By: Garden4Dinner

Isn’t that bunny cute…. until it eats half of my vegetables. I haven’t had bunnies bug my garden in a while because of our handy set up I will share. The bunnies and I happily share the yard.

My biggest garden problems are rabbits and voles. I think everyone knows what a rabbit is, but I wasn’t familiar with a vole until I moved into my current house. I knew what moles where, but I had never heard of voles. A vole is also known as a meadow mouse. They are a small mouse that burrows tunnels and eats various things including, roots, bulbs, and tubers.

When I moved into my house about 8 years ago a neighbor cat used to help keep the rabbits and rodents away. Shortly after, our dog quickly claimed the backyard and I haven’t seen a cat in the backyard since. Of course, our dog didn’t seem to keep the rabbits and voles away. Last spring our dog died after a long happy life. Since then, I still haven’t seen a cat in our yard and I think more rabbits have moved in.

Evidence

Rabbits

They really do multiply in our yard. I see them constantly and we get baby rabbits in the spring. It is easy to know we have a problem with rabbits. All I have to do is walk by their homes and I can hear the rustle and they often run away.

rhodedendron - rabbit home
Rabbit home #1 – Rhododendron and surrounding bushes
elephant grass
Rabbit home #2 – Elephant Grass
oregon grape - rabbit home
Rabbit home #3 – Oregon Grape

The three bushes above are popular homes in our yard for the rabbits. The rabbits have no problem slipping through our chain link fence to and from the neighbors. The holes need to be smaller than this to keep them out.

chain link fence - not a rabbit deterrent
I catch the rabbits slipping through the fence into our neighbor’s yard when I get too close for their comfort.

Voles

We manage to keep the voles away from the vegetables, but there is clear evidence we have a large vole population in our yard. First, on occasion, I will walk up to one of our nice flowers and notice that the bulb part of the flower is gone and I can touch the flower and it will fall over. Second, my husband set out mouse traps a few years ago and caught some. Third, we have tunnels all throughout our yard that get smashed in when we walk around.

vole damage
Our lawn here used to be flat, now it is bumpy from the vole tunnels that have fallen through.

The Solution

Right now, we protect all of our vegetable garden beds against the rabbits and voles. The bottom of the garden beds are lined with a hardware cloth to prevent the voles from digging up under the vegetables. It allows the roots and good critters, such as worms, to get through.

garden bed hardware cloth
Hardware cloth stapled to the bottom of the garden bed before the soil is added. This one is actually ½”, but the current ones we use are ¼”. I will find out if ½” is small enough to keep them out.

Carrots and other root vegetables stop growing when they get to the mesh, so I either grow stubby, short root vegetables in the shallow beds or use taller beds for nicer root vegetables.

We use chicken wire on the top of our beds. The chicken wire is attached to small boards that I can lift off of the beds and rotate around on the different beds. I have two combinations of these chicken wire garden bed “lids”. One has only the sides and the other has sides and a top.

rabbits and rodents garden bed lid
Here is a well-used garden bed “lid” with chicken wire sides and top. The top of the chicken wire is twisted onto the chicken wire sides to keep it connected.
rabbits and rodents garden bed lid
It is a little hard to see from this picture, but this a garden bed “lid” with only sides. I use the clothes pins to hold on row cover when I use row cover.
rabbits and rodents garden bed lid
This shows how the garden bed “lid” can lift off of the garden bed.

There are zip tie fasteners connecting the sides of the chicken wire together at the corners. The chicken wire sides are stapled to the 1 1/2” tall by 1” wide wooden frame.

I rotate the 2 different types of lids depending on what I am growing. If I have new seeds that I just planted, I generally place the lid with the top on. When I am using a row cover on the plants or they start to get big I use the lid with only sides. When vines get tall enough to need a trellis, I use the lid with only sides and attach a trellis to the re-bar on the side of the bed.

rabbits and rodents garden bed lid
Re-bar on the side of the bed. I place metal poles that have a trellis netting over the re-bar.

The garden bed “lids” work great. There just isn’t enough space for a fence and garden bed access in some of the areas where I have garden beds. If I had a problem with deer, I likely would want a different solution. We have a chain link and wooden fence around our entire backyard. Even though we do have deer in our neighborhood on occasion because of a nearby ravine, I have never seen any in our yard.

I do have to be careful not to snag my clothing when lifting the lids on and off of the bed. I generally lean the lid against my body to make it easier to lift because even though they aren’t heavy, they are a little long. My beds are 4 ft x 4 ft, so the “lids” are the same size. I could probably scratch my hands on the chicken wire also, but I am careful, so I don’t. The chicken wire isn’t smooth and when I wear my leather gardening gloves (I usually don’t) I never have to even worry about getting scratched.

I have had these “lids” for several years and they have held up very well. The lids are light weight and easy for me to take on and off. I only have one type of lid per garden bed and rotate the different types. I have never needed more than that, it just always works out. With the wire mesh under the garden bed and proper use of the garden bed “lids”, I have never had a problem with rodents or rabbits eating my vegetables. The lid with a top on it has an added benefit of keeping the birds from eating newly planted seeds.

I can understand why people try to get rid of rodents and rabbits from their yard, especially if there is a chance of getting a disease from one. For now, we co-exist in my yard. I am interested what you do to keep rodents and rabbits away from your plants.


Materials:

Garden Bed “Lids”:

Under the garden bed hardware cloth:

  • $22.94 – 36-Inch x 10-Foot 1/4-Inch Galvanized Mesh Garden Cloth
    • For under 1 garden bed
      • 2 – 3 ft x 4 ft pieces put next to each other with enough to overlap under the garden bed. A 4 ft x 4 ft size would be even better. I had a hard time finding 4 ft width. 1/4″ mesh is small enough to keep out the voles, they can get through some pretty small holes.
  • Stapler and staples from the above list to staple the mesh to the bed

Time:

  • 40 minutes per garden bed “lid”

Total cost: ~$90.05 – provides for 1 – 4 ft x 4 ft bed and extra materials to use for additional beds
Total time:
40 minutes

[Image Credit: Flickr, all other images are ©2017 Garden4Dinner]

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