Rabbits 2017-06-03T21:40:39+00:00

Postscript: The Rascally Rabbit Ate My Lettuce


Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

By Gil Medeiros, Fairfax Master Gardener
In October, I planted ‘Winter Density’ lettuce in my fall garden and was even inspired to write about it (See How To Grow Lettuce That Likes Winter.) As I sowed the seeds, visions of savoring succulent, homegrown lettuce in December were dancing in my head. Well, the update is, the lettuce plants are gone. They were savored, yes, but not by me.

It was the 18th-century Scottish poet, Robert Burns, who wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” (“Gang aft agley” were the exact words Burns used to finish the sentence, but nobody writes like that anymore except in text messages.) Burns went on to apologize to the mouse for plowing up the mouse’s nest.

I assure you I will not be apologizing to the rabbit that ate my winter lettuce seedlings.

rabbit fence

This 18-inch plastic fence within a raised bed works well to exclude rabbits.

I didn’t think the seedlings, barely an inch high, were big enough to attract the attention of the white-tailed critter with long ears, but I should have known. The rabbit appears in my yard every evening before sunset. He surveys my landscape intently in search of his next meal. Already this fall he has dined on my beautyberry bush. A few days before the lettuce seedlings were devoured, I noticed that three of my ‘Goldie’ ferns were nibbled to the ground. Ferns are not popular salad-bar items at the wildlife café. No, this wasn’t the work of Bambi. It was an exceptionally hungry Bugs Bunny. Alarm bells should have clanged in my head. I should have put the covering over the low tunnel frame I had already erected. Alas, I did not, and I am sadder but wiser.

This is a good lesson for gardeners. Pay attention to what is happening in your garden. Good scouting is an important part of successful gardening. Be on the lookout for signs of pest damage, and be prepared to take action swiftly. I saw the signs but failed to take the action. The best way to protect your vegetables from rabbits is to erect a low fence around them. Ornamentals can be sprayed or dusted with a repellant. In the case of the lettuce, the poly-sheeting over the low tunnel would have worked fine.

I have more of the seeds. I will plant them in March and protect the seedlings immediately. It will be a good crop, just a little later than expected.

The Virtual Nature Trail at Penn State New Kensington, Pennsylvania State University