Tips for Foiling Garden Grazers

(Photos Fotolia)

There’s nothing like spring in the garden. Long-dormant plants are budding, bulbs are flowering, and early bloomers are reaching for the sun. And garden pests are already at work.

That’s what gardeners call rabbits and deer when they’re being polite. When they’re not… well, expletives are rarely deleted. In the battle against these wily varmints, it helps if you first identify which one has been grazing in your garden.


Ragged bites, typically a foot or more above the ground, indicate deer damage. They prefer young, tender plants, but hungry deer will eat almost anything. Rabbits are the likely culprits if plant damage is a few inches above the soil and includes stems clipped cleanly at an angle.

They look innocent when they’re not in your garden.

Deer may be dissuaded from decimating hostas (one of their favorites) by using commercially available sprays, early in the season and occasionally thereafter. I’ve had good luck with Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent, but then I have two big dogs roaming my yard, discouraging deer from hanging out in my gardens. There are a host of products on the market that help, as well as home remedies (see the University of Minnesota’s suggestions here).

Methods for keeping rabbits out of gardens range from sprinkling blood meal or human hair to hot pepper or Tabasco sauce. Some gardeners claim some success with strong–smelling plant deterrents like onions, garlic, and marigolds.

When it comes to rabbits in a vegetable garden, I’ve found the best defense to be raised beds, surrounded by 3-foot-tall fencing. I’ve used chicken wire buried several inches into the ground (Those determined little thieves will get over or under anything less.) But experts advise 1-inch galvanized steel mesh or rabbit wire so even the babies can’t squeeze through.

Wild rabbit getting ready to nibble a hydrangea bush

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