Monday, July 10, 2017

So... Rabbits Again

Rabbits: the perpetual curse. Or is it a blessing in disguise? I go back and forth.

I jokingly (half jokingly) refer to them as our "pet" rabbits. Looked at from one perspective, we are encroaching on their space, changing the environment. If I provide an easy food source for them, why shouldn't they take advantage.

I get along with the rabbits by building fences around the things they most like to eat (young pea plants, bean plants, chard, beets, sweet potatoes, strawberries, and apparently young okra plants. The deer also like to strawberry and sweet potato plants, so I have to put a chicken wire "top" on those beds to keep the deer from reaching over, or simply stepping over the two-foot tall rabbits fences. The deer seem easier to thwart than the rabbits, though.

Radishes. Rabbits don't seem to like radishes. They're safe without a fence.
Erecting chicken wire fences makes for an extra gardening task, but it's worth it to save the frustration of having my plants eaten, and it detracts less from the aesthetics than the white row cover. Besides, if I plan correctly I don't need to take all of them down and put them back up at the end of the season. For example, I'll leave up the fence around the sweet potatoes and plant peas and/or beans there next year. The fence around the strawberries just stays, since they are a perennial crop.

Row cover can't be considered a fool proof barrier against rabbits anyway. Two years ago (or was it last year?) a crafty rabbit learned that it can get to my tasty bush beans by tearing a hole in the row cover.

Or if I trap baby bunnies inside (How was I supposed to know they were there?) a row covered tunnel mama will readily tear her way in. A few weeks ago I had left the row cover off of the cabbages to facilitate the path rehabilitation project -- and doesn't it look nice. Before putting the row cover back in place I sprayed with Bt to take care of any cabbage eating larvae that might hatch out. The next day I noticed a large hole in the end of one of the row covers. And it just happened to be a new cover. The one that had been on there had gotten beaten up by the various elements and needed to be fully intact because I was planting squash in there as I harvested the cabbages. I hoped to delay the onslaught of squash bugs and cucumber beetles. So having a large hole torn in that row cover seemed a particular insult.

I waited a couple of days to patch the hole (with duct tape). The morning after I'd patched it, it was torn again, right next to the patch. At first I thought that the row cover was just weak there and the wind (we'd had a lot of it) just ripped it again. So I used more duct tape. The next day another rip! Aargh. Patch. Hmmm. Could it be that a mama bunny had hidden babies under the spreading leaves of the cabbages?

The next morning I stepped out onto the front steps to greet the sun and saw a hole in a different spot... aaaand a rabbit shoving her way through the row cover right next to the patch over the original holl -- FROM THE INSIDE! I am certain it was the very rabbit pictured above, as she is feeding on clover near that particular cabbage patch.

Bingo. My suspicions were correct. I pulled back the row cover and started tilting back cabbages. It didn't take long for me to discover the babies, fully furred and quite mobile, under one of the cabbages. I chased them out of the bed -- which took a few minutes because they split up and hid under other cabbages. Then I took off all the lower cabbage leaves, creating a less attractive hiding spot, chased out the last bunny and put the row cover back.

No more holes torn into the row cover. Problem solved. Now I can chuckle about actually finding babies in the cabbage patch.

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