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between large boulders or among dense thicket. Rabbits mostly live in a social hierarchy of two to three bucks and three to four does, plus some youngsters.

Mostly active between dusk and dawn, a single rabbit can eat half a kilo of vegetation a day, and of course this can be grass, cereals in fields and wildflowers, as well as garden plants.


The does have four to six litters from February until July, with two to three young per litter – baby rabbits are known as kits. They emerge from the burrow at about three weeks old. Young rabbits are usually sexually mature at three to four months. No wonder we talk about ‘breeding like rabbits’.

Time to stop losing the battle against rabbits?

Cute on an Easter card, but a nuisance to vegetable gardeners. We seem to have a love-hate relationship with wild rabbits.

Rabbits are such a part of the scenery in this country and have been for centuries – although they weren’t always here. Native to Western Europe, rabbits (Oryctolagus cunicilus) were introduced into Britain originally by the Romans and then by the Normans in the 12th century as a food source and were kept in specially made warrens, which have been discovered on ancient estates.

Once they were a staple of the British diet, cheap and nutritious with a taste like chicken. Then the spread of myxamotosis in the 1950s not only wiped out so many rabbits (it is estimated that 99 per cent of the UK rabbit population succumbed), rabbit was unsurprisingly no longer eaten by most people. Recently it has made something of a come-back, but the disease returns periodically as well.

The European rabbit is found all over Europe, except for the far north and east, and also inhabits North West Africa. It has been introduced to many other countries, including New Zealand, Australia and Chile.

To most of us, rabbits are not welcome in the garden. They love nibbling young shoots, and they can destroy a burgeoning vegetable crop in a very short time while you’re not around. Not only that, they have a liking for tree bark and can do some serious damage to garden trees.

They are found wherever there is grass and flower rich feeding areas, with dense cover nearby for protection. They prefer sandy or light soils, and they dig a warren made up of a series of burrows, but sometimes live above ground

To most of us, rabbits are not welcome in the garden

So if you have a rabbit problem in your garden what do you do? You can put up a wire fence with mesh no more than 2.5cm to stop them getting through, round the entire garden or perhaps just the vegetable plot, 60cm high,

and sunk beneath the soil to a depth of at least 5cm. Trees can be fitted with tree guards.

In the flower garden, and without such fencing put up, you can choose to grow plants that rabbits don’t like and will leave alone. In general rabbits dislike very aromatic plants, plants that ooze caustic milky sap, prickly plants, plants with spines, or plants with tough leathery leaves. There’s quite a list – including daffodils and tulips, dahlias and azaleas, thorny plants such as roses, hardy geraniums, plants with furry leaves such as Lambs Ears, plants with sword shaped leaves such as gladioli and iris, hardy fuchsias, and many trees and shrubs.

Try these plants that rabbits dislike Daffodils, crocus and tulips


Californian poppy Dahlias Roses

On the vegetable plot… Tomatoes


Dogwood Sambucus

Crocosmia Rhododendrons Broad beans Globe artichoke

And these shrubs and trees… Ceanothus


Cotoneaster Choisya

In the vegetable garden, rhubarb, potatoes, and tomatoes are safe. In the bean family, if you stick to growing broad beans you will be better off than growing other types, and rabbits will not touch courgette, marrow or squash plants. Sometimes it is better to live with nature than continually trying to fight a losing battle.

Country Gardener 19

Lily of the Valley Cyclamen Astilbe

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