I had an opportunity to visit the Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile, Alabama during my latest family vacation and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. The gardens span over 65 acres and it took us just over two hours to walk the grounds and home and take everything in. Walter Bellingrath made his fortune from being one of the first Coca-Cola bottlers of the south and he and his wife spent part of their fortune building these public gardens in the early 1900’s. They took a full year to tour Europe and study garden styles before returning home to embark on turning this old fishing camp into the expansive garden that it is today. I really appreciated (and highly recommend) taking the guided home tour because you learn a lot about the couple. They were extremely generous especially during the great depression and were known to buy things from people and never go and pick them up. When the gardens were finished the couple opened them to their community. After their passing in the 50’s the home was opened for tours. I love that the couple built the home using historic (even for their time) bricks and elements from crumbling historic buildings around town. The home was also filled with antique collections. Can you tell I love this couple?
I took so many pictures of plants, landscape ideas and the individual gardens but as I wandered I thought, how do they keep the pests away here!? Do they not have rabbits? Especially since they have a rose garden filled with over 2,000 rose bushes and the rabbits by my house were so desperate they chewed them to the ground. The roses are bouncing back but I have hundreds of flower seeds started and I’ll be darned if I let the rabbits get them this year.
Over the years I have found a few tricks to keep those pesky rabbits out of my garden and away from my prized vegetables and flowers. I learn the hard way every now and then when I get lazy and don’t put any of these in place. Last year the rabbits sawed down my sweet peas but they also bounced back. Most of these deterrents are natural but I do use one extra spray especially around my flowers but it is bee, human and animal friendly.
There are three categories of defense that I use to keep rabbits from eating the plants in my garden.
- Sprays, Smells and Granules
- Strongly Scented Plants
Structures – Let’s begin with structures that I put in place to keep rabbits from destroying my garden. I use chicken wire to shape domes around my starts like a sweet pea to keep the rabbit from accessing the plant. I also use netting to cover the beds until the plants are established enough and there are many other options for rabbits to chew on around my yard then entering the garden. Some other structures or hard materials that work well are light tunnel cloth that still allows air and UV rays through it or even a laundry basket.
- Laundry Baskets flipped upside down, the dollar store has great small options
- Homemade chicken wire domes
- Cloth netting
- Trellis or bird style netting
Sprays, Smells and Granules – I try to use as little sprays as possible in my garden but all sprays I use are bee and human friendly. Liquid Fence deer and rodent repellent is the only spray deterrent I have found to work. I’ve tried so many different versions but this is the only one that seems to work every time. Another product that really works well for keeping rabbits out of your garden is something called dried blood or blood meal. It sounds awful but rabbits are prey and they know it. If they smell blood they will sense danger. Some people believe rabbits will learn after a while that danger is not present but Garlic is also a strong scented deterrent that mixed with the blood meal, does the trick. If you have dogs the blood meal will not harm them but my dog butters thinks it tastes delicious. Keep your dogs out of your garden until it gets a chance to mix into the dirt.
Strongly Scented Plants – Marigolds. I used to hate marigolds but I sure do love them now. Marigolds scattered throughout the garden deter all kinds of pests and most important, starving rabbits. Not only are marigolds good for rabbit repellent but they have so many other benefits and uses for you and your garden. They assist in attracting bees and many varieties can be used for skin care ( like salt scrubs) and are edible. Lavender and other strongly scented herbs like basil keep rabbits from your garden. Try adding a lavender border for not only a pop of color but to keep the pests away. Try planting any of the following around your prized plants to keep rabbits away.
- Mint (In a container! It’s invasive)
- Wax Begonias
- Snap Dragons
Nature is great and I love the wild life that surrounds our farm but after all of the work it takes to put in a garden, I’m not about to let rabbits rip it apart. A few tweaks in a garden plan can be the difference between plants survival. If you invest in things like netting, clean it off before storing it for the season. This will make your investment in your garden last for years.
I like to add a few new things to my garden each year like trellis’s or supports but pest and rabbit protection is one of the least expensive and important things you can do you keep your garden pest free.