Rabbit Control

rabbit controlLately, I have received a significant number of e-mails about two pests, one real and one imaginary, at least where our part of the country is concerned. First, we’ll look at the real one.
In Tarzana and Woodland Hills, rabbits have become a major pest. For a number of homeowners, Bugs Bunny and his ravenous friends have made it impossible to have a lawn or garden. The following communication from Catherine Carpenter is typical:
“I live in the hills in Tarzana,” she wrote, “and unfortunately our back lawn has become the community lawn for families of rabbits. No amount of Liquid Fence (a deer and rabbit repellent), hot pepper spray or even our 100-pound German shepherd keeps them away. They frolic and eat our lawn and flowers to their hearts’ content. We have had to resod our lawn three times in 12 years.”
And then there is this from Linda Hyman: “We live in the hills of Tarzana, and small white-tail rabbits have made our yard their home.
“After planting annuals, whether in spring or fall, we have dead stumps after a few weeks. Are there flowers that will repel the rabbits and possibly encourage them to find a new home?”
Although no plants deter rabbits, and hungry rabbits will eat virtually any vegetation, there is anecdotal evidence that rabbits may avoid some shrubs, perennials and vegetables. The list includes: yarrow, barberry, boxwood, silverberry (Elaeagnus), fuchsia, holly, roses, rosemary, viburnum, yucca, bear’s breech (Acanthus), daffodils, pampas grass (Cortaderia), euphorbia, sedum, geraniums, hellebore, irises, lupine, freeway daisies (Osteospermum), bamboo, celery, tomatoes, onions and parsnips.
The only sure way of keeping out rabbits is with a fence. It should be 3 feet above ground with another 6 to 10 inches buried with a flange of a few inches bent outward to thwart tunneling below. The mesh size should be no larger than 1 inch to prevent baby rabbits from squeezing through.
Many readers have e-mailed to register concern about the possibility of voracious Formosan termites showing up in bags of mulch, but the panic is unjustified. This imaginary scenario is connected to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when thousands of broken and uprooted trees were removed and shredded.
Rumors started to fly over the Internet that mulch arriving in nurseries this spring might contain wood chips from Louisiana, an adopted home of the highly aggressive and destructive Formosan termite. The theory was that these creatures could, theoretically, hitchhike on exported Louisiana mulch.
However, all woody debris from Katrina was deposited in local, quarantined landfills and none of it, according to state officials, left those areas.
I was reminded, this past week, of a simple horticultural truth: Often, the best way to care for plants is to do nothing at all. Plants flower most when they are given the minimum amount of water needed for their basic upkeep. I had never really succeeded with `Black Beauty’ heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) — the dark-leafed, deep violet-flowered variety — until I planted one and just left it alone.
The plant really does not need much water as long as its roots are protected by either mulch or the heliotrope’s own vegetation.

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