KC Gardens

Don’t wait until spring to check for damage done by rabbits

Rabbits look cuddly, but they can be doing serious damage to your garden right now.
Rabbits look cuddly, but they can be doing serious damage to your garden right now.

From Dennis Patton:

Taking advantage of one of the nice days here recently, I did what every gardener does during the winter — I took a stroll through my garden. While I did not see a lot of signs of life, my gardening blood did start pumping.

Among other things, I noticed that I need to transplant a couple of shrubs that are growing too close to a prized evergreen that is situated in the right spot. Both the rose and crepe myrtle need to find new homes. I figured out new locations for these plants and then got back to my walk.

That is when I discovered that my faithful, beloved dog, Clancy, has been letting rabbits have the run of the garden. Of course I cannot blame him, as he is curled up toasty warm at night indoors. The rabbits have found several roses, and also devoured all the foliage off a variegated euonymus. That means it is time to get busy with some rabbit proofing.

Rabbits are a pest and there is no easy solution. In the perfect world I would have a tight fence completely surrounding the garden to keep them and other vermin out of the yard. But with the gates and wooden privacy fence it would be difficult unless I buried a wire barrier all the way around.

Since excluding them from the entire yard does not work, the best option might be excluding them from the individual plants. I have a number of chicken wire cages stored away for this purpose. While they don't look that great, they are effective. I simply slip the wire cage over the plants and secure it with a stake, and the rabbits are held at bay.

Some gardeners opt for repellent products. My experience is that they are far more trouble than they’re worth. Repellents work by either smell or taste. They must be reapplied after every rain or every few weeks to keep up the protection. If the protection fails then there is damage.

Rabbits feeding on rose canes or euonymus are not the most severe type of damage. The greatest concern with rabbit feeding is when they chew the bark off the base of young trees and shrubs. Once the cambium layer of the plant is damaged at the base the entire plant can die. If the damage is bad, then — as Bugs Bunny says, “That's all folks!” — the tree will be dead.

This is your reminder to take a stroll and see what has been feeding in your yard this winter. If you wait it just might be too late come spring.

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