To some, rabbits are the cute balls of fluff that are sweet to snuggle and care for. Farmers and homeowners who have experienced their damaging forces first hand, however, simply see them as nuisances that keep coming back to nibble through their crops, flowers or vegetable patch.
Rabbits are known for their destructive behaviour and, if given the opportunity, can mow down an entire veggie patch overnight. Combined with other wild and unwanted critters in your yard, it’s no wonder it’s a battle to keep your garden safe.
Many homeowners build fences in an attempt to keep creatures out but rabbits unfortunately; can breach just about any structure. So how do you rabbit proof your outdoor area? Below are a few tips to keep your veggies and flowers nibble free – from wild pests to your pet puppy.
Build a Rabbit (and Critter) Proof Fence
The best way to keep rabbits away from your plants is to fence them out – but not just any barrier will do. Rabbits are masters at digging and squeezing so your fence must also extend underground to prevent burrowing.
Choose a high fence, at least 1.3 metres as rabbits can also be good jumpers. Panel and slat fencing are the best options to ensure rabbits are unable to slip through any gaps; this goes for other pests too. Rabbits can squeeze through openings that appear smaller than their bodies so rule of thumb is, if their head can fit through the gap then they can too.
Prior to the fence being installed it’s crucial to dig a deep trench to better keep any burrowing animals out. For extra protection and high-prone areas, it’s highly recommended the trench and fence are both lined with chicken-wire mesh.
For larger animals, such as sheep, chickens or the family pet – picket fencing will do the trick. Vibrant gardens and curious pets are never a good mix so providing them with an outdoor area they can safely explore, whilst keeping your garden area in one piece can be effectively achieved with picket fencing.
When the Pest is Your Pet
It’s still possible to have a pet bunny without sacrificing your plants and tasty looking vegetable patch. A moveable hutch is the best way to avoid lawn wear and tear, and other plants being subjected to them. Ensure that the hutch has a section with shelter, enough room to move around, and is made from sturdy wood (or ‘smartwood’ aluminium) and chicken-wire mesh.
Although picket fencing is an ideal option for keeping your pet dog sectioned off from your flowerbed or veggie patch, their inquisitive nature will still lead them to explore. Again, digging a trench before installing your fencing and extending the fence underground will ensure they cannot burrow under the fence.
A good idea is to combine the effectiveness of picket fencing with sections they can explore in, to spare the secured areas. Raising any vegetable garden beds with railway sleepers will encourage the dog or cat to walk around them as opposed to through them. Dogs dislike dog bane plants because of their odour so consider planting a few of those near the garden you want to keep safe. For your cat, tempting them to a designated area with catnip will keep them happy. Try to avoid bare soil where possible – it’s the perfect invitation to dig.
A lot of gardeners prefer not to cover their fencing with chicken-wire as it can be an eyesore and deter from the beauty of the garden and the fencing. Rabbit repellents are an effective alternative and can help keep the unwanted animals away from treated areas.
For better protection, the combination of a rabbit proof fence and repellent will further help to prevent damage. High quality repellents work by using scent to inflict a fear response from the animal, causing them to run away from the treated area.
Where possible, try and purchase an organic and natural repellent as this will ensure your family, pets and environment are safe – just look for the OMRI logo on the label to ensure it’s a certified organic product.
by Matthew Suter, Managing Director, Fencemakers.