Baby bunnies are utterly adorable -- at least until they chew your equally adorable miniature hosta. Or your Asiatic lilies. Or they wipe out your tender bean stalks or cabbage seedlings. Then cute is not the adjective that generally comes to my mind. Yes, I know they need to eat and I've put out a buffet for them that's an attractive nuisance, but that doesn't mean I don't try to curb their rascally inroads.
I use wire cloches over the coral bells and hosta, moving the cloches around as the plants get big enough to no longer seem so tempting. I've made a series of attempts at fencing off the raised beds, and this year I'm hoping we're closing in on getting it right.
Here's what I've learned from previous year's attempts:
Eventually, rabbits will figure out they can chew through the nylon corded enclosures they sell in catalogs for use with raised beds. Once they discover that, they'll quickly chew an exit hole on the other side, and pretty soon it's more hole than fence. Certainly lots of holes in the lettuce.Definitely not worth the price.
Our next attempt was to use chicken wire to reinforce the perimeter. But since it needed to be cut down to fit the prebuilt framework, that left lots of opportunities for gouging myself on the wire while weeding.
We next looped chicken wire around four posts put in the raised beds, with the chicken wire held down by landscaping staples. It kept out the rabbits alright, but it looked pretty ugly and had the same problem that all previous attempts did: Having the fencing be held down on the ground meant the weeds naturally gravitated to the edges and wound up through the mesh fencing. Trying to extract a winding clover plant through that was nearly impossible, and led to more unfortunate interface with wire ends.
So this year we built frames of 2 by 2s the same dimension as the raised beds. We attached lengths of 2-foot high chicken wire to the frames using a staple gun, taking care to bend in the edges rather than trimming them to avoid sharp wire ends. We attached eye screws to the inside of the frames, then set the frames on top of the raised beds and used wire at the corners to hold things together at the eye screws. (This will let us take the enclosures apart readily in fall so they can be stored flat.) At one end we installed hinges on one side and a latch on the other so there's a gate in case we need more access than reaching over the top. Since the framework sets on the raised beds rather than the dirt, there's no more capturing weeds in inaccessible places.
We still have a little bit of work to do to finish them off. There's just a temporary stake holding the frameworks in place by the gate hinge side. And we need to reattach the decorative corner caps we took off the raised beds. But it was good enough to go ahead and plant my cabbage and Swiss chard seedlings that I've been waiting to put in until I was sure they wouldn't be devoured. Since we had a bunch of 2 by 2s leftover from a previous project, our fencing cost us very little and helped clean out a wood pile in the garage. Definitely worth the price. (If you're tempted to build one yourself, you may want to consider using the shorter height of chicken wire rolls. Between the raised beds and the frames, I suspect the resulting 3-foot high fence is kind of tall for a person of average height to bend over to weed.)
Now to figure out how to keep the squirrels out of the tomato patch. And yes, I know I'm lucky I don't have deer.
What do you do to keep rabbits at bay? Cats? Electric fences? Mesh netting? Or do you just plant enough so there's enough to share?