The Rabbit and Groundhog Resistant Landscape

The Rabbit and Groundhog Resistant Landscape

rabbit resistant header

While these cute and fuzzy bunnies are wonderful to see hopping around the lawn, nibbling on clover and dandelions, it’s when they turn their voracious appetites on your landscaping that gardeners throw off the gloves and get ready to wage war!

However, keeping long-eared cottontails and chubby Woodchucks out of your garden can sometimes be as tricky as dealing with a certain cartoon wascally wabbit!

Nature Hills is here to help you have a beautiful garden without worrying that Rabbits and other garden rodents will see it as a buffet!

Sure they’re cute, especially when they’re young! But if you have a large population of Rabbits and Groundhogs, then it becomes an issue.

Rabbits leave piles of round, pea-sized droppings around your yard, encourage an increased presence of fleas and ticks, chuck holes and rabbit burrows damaging the lawn, and the chewed-up landscaping are all reasons to put your foot down and decide they’re not that cute! 

While the worst damage I’ve seen, thanks to a large family of feral neighborhood cats, is some missing flowers and cucumber leaves, in areas with higher population densities and no predators around, they can move in and cause massive amounts of damage to your garden.

Deterring Rabbits

Wild Rabbit

Rabbits eat about any type of plant that deer and humans eat, hence why your vegetable garden is a common target! While physical barriers and having outdoor pets help keep them at bay, the best method to keep rabbits from causing damage is to choose plants that they don’t like to eat in the first place.

  • Male Rabbits are Bucks, females are called Does, and baby Rabbits are called Kits
  • Until the 18th century, Rabbits were called Coneys
  • All of their teeth grow continuously
  • Rabbits have a nearly 360-degree field of vision
  • Rabbits perform athletic leaps known as 'binkys' and pur like cats when happy
  • Can jump as high as 3 feet in one leap!
  • Rabbits, Hares, and Pikas are rodents in a group of mammals called Lagomorphs.
  • Source of food for a very wide range of predators

Rabbit-Resistant Plants

If you are in an area with lots of Rabbits or Hares, as well as Groundhogs, here are the best plants that will be off their menu! Highly scented, aromatic plants, thorny/spiny plants, and especially bitter-tasting plants keep rabbits and their kin at bay.

Most Herbs

  • Anything in the Mint family
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Hyssop/Agastache

Anything aromatic is off the table, but they may nibble on the flowers of some of these Herb species.

Perennials

perennial list

  • Allium/Onion/Garlic
  • Asters
  • Baptisia
  • Barrenwort
  • Bellflower
  • Bleeding Heart 
  • Columbines
  • Coreopsis
  • Delphinium/Larkspur
  • Daylily
  • Ferns
  • Foamflower
  • Foxglove 
  • Iris
  • Japanese Spurge
  • Lamb’s Ears
  • Lavender
  • Leopard Bane
  • Liatris (Gayfeather/Blazing Star)
  • Lilyturf
  • Lungwort
  • Milkweed and Euphorbias
  • Monkshood
  • Nightshades
  • Wormwood/Artemesia
  • Penstemon
  • Peony
  • Poppies
  • Primrose
  • Red Hot Pokers
  • Rudbeckias & Daisy
  • Most Ornamental Grass
  • Salvia
  • Sea Holly
  • Sweet Woodruff 
  • Veronica
  • Verbascum
  • Yarrow

Perennials with milky sap, foliage that is bitter, tough fibrous leaves, strong flavors/smells, and thorny/spiny stems are usually avoided. 

Shrubs & Trees

  • Boxwood
  • Rugosa and thorny-caned Roses
  • Birch
  • Butterfly Bushes
  • Clematis
  • Coralberry
  • Cotoneaster
  • Currants (Red & Black)
  • Deutzia
  • Diervilla
  • Elderberry
  • Euonymus
  • Evergreens of all kinds
  • Holly Bushes of all kinds
  • Hydrangea
  • Juniper
  • Lilacs
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Mock Orange
  • Oaks
  • Oregon Grape Holly
  • Redbud
  • Spirea
  • Sumac
  • Viburnum
  • Walnut
  • Weigela

Annuals include Zinnias, Marigolds, Snapdragons, Flowering Tobacco, and Cornflower/Bachelor's Button

Perennial Bulbs - Daffodils, Allium, Anemone, Muscari/Grape Hyacinth, and Lily of the Valley

Rabbit Proof Landscaping

Good fences make good neighbors, but also keep the rabbits, groundhogs and deer out! If you have high deer pressure, you most likely already have rabbit-proofed your yard, but sometimes a few can sneak through. Fox are excellent rabbit deterrents and you can buy Fox urine that works well to deter rabbits!

rabbit proof
  • Chicken Wire or fencing at least 2 feet high (3 feet for Jackrabbits), and buried several inches under the ground to prevent them from digging under the fence. If you are dealing with Groundhogs (Wood Chucks) you may need to set the fencing a foot deep beneath the ground as they can dig very well!
  • Groundhogs can climb and burrow very well, so bury the bottom of a 3-foot high fence at least a foot deep or bend the bottom foot of the fencing at a 90-degree angle and pin it to the ground. The top 12 to 15 inches should bent outward at a 45-degree angle to help keep Groundhogs from climbing.
  • Use floating row covers for young plants or cover with chicken wire or bird netting
  • If you find strips of bark chewed off young trees, a collar of fencing around your tree trunk will keep them from eating more. Unfortunately, if the tree bark has been stripped all the way around, your tree will die, so if you have bunnies in the area and a manicured lawn with no clover for them to eat, all new tree and shrub installations need trunk protection from day one.
  • Spray plants with rabbit-repellent - unless they are your veggies. There are also granular repellents that hold up better after rain. DIY repellants include Irish Spring soap, Hot Pepper flakes, Black Pepper/Peppercorns, used coffee grounds, and garlic oil/juice.

Whiz up your own concoction by mixing water, cayenne pepper, fresh garlic, and a bit of liquid dish soap. Strain and let sit overnight. Spray on your plants or areas of your yard, reapplying after rain.

  • Avoid using used kitty litter to deter rabbits because of the obvious pathogens they may carry and how unsightly the litter can be. You can take pet hair that you’ve brushed out or trimmed from grooming to use around your landscape since the smell will keep rabbits away. Check with a local groomer if you don’t have pets yourself.
  • Keep your lawn from becoming overgrown to deter rabbits and groundhogs from feeling safe and using the area as nesting sites. Keep landscaping beds weeded and remove tall overgrowth.
  • Rabbits dislike strong smells - plant aromatic plants around your more tasty plants as a living barrier
  • Install fake owls or snakes, mirrors and reflective objects, moving spinners or whirlygigs, wind chimes, and other visual scare tactics and noise makers to keep rabbits from getting too comfortable in your garden.
  • Avoid mothballs because the chemicals are toxic and harm plants and good animals or kids if they get in contact with them.

Types of Rabbits In The US

Rabbit vs Hare?

Rabbits are smaller than Hares, while Hares have larger/longer ears and longer hind legs. Rabbits often group in warrens which are underground tunnels, and hares pair up in above-ground nests.

Cottontail

The Mountain and Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, and the Brush/Western Cottontail are the main types of Rabbit found throughout the entire US. Typically gray/brown/tan agouti fur with white markings, they all have the characteristic white fluffy patch under their tail giving them their namesake. Living throughout all of the US, these rabbits like more shrubby cover, tall grass, and plenty of shelter to hide in.

These are the main types of rabbits that cause the most landscaping damage as they’ve become very accustomed to living among people and urban development. Taking advantage of our landscapes as a source of replacement food where their native food sources were once found.

Jack Rabbits

Jackrabbits like the Black-Tail and White-Tail have longer/larger ears and long hind legs allowing them to jump 10 feet at a time at run at speeds of 40 miles per hour. Found in more western, arid, desert locations throughout the US, preferring open grassland where they can see any predators coming from far away.

Pygmy Rabbits

Pygmy Rabbits are smaller than Cottontail but look similar. Found throughout sagebrush-dominated areas of the Northwestern US.

Snowshoe Hares

Found throughout Canada, Alaska, the upper half of Minnesota, and the northernmost coldest climates of the US. Very reclusive, you’ll rarely need to worry about these rabbits rampaging through your garden or landscape.

Pikas

Found throughout the Northwestern states of the US, Canada, and more, the American Pika lives in mountainous high elevations, rocky crevices, and cool climates. So you rarely need to worry about these rodents getting into your landscaping.

Deterring Groundhogs

groundhog

Groundhogs are related to Marmots and Ground Squirrels and are found throughout much of the US and Canada.

Groundhogs create deep burrows that can span over 50 feet long. These rodents eat about the same things rabbits (and humans) will, but also grasses, bark, a wide variety of flowers, vegetables, and berries. They are especially active in the late summer and autumn as they are busy putting on weight for the long winter ahead.

  • Baby Groundhogs are called Chucklings or Pups!
  • Groundhog Chucklings are on their own as soon as they are 2 months old
  • Groundhog incisors grow 1.5 mm a week - so they HAVE to keep on chewing
  • Groundhogs can live up to 14 years
  • Other than humans and dogs, they have very few natural predators in urban areas
  • Woodchucks do not, in fact, chuck wood, but have been seen nibbling on bark to get to the inner layer.
  • They are very good swimmers and can climb trees

Plants they avoid are about the same as rabbits and deer, but some additional ways to keep Groundhogs out of your garden include:

  • Floodlights and sprinklers that are motion activated, placed by their burrow entrances, or in your garden beds
  • Vinegar sprayed around (NOT ON) your plants and planting beds. The strong smell can deter them.
  • Human hair sprinkled around after a trip to the barber helps deter them
  • Floating row covers or bird netting around vegetables and prized Mums.

What To Do If You Find Baby Bunnies In Your Lawn?

The easy answer to this question is - Nothing for now!

Spring is the time of year when animal rescue organizations and humane societies are flooded with calls about 'abandoned' baby rabbits, but this is far from the case!

Is it okay to pick up a wild baby bunny? Only peek, but avoid touching them. No, the mother won’t reject them, but if you find one outside of its burrow, gently place it back with the others. If no burrow can be found, and the kit is too young to be left alone (under 2 weeks old) call a local wildlife rehabilitator. Older kits can be placed close by but hidden in some shrubs and mom will find them.

Rabbits will create burrows or simply dug-out depressions in the ground, lined in fur and dried grass for their young to hide in. These nests are usually covered or hidden in your lawn or landscape and the babies, called kits, are often left unattended for long periods, with the mother waiting until the coast is clear before returning to feed them. As soon as you show up or let the dog out, Mom will stay hidden for as long as it takes!

  1. Mother Rabbits will leave the nest alone all day - only coming out at dusk
  2. Don’t disturb the nest and avoid handling the kits
  3. Mark the area so others know where the nest is
  4. Keep outdoor cats and dogs away from the area
  5. Mow around the nest to keep them stress-free

The mother rabbit will avoid going near the nest as long as you or any other predator is around to avoid leading them back to the babies.

You will only need to avoid the area for about 2 weeks since the kits become independent at that age. Only call animal control if you are absolutely positive that mom did not return after 48 hours or more, or was killed; this includes at night too!

Living In Harmony With Your Furry Neighbors

deer

Remember - our manicured turf grass lawns and habitat destruction have limited their natural food sources and where they would rather live. Giving these creatures no options but to eat our gardens! So, give them some wiggle room.

If Rabbits and Groundhogs are not a huge bother, leaving patches of clover and dandelions growing in out-of-the-way areas where rabbits feel safe to graze, gives them some alternatives to eat instead of your landscaping.

Learning to live with and keep these creatures out of where they can damage your plants helps, but planting a rabbit-proof and groundhog-resistant garden is the best way to avoid heartache.

Head over to NatureHills.com and find plants that everyone can live with today!

Happy Planting!

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