Gardeners must be optimists

By Bill Taylor

It seems to me that those of us who have gardens, either flower, vegetable or both, get a bit antsy about this time of year. Yep, those trees showing buds, hyacinths and early tulips emerging from their winter long hibernation, and maybe an early robin hopping around causes us to rouse out of our winter sluggishness and begin some serious thinking about the coming growing season. This year will be a particular challenge for me after last year’s calamity.

Perhaps readers with unusually good memories might recall that last year my snow peas, pole green beans, bush yellow beans, and cucumbers all fell victim to marauding midnight munchers. (My sweet banana peppers did very well although I noticed some critter had occasionally taken a single bite out of a pepper before deciding it wasn’t as tasty as it looked.)

Anyway, those varmints not only nibbled off all my seedlings once they emerged, but dug up the seeds when I replanted – didn’t even wait for them to sprout. Then to add insult to injury they chomped away at a good portion of my flower bed for dessert. (Fortunately, I was able to save most of those flowers, but they never fully recovered.)

Well, after doing a bit of research over the winter, I’ve been able to identify the culprit(s). Yep, there’s little doubt I was victimized by one or more rabbits – you know, those adorable furry creatures with big floppy ears who hop around looking cute – and taste a lot like chicken when properly prepared.

Now I’m faced with the question of what to do to avoid a repeat of last year. I suppose I could just quit trying to grow those vegetables, but I don’t like the idea of letting those bunnies get the best of me so I’ve been investigating countermeasures – of which there are a number.

Experts first and foremost recommend a physical barrier to prevent these freeloading intruders from exploiting a gardener’s investment in both time and treasure. That’s right! Erect a fence of appropriate materials that’s high enough and strong enough to keep the unwanted interlopers out. A chicken wire enclosure not less than two feet high to prevent them from jumping over it with the bottom buried six inches to prevent their burrowing under it should suffice.

There are some drawbacks to this solution, especially for small gardens. One is getting a relatively small amount of chicken wire – it usually comes in fairly large rolls. A second is the difficulty in tending the garden, that is, being able to reach into the plot from the outside to weed or harvest unless a gate and a pathway are included.. For a small plot this might be a problem.

Okay so what else might be done to deter these ravenous rabbits? Well, one company touts a product that, when planted in a garden, ” … exudes an odor that is non-offensive to humans, but with their well developed sense of smell, repels dogs, cats, rabbits and other varmints looking for a place to do their unsavory business”. Similar plant-based defense proposals include adding to a garden patch onions, marigolds, zinnias and other vegetation rabbits don’t like.

A suggested home-brew concoction may be made by grinding several hot peppers, onions, and some garlic, adding water to cover, and placing into a covered container overnight. The next day, strain, and add water to dilute the mixture. Spray onto plants, repeating after rainfall. Sounds yucky enough to work.

Yep, sure looks like there’s lotsa ways to protect gardens, but there’s one method I’m sure I won’t employ. It consists of spreading “used” cat litter around the garden because rabbits are afraid of predators, such as cats, and the odor of cat urine is enough to keep rabbits away. It’s also likely sufficient to keep me away.

I’m not sure what I’ll decide to do – probably a combination of physical and plant-based deterrents. Perhaps readers might suggest some successful techniques they have used to combat this menace. I’d be willing to share effective, non-lethal countermeasures – I don’t like the idea of harming these cute pests. I just prefer they don’t use my garden as their personal smorgasbord.

The ground won’t be dry enough to plant cool weather veggies for a little while, so I still have some time for planning my defense – and to figure out what I’m going to do about a much more serious threat to another part of my garden that I’ll address next time. You know, as I’ve said before, gardeners simply have to be optimists. At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at