Battling Bunnies in the Garden

bunnyI hate to go all Elmer Fudd or Mr. McGregor on you, but I really do not like rabbits—especially in my garden. They can mow down a row of seedlings in a few hours, reproduce like mad, prune shrubs you want to grow, and drop pellets all over your garden. Battling bunnies is a major occupation during parts of the garden year.

Sure, other garden pests can be more destructive, as anyone who has dealt with persistent deer problems can attest, but in terms of numbers, rabbits top gardeners’ most-irritating list.

What to do? Here are a few suggestions for battling bunnies, based on hard-won experience and a bit of research.

Fences. The bottom line is, if you want to keep rabbits and other critters out of your garden, build a fence. This works especially well on dedicated vegetable gardens. University of Minnesota extension recommends a fence that is 18 to 24 inches high and made out of 1-inch mesh chicken wire. Some experts recommend two layers of wire to make the fence extra difficult to squeeze through. To prevent rabbits from burrowing under the fence, you may want to bury it about 6 inches under ground.

Smells. Rabbits don’t like the smell of predators or death. That’s why many gardeners swear by everything from sprinklings of human or animal hair (get it from your hairdresser or animal groomer) to human urine (easier to for men and gardeners with fences to apply). Many commercial repellents are infused with the scent of fox urine. Another solution is blood meal, dried powdered blood that is sometimes used as a fertilizer. Some individuals also swear by strong tasting substances, such as hot peppers or Tabasco sauce, as a deterrent. The problem with smell- and taste-related solutions is that they dissipate after rain, so they often need to be reapplied.

An edging of marigolds may deter rabbits.

An edging of marigolds may deter rabbits.

Plant deterrents. Onions, garlic, marigolds, lavender, catnip—many plants are credited with being deterrents to rabbits. What they all have in common is a strong scent. Garden blogger and author Shawna Coronado swears by a combination of 'Taishon' marigolds and spicy globe basil. Both are high-scent plants that are pretty in the garden, too.

An alternate buffet. Author Tammi Hartung recommends planting "decoy plants" to keep critters out of your garden. I tried this using parsley as an edging plant in my ornamental beds to keep the bunnies out of the vegetable garden. I'm not sure how well the parsley attracted rabbits from the vegetable garden, but I did discover that parsley makes a great edging plant.

Predators. Last year, we were fortunate to have a fox living near our house. The bunny population took a nose-dive. The fox must have moved on, because the bunnies are out in force again. Obviously, wild animals are not a solution you can rely on or even should encourage, but letting the dog out, if you have a fenced-in yard might scatter the bunnies and at least make them a little nervous about taking up residence in your garden.

What are your favorite ways to deter rabbits?

A great resource for gardeners with critter problems is Deer Resistant Landscaping: Proven Advice for Outwitting Deer and 20 Other Pesky Mammals by Neil Soderstrom.

Unlock a full year of northern gardening tips and ideas when you join the hort!


  1. […] range from sprinkling blood meal or human hair to hot pepper or Tabasco sauce. Some gardeners claim some success with strong–smelling plant deterrents like onions, garlic, and […]

  2. Katie Marie on August 9, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    The marigold theory did not work for me. This year, planted 2 flats & diligently watched when I noticed many stems where the buds were bitten off. In spite of sprinkling red pepper flakes directly on the plants twice a week, a couple nights ago I peeked out my window at midnight & 2 rabbits were munching away. Since then I’ve applied pepper twice & this morning, the few plants that had blooms are now bare. Suggestions?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on August 9, 2020 at 8:55 pm

      I feel your pain! Rabbits mowed down about 20 marigolds that I planted in a front garden bed midsummer to add some color. It looks so bad, I’m taking them out. Fencing is the only sure-fire way to keep them out. A teenager with a BB gun may also help. 😉 Good luck!

  3. […] beneficial to pollinators, whorled milkweed is particularly toxic to mammals—a good thing for repelling rabbits and deer, but important to remember for placement in a garden visited by dogs, horses or other […]

Leave a Comment