Thursday, June 10, 2010

War o' the wabbits

Just when you think you have it all figured out, Mother Nature throws something new into the game. I was expecting a great harvest from the garden this year. We had it all figured out -- weeding, watering, and more! I started several flats of seeds from January through March using my seed-starting heater and grow lights in the basement. I watered them with vermicompost tea, making them grow big and strong, rather than tall and spindly. Everything was going great!

Everything was going great until I actually started transplanting into the garden. That's when the latest, most annoying gardening varmint decided to show us that we really don't have it all figured out. In eight years out here and 12 years gardening in the burbs, we have never had a problem with rabbits, and we did not even put up a fence the first two or three years out here. As you know, Mike spent a couple days digging up the perimeter of the garden to bury chicken wire last month, because a welded wire fence wasn't good enough to keep the rabbits out of the garden.

In addition to our efforts, Sam the barn cat tried to help. The day after Mike had the fence reinforced, Sam caught a rabbit one evening as I was feeding baby goats. The next day, Katherine told me she found a rabbit's head near the barn.

Last week, I thought we had finally triumphed over the little rodents. Then three nights ago, I left the gate open overnight. The next morning, I witnessed death and destruction. Apparently rabbits are not thrilled with celery or parsley, but they have to rip off a leaf or stalk from each plant to be sure. They don't really like tomatillos either, but they have to rip them out of the ground to check them out. They do, however, love marigolds and statice. There was no trace of the red marigolds at all, but the white marigolds were all ripped up and laying on the dirt. I could just see the little rodents thumbing their wriggly little noses at me.

I called Porter into the garden and walked around the perimeter with him. We walked near all the tall weeds and grasses, just in case a rabbit was hiding in there. Obviously, I didn't want to lock rabbits in the garden overnight.

But I'm afraid that is exactly what happened. Yesterday I discovered that more than half of the pepper plants were eaten down to the ground, including most of the heirlooms. A jalapeno plant with a baby pepper on it was ripped up and left to die. There were three rows of peppers, and more than 20 are now history, such as the sheepnose pimento and tequila sunrise. And if they get hungry enough, it looks like they will settle for a celery plant, as one of them was eaten down to the ground. They also decided to try every leaf on a parsley plant, leaving it on the dirt after deciding that it tasted just as bad as the last bite.

So, we spent Wednesday trying to find the little rodents in the garden. Although I didn't find a rabbit, I did find a burrow in a compost pile. I destroyed it. Jonathan spent the afternoon mowing down all of the grass and weeds in there. He found nothing. I brought Porter into the garden again, and we walked around hoping to find any rabbits that might be hiding. Nothing.

This morning, part of me does not even want to go out there and look at it. Of course, there is the hopeful part of me that thinks we've done everything we can, so surely we've had no more losses.


LilacCottageGoats said...

I'm so sorry for you. You must be heart sick over your garden. I know I would be. I hope when you go back to your garden this morning the rest of it is still there. We had a really bad bad storm roll though here acouple of days ago and tore up a lot of our plants so I kind of know how you are feeling.

Anne said...

That just stinks!! Here in northern MN, my garden goodies are't big enough to entice a wabbit....but eventually....uggghh. My grandmother used to sprinkle blood meal around the perimeter of her flower beds to keep the wabbits away. Best, Anne

LindaG said...

I would have been devastated. :|
We have a lot of rabbits this year, but I don't have a real garden. I did start a couple of small containers, so I may have to go to Tractor supply and pick up a couple of traps. (They frown on discharging weapons inside city limits or I'd try my hand at fried rabbit.)
One of my brothers uses traps for rabbits to keep them out of his garden and I think it mostly works.

Anonymous said...

I am so sad to hear about the losses - dang rabbits! our battles have been with shield bugs and cabbage loopers.
Wanna borrow our jack russell? =)

Tammy said...

Wow. That is heartbreaking. It sounds like a whole flock (herd?) of rabbits! Do you think they are getting in despite the fencing? Not many rabbits around here, with the cats, my dogs in the yard and the neighbors dogs running them. Hope you can figure out a solution.

melanie said...

Bloodmeal does work, only until the rain washes it away.

Males have the wonderful ability to pee on the perimeter...don't know how you feel about that one..

A burrow might indicate rat or more likely, woodchuck. If poultry are not nearby, I would vote for woodchuck.

The rabbits nibble, but usually do not tear up, trample, or remove plants...

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Forgot to mention that the rabbits have not touched the corn, perhaps because it doesn't taste any better than other grasses -- or perhaps because we watered it with the diluted blood from butchering chickens. So, we essentially made our own homemade blood meal.

Mike just pointed out that perhaps the llamas are doing such a good job at keeping coyotes away that the rabbit population has increased. So, what would I rather lose, lambs or peppers?

SkippyMom said...

My beloved FIL [and awesome gardener] had the most heinous problem with groundhogs. He would try and trap them - and that worked a bit, but there was always another one around the corner.

He installed an orange fence [yes orange] of plastic webbing about 5 foot high. It looks a little odd but it certainly kept those suckers out.

Good luck - sounds like a lot of good ideas in comments.

LindaG said...

I've heard that llamas make good guard animals.

But I am thinking you'd rather lose peppers. It's easy (relatively) to plant more.

And you've gotten a lot of good ideas, yeah, as well as your own possible solution. :)

Kim said...

Aw, Deborah, what is this, "the year of the rabbit"? I'm so sorry. Last evening, I found exactly what you did, & I just wanted to cry. I'd been spraying EVERYTHING w/ pepper spray, but the rain has been pretty constant the last few days. I'm mourning ALL of my okra (too late to replant), 9 out of 20 pepper plants (ALL heirlooms - my sheepnose, as well), 2 broccoli, and 1 tomato (a tomato?). Every one was chomped at the stem & left, except the broccoli, which is now a stem w/o leaves. Beans were sampled, as well. Now, I worry what will be next, as it is storming today, & what we will have to harvest. I'm sure the same thoughts are going through your mind. This misery does NOT like company! :-( Kim

Anonymous said...

Poor plants. They never stood a chance. :( Well, maybe.

BTW, how is Katherine doing?

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Katherine is doing great. The rabies vaccine doesn't seem to bother her at all.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Forgot to mentiont that I did finally get the courage to go out to the garden this afternoon, and there does not appear to be any additional damage. :)

Paul Jurzin said... to read.
Thank's for sharing with us


Paul Jurzin
Wire Fencing

Amy Manning said...

Have you tried trapping them? I say trap as many as you can and butcher them for the freezer.


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