Fencing out the Easter Bunny


Thoughts of bunnies at Easter time occupy the minds of many a gardener: bunnies eating lettuce, bunnies eating Swiss chard, bunnies girdling the trunks of young trees. (Istockphoto)
March 27, 2013

Without much coming up in the March garden, the sight of brightly colored eggs tucked into a yard’s greenery is a welcome one, especially if they are real eggs, home-dyed, rather than candy ones wrapped up in foil (though maybe my inner 4-year-old would differ).

In any case, I’ve always found this a charming, if puzzling, tradition. This year I did a bit of research into the past, and yes, it’s quite logical that the rabbit, associated as it is with the ancient fertility goddess Eostre (whose name gave us Easter) should be a spring totem. After all, a rabbit can produce 18 bunnies a year, and may conceive new ones even while pregnant. As for eggs, they’re a fertility symbol, too. One legend about Eostre had her turn a freezing bird into a rabbit in order to give it warm fur — hence the rabbit that delivers eggs. As for the future, let’s hope that a biotech lab doesn’t engineer some sort of furry Frankenfowl that lays rainbow eggs. Sometimes science is stranger than myth.

Meanwhile, thoughts of bunnies at Easter time occupy the minds of many a gardener: bunnies eating lettuce, bunnies eating Swiss chard, bunnies girdling the trunks of young trees. In some areas they are a yearly threat, in others only when predators are scarce. But protection is essential because the cute cottontail can be as voracious as it is fertile.

Shooting rabbit trespassers is hard to do. If you are close enough to get a good shot you can probably see how their little noses quiver and admire their soft, floppy ears.

Trapping isn’t a good option, either. My husband once showed me a baby one he’d caught in his cap, and the best we could do was relocate it down the road. I do find that a sprinkling of dried blood (a fertilizer found at many garden centers) is a great nontoxic repellent. It needs to be reapplied after rain, but that’s fine. Applications of nitrogen-rich blood meal give garden greens a terrific boost.


The Eastern cottontail rabbit. (istockphoto)

The permanent solution, however, is a rabbit-proof fence, which means one with openings no wider than an inch. (Tiny rabbits, because of their numbers, can be just as destructive as big ones.) It needn’t be very tall: Two or three feet will do. In fact, you can buy a “rabbit guard” fence with wide mesh above and finer mesh at the bottom, widely available at hardware stores and mass merchandisers. Chicken wire also works fine.

It’s best to bury chicken wire at least six inches down, so nobody tunnels under. You could also just bend it and lay some of it flat on the ground, weighted with bricks or stones.

Fencing really works, as long as you keep the gate closed. Remember Mr. McGregor? You don’t want furry creatures trapped inside the garden, wondering how to get out. Check to make sure no crops are being nibbled. Hopefully, there are only bunny tracks outside the fence. And no eggs.

Damrosch's new book, “The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook,” was published in March.

Tip of the week

Sow tomato seeds for transplanting in early to mid-May. When seedlings reach three to four inches, transfer them to larger pots for proper root development — a six-inch pot can take four seedlings. The larger pots can be placed in a cold frame that vents on warm days. Don’t plant tomatoes too early: Cool nights and cold, wet soil will slow their development.

— Adrian Higgins

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