The rabbits. They’re especially destructive in winters like the one we’re having, with little snow cover. The day after Christmas, I saw this:
One of my brand new viburnums with obvious rabbit damage—stripped bark and disappearing twigs galore. Obviously, my cut-in-half hardware cloth hoop did little to protect this plant. Since Christmas was over anyway, we took down the Christmas tree, clipped off all the branches, and used it as heavy mulch and rabbit-blocking aid.
I looked under the branches today and it does seem to have helped. I did the same thing with my blueberries, whose size had already been reduced by 50% by the time I got to them.
They were very small to begin with, having been eaten to the ground last winter. They spent all of summer 2012 just trying to get re-established.
Things look even worse in the raspberry patch. If we don’t get significant snow cover soon, all canes will be eaten to the ground. A fresh dusting of snow today covered a truly astonishing amount of rabbit scat that was visible after a thaw last week.
On the other hand, should I be thanking the buns for trimming the sprouts next to my sickly crab apple tree?
Many plants withstand a little rabbit damage. This established currant bush is a good example. You can see some bark nibbling going on, and maybe a handful of twigs eliminated, but for the most part we’re good here.
Here also, some minor damage near the bottom of a red-twig dogwood. It needs trimming every year anyway, so I’m not worried about it.
What to do about this? The most effective way to prevent rabbit damage is by blocking them, but blocking every single precious plant in my landscape would make my landscape ugly. Rabbits are one of the reasons why I chose stock tanks for my back yard container gardens, so I’ve found some creative ways around them.
The other big thing that we need to address is this:
The previous owners of our home built a large deck about 4-6 inches off the ground right behind our house. I’m guessing it didn’t take the rabbits long to move in, and they were well-established—with several entrances and exits—by the time we bought this house 6 years ago. Then we started adding in all kinds of rabbit delicacies to the previously-sterile landscape, supporting the population even further…and… well… this problem is multi-faceted, suffice to say.
The one shrub they have no interest in: my magnolia, with its fantastic fur-covered toes that hold within them the first flowers of spring.
Killing rabbits is not a long-term solution to this problem. In any ecosystem—the inner city is definitely a unique one—if you remove a part of it, others will fill that niche. Translation: other bunnies will move in to a newly-vacant rabbit mansion under our deck.
So the next step is going to have to be: remove the habitat. I’m not excited about the expense of removing the deck and replacing it with a patio, but it’s got to be done. Will it get done this year? That remains to be seen.
What are your rabbit strategies? This is a problem I’ve been dealing with for quite some time:
Protecting baby plants from rabbits (summer 2012)
Rabbit damage, spring 2011 (after a VERY rough winter for the rabbits)
Me 1, rabbits 0 (protecting early spring tulips and strawberries)
January 19, 2013 at 8:13 am
Great post and super pictures to tell your story of rabbits rampaging! I’m realizing how fortunate we are in not having rabbits to contend with in any significant way where we live. Deer do the most damage for us. This is a good reminder to check on the blueberry plants we put in last fall, and I love your Christmas tree mulch!
January 19, 2013 at 4:28 pm
I’ve never seen a rabbit in our yard, too many neighborhood cats I suppose, but we do have a problem with squirrels & tomatoes and racoons & corn. Any suggestions?
January 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm
We also have a squirrel + tomato problem. The best way I’ve found to deal with it is to pick the tomatoes as soon as they start to ripen–I let them finish ripening on the kitchen counter. The squirrels seemed to love them most when they were at their peak of perfection and fully vine-ripened.
I wish I had suggestions for raccoons and corn. I’ve never been successful enough at growing corn to have been able to attract them, but my in-laws have all kinds of raccoon problems every year. A friend uses a temporary electric fence around sweet corn every year. Barriers are a pain, but sometimes they’re the only thing that works.