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List of garden pests : Rabbits

 

 

Beating the rabbit  and deer menace in the garden

As the population of rabbits has recently built up very significantly, the number of rural gardens that are suffering severe damage has increased. There is no easy answer and Gerry Daly outlines a range of solutions.

 

Rabbits are major pests of trees and shrubs in rural gardens, also damaging fruit trees and vegetables. The only complete remedy is to fence the garden with a 90 centimetre high fence of close-mesh netting wire, sunk 15 centimetres down and 15 centimetres towards the outside in an L-shape underground.

A deer fence needs to be two metres high to prevent deer accessing a garden and this is usually too obtrusive an expensive.

Sleeves of strong polythene stapled together around the trunks of young trees give good protection. Around flower beds, string dipped in creosote and suspended on 15 centimetres high pegs is a useful, temporary deterrent.

 

It has been estimated that six rabbits can consume the same quantity of fodder as one sheep, and if a sheep was in your garden every morning you would be more conscious of the damage. The damage caused by rabbits is often not fully realised. It is a gradual nibbling that can be easily missed. It is much more noticeable on some plants. The damage is very gradual. Initially only one rabbit or a few is active, but as the population grows, the level of damage can be very severe. Rabbits feed on a very wide range of garden plants. New plants and soft growth in spring may be eaten, even on plants that are not susceptible at other times. And the main season of damage is fast approaching.

 

Herbaceous plants can be grazed down to ground level. Foliage and soft shoots of woody plants can be grazed up to a height of about fifty centimetres by rabbits standing up on their hind legs. Bark may be gnawed away from the base of trunks, especially in winter when snow or frost makes other vegetation unavailable. Damage of this kind can kill a tree if the bark is removed all the way around the trunk. If it is noticed in time the partly gnawed trunks should be wrapped with strips of black polythene to encourage the damaged area to callus over. Rabbits also dig holes in lawns and flower beds and leave their droppings in some places.

 

Damage is usually caused by rabbits coming in from surrounding land. It is very rare for a rabbit problem to be contained within the confines of the garden itself. A rabbit warren nearby is the usual base for garden attacks. Warrens are usually located in dry, sandy soil, often with some cover, such as a ditch or scrubby bushes. There are a number of ways of controlling rabbit damage. One way is to create a wire mesh barrier around the garden in the form of a fence 120cm high, 15 cm below ground level and 15cm out from the garden to prevent the rabbit burrowing underneath. Apparently 15 cm is enough, they do not have the brains to dig further back. This can be placed around the entire garden site, using one-inch mesh. It will last for many years if good quality wire is used and it is a complete solution - the only complete solution in fact.

 

For individual plants netting can be put up as a deterrent, without the need to bury part of it underground, although netting does not look great. Wire netting or spiral tree guards can be put around the base of young trees to prevent bark scraping. Animal repellents can be applied, but are generally less than satisfactory because they do not give complete protection, particularly during wet weather or when plants are growing actively, and they have to be repeated. Rabbit baits are available for farm use and can be used if there is a warren on the land. This usually gives a temporary solution because the ground will attract new rabbits if it is suitable.

 

A good approach is to avoid planting particularly susceptible plants and select those that survive. A bit of investigation in neighbouring gardens often gives a good clue as to a few more plants that might survive, and it might be possible to do some swapping. A list of about fifty rabbit-resistant plants is given below, and there are others. Some plants are rabbit-proof because they are poisonous and no grazing animal will touch them, such as daffodil, snowdrop, aconitum, euphorbia and kalmia. Others are not poisonous but unpalatable. Unfortunately, it is the older stems and leaves that become unpalatable and younger shoots are often quite sweet and tasty. So it is often necessary to protect young shoots for just a few weeks. String dipped in creosote or other strong smelling substance is sometime used around rose beds, set about 20cm about the ground. Rabbits will eat unpalatable items if they are hungry enough. Growing plants that are resistant is a good solution, but it means that some plants will not be possible. However, the choice of resistant plants is quite good.

 

 

List of rabbit-proof and deer -proof plants.

 

Acanthus

Aconitum

Anemone

Aquilegia

Astilbe

Bergenia

Choisya

Clematis

Cornus

Cortaderia

Cotoneaster

Daphne

Deutzia

Elaeagnus

Epimedium

Eryngium

Euphorbia

Fatsia

Gaultheria

Geranium

Helleborus

Hemerocallis

Hydrangea

Hippophae

Hypericum

Ilex

Kalmia

Kniphofia

Laurel

Ligustrum

Lonicera

Pernettya

Persicaria

Philadelphus

Polygonatum

Rhododendron

Rhus

Ribes

Rosmarinus

Ruscus

Sambucus

Saxifraga

Sedum

Skimmia

Spiraea

Symphoricarpus

Syringa

Taxus

Ulex

Viburnum tinus

Vinca

 

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