are also several insects that could leave marks on a tomato similar to rabbits teeth, such as the Horned catipillar You may want to if it happens again take the alleged tomato to a respected and educated garden center or college extention center for it's culprits identification.
We used chicken wire as fencing...didn't even bury it in the ground...just strung it tight from one post to another. It kept out the groundhogs, rabbits and deer (mostly...'til they started jumping the fence).
Hair! Yes human hair has done the trick for me for years. After giving my children and husband hair cuts I spread the hair throughout the garden. This also keeps other pesty animals out of the garden. If you don't cut your family's hair you might ask your hair stylist to save it for you. No munching critters in my garden... can't say the same for my neighbors though. oh... don't eat wild animal meat this time of the year. Ticks are heavy this time of year and carry several very ugly diseases that they spread to animals. I myself don't hunt but know a lot of hunters who advise not to eat wild animal meat during tick season.
You can usually borrow a Hav-A-Heart trap from the humane society, animal control, or extension service. However, if you've got one young one, you've probably got the rest of the litter nearby. Some people bury chicken wire about a foot deep all around the fenceline so they can't dig under it. Don't know where you stand on animals, but rabbits make good eating, and meat is more expensive than tomatoes and such. Just be sure you wear gloves when you dress it out, and discard the liver if it shows any spots or un-liverish color. The rest of the meat will still be safe. Another trick is to have your husband urinate (after dark if you have neighbors) all around the fenceline. Good luck!
Blood or blood and bone meal scattered around the garden. they do not like the scent
can be purchased at a garden centre
It is a good fertilizer as well
I say a fence too. You can even buy cheap chicken wire. It worked for me when we had a garden. It kept my tomato loving dog out too!
I purchased a rabbit trap today, baited it and then we had a storm. I checked it earlier tonight and the trap was still set. If I catch it I plan to release it in the country not far from us. I hope lettuce works as bait. Any suggestions?
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