K-State Research and Extension News
May 08, 2013
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Even Animal Lovers Prefer No Rabbits in the Garden

MANHATTAN, Kan. – You’ve done it -- tucked those tender bedding plants into the garden just so. And now you’re looking forward to all manner of flowers and vegetables from your very own back yard. So what can turn this satisfying scene into one of big disappointment overnight?

“Rabbits in gardens are a perennial problem because of the wide variety of plants they can feed on,” said K-State Research and Extension horticulturist Ward Upham. “This time of year, they gravitate to young vegetables and flowers. But there are some vegetables that are rarely bothered including potatoes, tomatoes, corn, squash, cucumbers and some peppers.”

Fencing can provide a quick and effective control method for susceptible plants, said Upham, who is the coordinator of the Extension Master Gardener Program in Kansas.

“The fence does not need to be tall; 2 feet is sufficient for cottontails, but the mesh must be sufficiently fine (1 inch or less) so young rabbits will not be able to go through it. Support for the fence can be supplied by a number of products, but electric fence posts work well,” he said.

In cases where fencing is not acceptable because it affects garden’s attractiveness, there are other ways to control rabbits, he said, including repellents, trapping and shooting.

“Repellents are often suggested for control, but often do not last long and require frequent reapplication,” Upham said. “Also, many are poisonous and cannot be used on plants or plant parts destined for human consumption.”

Live traps can be used to collect and move the rabbits to a rural area several miles from where they were trapped. A number of baits can be used to entice the rabbit into the trap, including a tightly rolled cabbage leaf held together with a toothpick. However, rabbits often avoid baits if other attractive food is available, he said.

A motion-activated sprinkler is another possibility, he added. These are attached to a garden hose and release a short burst of water when motion is detected. Some suppliers advertise that their sprinklers protect up to 1,000 square feet.

For those who live where it is safe and legal to do so, shooting is another possibility, he added.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Mary Lou Peter
K-State Research & Extension News

Ward Upham – wupham@ksu.edu or 785-532-1438