By Christina VanGinkel
I have been watching a family of rabbits grow and expand their territory in my yard for the last several weeks. I know, rabbits and a garden do not go together, yet if you are anything like me, the idea of a few baby bunnies hopping around can be quite pleasant. They are just so darn cute! To make matters worse, the mother has been a tenant for quite some time, and has never bothered the flowerbeds. Therefore, I wrongly assumed that her little ones would have the same respect for my treasured buds the same as she seems to.
She keeps mainly to the outskirts of our yard, somewhat timid around our dogs, and whenever I have a few scraps of lettuce or a wrinkled apple, I make sure she gets it, always on the very outer edges of the yard. The rest of the time, she makes herself content with eating beneath the deer feeder that is outside of the yard completely. During the winter, she is more brave, coming into the yard itself each morning to feed beneath the bird feeders. For the most part though, we seem to have come to an understanding, where even though she is a wild rabbit, she would never be so rude as to munch on anything that she should not.
When I first noticed the babies, they kept to the same areas that she did, never entering the yard itself, just hopping pleasantly about the outskirts, cute as can be. Then one morning, I noticed that I was missing an entire moss rose plant that I had just transplanted!
Much of our garden is in raised containers, and for the few previous few days, I had not realized that the smaller bunnies had been testing their bravery. They had grown big enough to easily step up into the lowest parts of my raised beds, and from their, they could step lightly up into just about any part of the gardens that they wanted too, not even having to jump. Upon coming to this realization, I momentarily felt much the same way the farmer in the Peter Cottontail stories must have. I had wrongly assumed that my garden was rabbit safe, only to become aware that it was anything but.
After I noticed that first plant's demise, I realized that each morning, one by one, the bunnies were mowing their way through even more plants. At first, I never caught them, though my suspicions proved right several mornings later when I stepped outside quite early and startled one of them as he was enjoying an early morning breakfast compliments of my tenderly planted flower bed.
From that moment on, I decided to take a much different approach than I would have just a few years ago, had I found a rabbit, or two eating their way through my flowers. I have decided that chasing them off and telling the dogs to take chase, just in fun, never to harm, whenever they are loose and the rabbits are near may help teach them to respect the beds as much as their mother has learned. I know, this is not a feasible approach for most gardens, but for someone who is home as much as I am, and is up early each day, I figured it might be worth a try. That my dogs never tire of barking each time they see one come into the yard does not hurt either. They have become my alarm system per se.
So far, it seems to actually be working. They are still about, but never as close to the flowerbeds as they were just a few days ago. They might approach the beds, but all it takes is for me to open the house door and they scamper quickly away. I hope as they mature, that they will move on, leaving their mother as the sole tenant once again, and if not, I am sure I will be taking a much more radical approach come next spring when they have babies of their own. Until then, I will keep chasing them off, and hope that my dogs never tire of barking each time they come into the yard to alert me that once again, the bunny brigade has arrived.