Bunny and chipmunk damage to plants and trees is a significant problem here, partly because my yard is delicious.  Partly because I have neighbors who have a bunny living in their bushes and think it's soooo cute because it's pals with their dog.  It's a big bunny, likely the proud father of 429,327 lil bunny bastards who hop over to my place for meals.  I have scoured the internet for the past few years trying to solve my little bunny and chipmunk problem.  Thanks to search engines, I have been presented many options, most of which I have tried. 

At first, I thought the plant loss was just a bunny issue until I discovered a chiphole scurrying into a hole next to a flower he was nibbling on.  I swear, after replacing yet another treasured flower, I declared war.  I never thought chipmunks were cute but I didn't mind their presence.  Kind of a live and let live attitude.  But if bunnies or chipmunks don't have that philosophy, why should I?

I ain't no punk.

I've read the lists of what chipholes and bunholes like to eat.  In case you have come here to check the list of what they like and don't like to destroy, I must issue the following caveat: These little miscreants will eat most things and what they don't eat from my yard, it may well be their favorite garden buffet item in yours. What they eat is very dependent on what is on the local neighborhood menu. Their diet apparently can change year to year as well.  This year I left a pot of baby tomato plants out on the patio, as the precious critters avoided tomatoes previously.  Not this year.  One little surviving roma, it's broken branches dangling sadly, proof of a new chewing habit. This list of yard nuisance favorite foods is *not* absolute.  I speak only for my own yard. 

Favorites:

  1. green beans (chipmunk)
  2. peppers
  3. All coles i.e. broccoli, brussies, kale (bunny)
  4. hosta
  5. snapdragon
  6. raspberry canes
  7. crocus

 Never Touched

  1. Peas
  2. Stock flowers
  3. Garlic
  4. Onion
  5. Calla lily
  6. Carrot  (I know, i thought they liked carrots)
  7. Dusty Miller
  8. Artichoke

The following list explores the different deterrents including effort needed, cost and special considerations.  

  1. Cayenne pepper:  B  I bought a 5lb shaker container of cayenne pepper, which should last the whole season for an average sized suburban yard.  Cost is not exorbitant.  Effort is higher than average.  It needs to be sprinkled after every rain.  It is not hazardous to bees. Do NOT apply on a windy day.  Unless getting cayenne pepper in your eyes makes you feel alive.  Rule 34?  Cayenne pepper can be a bit ugly as it's clear it's been applied.  I consider this a plus so that pet owners see that letting their dog go far enough into my yard to the garden area is not the best idea.  Someday we hope to have a puppy and I look forward to getting my pets scent all over the yard so I find a curious pet a benefit.  Besides, who doesn't like a cute pupper coming in to say hi?
  2. Hardware cloth - galvanized 1/4" grid:  B  We've had hardware clothe protecting our grape plants for a year.  Works like a dream.  Although I want the prettiest garden in the neighborhood, it's more important to me to have a *successful* garden.  Extraordinarily High effort.  We pulled up the existing fence, dug down at least 6-8" and placed 4' hardware cloth around the main garden.  It doesn't look as bad as I feared.  In places it's invisible per the small grid.  Hardware cloth is sturdy and will do the job for years.  We put it up over a month ago in April and nothing has gotten in the garden since.  Not even climbing critters.  It's a feast in there and happily, a feast for *my* family.  Be aware, like a serial killer, hardware cloth will cut you.  Even wearing gloves my wrists look like we have a very angry cat who hates me.  Cost is also high.  That said, it will pay for itself through the reduction in the use of the methods used above.  No neem needed, no cayenne, no repellent.  It will also pay for itself in the food we actually get to eat instead of needing to buy elsewhere.  But, looks still do matter so we only used hardware cloth around the main garden, the grapes, dahlias and peony.  We also wrapped the base of our fruit trees with the hardware cloth as voles ect will chew that too, especially during the winter.
  3. Planting garlic bulbs:  B  Last fall I planted garlic everywhere.  No, I can't smell it unless I damage a leaf.  I also love the smell of fresh garden garlic so I may be nose-blind to it.  A positive is you can pull the garlic for your recipes later in the season.  It seems to keep any plant right next to it safe. It's inexpensive, you can even plant most garlic cloves you purchase from your local grocery store.  I had some older cloves left over from last years harvest so free for me.  Garlic is easy to plant and grow, but effort wise it can be a bit of a pain if you plant generously.  It does need to be planted within a couple of inches of the plant it will protect.  If you plant something in your garden before the garlic comes up, it may not be the most fun guessing game.  You can map out where you planted garlic but if you planted a lot, that might be onerous and not worth the trouble.  I planted garlic in my rose garden, my "colors" garden.  I have lively areas respectively just for red flowers, yellow flowers and blue/purple flowers. I can't have Minnesota Vikings colors everywhere so of course purple is sequestered.  In fact, the chipholes/bunholes have only nibbled on the emerging hosta in the purple garden.  Fantastic as last year it was one of their favorite garden restaurants.  I guess they don't like the Vikings either.
  4. Mole/Vole repellent:  I discovered that my pile of dead leaves attracted voles so I sprinkled vole/mole repellent in many places around my yard.  So far those areas have been critter free. No nibbles.  We will see if the 5 lb bag of repellent lasts the whole season but I imagine it will.  On the plus side, I haven't seen signs of critters where I scattered it.  This will also need to be reapplied every so often.  The kind I used did not have a strong scent so it did not repel onlookers from enjoying my garden.
  5. Bunny/rodent spray repellent - predator urine based:  C  This option works but it works because it smells horrible and is definitely noticeable for a day or so.  It also costs money, both for the secret potty sauce and the sprayer.  It will need to be reapplied every few weeks and/or after a heavy rain.  It ranks high on the effort scale.  But it will work temporarily.  
  6. Neem Oil-heavily diluted:  B I have a spray bottle I use to put a spritz or two of diluted neem oil on the lower part of plants, usually the last step after I transplant and water my new plants.  It works.  Not only against Chipholes and Bunholes, but the dreaded colorado beetles.  I have heard differing opinions on whether it harms bees.  Probably best to not spray blossoms if can be avoided.  Last year I sprayed neem on some squash plants and it did not seem to deter the bees at all and I had bees all season.  One bottle of neem goes a long way as it's generally used heavily diluted with water.  So the cost is not prohibited.  Effort is slightly above average as it needs to be sprayed every now and again.  It has a strong scent, but the scent does fade and is nowhere near as offensive as urine.
  7. Raised Garden:  B   Height matters, sometimes more than ease of access.  A bunny could literally climb the candyland slope to the top of my herb spiral, munching all the way, yet they avoid it even though the bottom is yard level.  Even chipmunks avoid it.  My main garden is built on a slope.  One side is 6-8" off the ground, not far, yet they had always tried to go through on the patio side, which is level to the ground.  A friend of mine has a raised garden, approximately 10-12" off the ground.  The bunnies in her yard are more adventurous and do not find that height to be a deterrent as she recently found half her garden munched.  Another friend has a raised garden approximately 22" high off the ground.  Nothing grazes on her plants except bugs and spiders.
  8. Grated strong soap, as in Irish Spring or Coast. C  Your garden will smell clean.  I don't deploy this method often as grating a bit of soap around my plants is time-consuming and I am not convinced it's ok for the soil.  Effort is high, but cost is low.  I was hoping the grated soap effects would survive a spring rainstorm but no.  Plant was chewed down to its bits.
  9. Rose Thorns:  C  We dug up a rose bush this spring and gave it to a neighbor.  It was huge and provided ample thorny branches. I place a few around some plants to see if the thorns were a physical preventative.  The jury is out on this method.  It seems it can protect a plant, but the placement has to be generously and perfectly placed.  It seems to deter ChipBuns from second or third choice items but my kale?  Nope.  I made a teepee of rose branches for my last surviving kale.  It worked for a week.  Then one morning came out to see my last kale chewed into a single sad stick, teepee be damned.  
  10. Plastic cups:  C  Bunnies adore my broccoli.  I planted each broccoli inside a cup with the bottom cut out.  So broccoli has a mini greenhouse (which it doesn't need) and some protection from the bunnies.  The cups actually do protect the seedlings until they start growing above the cup.  So the cups give the broccoli a chance but is not fullproof.  this method is very high effort.  You have to cup out the bottom of plastic cups and bring the stack with you when you plant.  Additionally, once the plants are large, dirty cups at the base of the plant look pretty junky so you need to go back and cut them off.  It's low cost as you can buy a package of a hundred clear cups pretty cheap.  I also do this with beans planted outside the protection of the main garden
  11. Volume:  Bunnies used to chew on the raspberry canes but no longer.  We now have many canes to the point where we removed the fencing. This is not foolproof, it seems to work best if it's not their favorite food being heavily planted.  Overplanting broccoli didn't protect the crop last year.  Last fall I was pretty generous with the urine and cayenne in the raspberry corner, hoping the residue would be enough under the snow.  It may have worked.  We also just planted a lot of new hosta, a gift from over-hosta'd friends.  So far no nibbles.  But it was just planted and I sprayed neem.
  12. Plastic fencing (green), 3/4" grid:  D  Not sure which but Chip/Buns actually chewed through the green plastic fencing we had around our garden last year.  Little holes, just big enough to slide their bodies through.  My main garden has always been that super exclusive restaurant nobody you know can ever get in, I am the only reservation.  Little bastards found a way.  I would say to double up if using plastic fencing.  It costs money and takes effort to put in place.  Hardware cloth looks better, imo.  
  13. Block Entrances:  Yeah.  I used a combination of bricks, branches and thorny sticks to block the corners of the fenced yard where critters could get in, mainly corners and gates,  It did keep the big bunnies out but did nothing to keep out chipmunks, small bunnies, voles...  So we just said screw it this year.  More work than benefits.  The items used to block entrances would often need to be adjusted everytime we used the gates.  Besides, chipmunks can navigate gutters?
  14. Radish & marigold:  Scatter planting radish or stinky marigold to repel garden diners.  LOL  I also think marigolds are ugly.  F

Bottom Line:  Use hardware cloth for permanent garden areas where it won't ruin the look.  For open areas, alternate cayenne pepper, critter repellent and neem oil.  I hope I helped at least a little!



 

Grateful for:

The Interwebs

Cheap cayenne pepper

Hardware cloth

My blood pressure medication

GARDEN PLAYTIME