How to keep rabbits out of the garden: 7 kind methods to save your plants

Find out how to keep rabbits out of the garden with these expert-led, kind natured tips

A rabbit nibbling on a plant in a backyard
(Image credit: Julia Harris / EyeEm / Getty)

Need to know how to keep rabbits out of the garden? Rabbits undoubtedly are cute, but they become a bit less cute when they've destroyed your kitchen garden and pooped all over the lawn. If you are being visited by large numbers of these fluffy creatures – that aren't your pets – you may want to start thinking about appropriate and humane deterrent methods.

Aside from getting out your best lawn mower to keep your turf trimmed (so that rabbits don't get so tempted) and leaving less for these furballs to graze on, there are thankfully a couple of other humane methods to deter these lovely creatures. No need to compromise on your backyard ideas, just be clever with how you tackle the problem, with help from backyard maintenance and gardening experts. 

How to kindly keep rabbits out of a garden

Before you go on a campaign to keep rabbits out of your garden space, you may pause to think about how much their presence really bothers you. As Kyle Tobin, the owner of LawnSavers, points out, 'rabbits are wonderful creatures who are gentle, cute, and don’t do a ton of damage, so there’s no immediate need to keep rabbits off your yard. Now, if you have a garden, they could potentially steal some of the food, so that might be an issue', but other than that, rabbits won't do much damage to your property. 

If you dislike finding their poop on your lawn or simply aren't keen to have them in your garden, you can limit their presence, humanely, by following a few simple steps.

1. Fence off your garden or yard

Melody Estes, a Landscape Design Gardening Supervisor from Maine and a consultant at The Project Girl recommends building a fence: 'First, you'll need to fence your garden or yard off from the rest of your property. You can use chicken wire or galvanized metal fencing (this will keep rabbits out), but make sure that it's at least three feet high so that they can't jump over it.' Chicken wire can be bought on Amazon.

2. Sprinkle cayenne pepper along the perimeter 

This is a cheap and effective way to keep rabbits out of your yard - you probably already have it in your pantry. According to Estes, 'rabbits hate cayenne pepper! The scent of cayenne pepper will repel them from coming back into the area again once they've tasted it once and found it unpleasant.'

3. Install motion-activated sprinklers 

Investing in motion sensor sprinklers is well worth it, especially if your yard is frequented by more than one type of inquisitive animal. Sprinklers are an effective repellent for skunks and raccoons - and they can work for rabbits too. Estes points out that there is a caveat: ' This method is not as effective as using cayenne pepper or fencing because it will only work if the rabbit happens to be near one of these sprinklers when they go off - and they may not come near them at all.'

4. Get a cat or a dog

If you have a pet, you may be in luck - they will help keep rabbits out of your yard. Douglas Dedrick is a landscaper with over a decade of experience and the founder of Natural Landscape Designs. He says: 'Most animals smell dogs and run in fear and won't come into a dog's territory.' With that said, we've not seen this method to be 100 percent effective. Rabbits can still get into your yard when your pets are in for the night.

5. Plant rabbit-repelling plants

Rabbits like having a nibble at your vegetables, but they don't like all plants, disliking the taste and even smell of some of them. Jason White, the CEO of All About Gardening, recommends planting 'items that have strong scents which rabbits have a natural distaste for. Plant basil, garlic, onion, geranium, and rhubarb in your garden to act as your rabbit repellents. Rabbits tend to favor young and tender plants like lettuce, petunias, beans, and broccolis, so be strategic about planting those too.'

6. Ringfence your vegetable crops

If you are primarily concerned about your vegetables, protecting your crops by ringfencing them with plastic or chicken wire may be a more effective solution than trying to keep them out.  Kyle Tobin, the owner of LawnSavers, says that 'basic wire or plastic put up around your garden and/or plants should do the trick to keep most rabbits out of the food in your garden.'

7. Keep your lawn trimmed

Tobin advises that 'rabbits like the cover of long grass, plants, and weeds. If your grass is consistently short, it should help keep rabbits away.' So, get your lawn mower out and trim that lawn – and do it regularly. 

Keeping rabbits away: what not to do

If your efforts are failing, it can be tempting to start using harsher methods like traps or frightening the animals away. Tobin urges homeowners not to do this: 'do not use traps and refrain from scaring the rabbits yourself. Remember: we are infiltrating their habitat and we all must coincide, so use natural methods to direct them somewhere else, but be kind.'

What smells do rabbits dislike?

Tobin advises that 'rabbits have a strong sense of smell and will stay away from smells like: chives, garlic, vinegar, chili powder, predator urine, sulfur, lavender.' Obviously, you will be able to smell whatever you use to deter rabbits, so think twice about the urine option.

Will coffee grounds keep rabbis away?

Another option is spreading coffee grounds in areas rabbits frequent. Jason White, the CEO of All About Gardening, confirms that 'coffee has a strong scent that acts as a repellent for many insects and other mammals, making it an effective and cheap pest-repellent for the garden.' Just make sure you're not putting coffee grounds over young plants as the coffee could smother them. 

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.