|Joy Ortyl, a master gardener from Perrysburg, installs fencing to protect her plants from
pests including rabbits. (Photo: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
Those "wascal wabbits" as the cartoon character Elmer Fudd complains.
While rabbits may be a great pet and fun to watch for many, they can wreak havoc on a garden; and a
shotgun is not advisable.
"One day your crops look great, and the next day they’re eaten down to the ground," says Joy
Ortyl, a Wood County Master Gardener from Perrysburg.
"My husband tells me that it’s my fault for creating a theme park for the rodents, but I am
determined to outwit them," says Ortyl with Fudd-like determination.
Over the years, Ortyl has tried a variety of ways to combat the critters with some success, but she has
found that most products are only a short-term fix.
The rain and nature have a way of minimizing the control over time.
"You think you’ve solved the problem, and then – bingo – they’re at it again," she says.
Among the remedies she has tried include, to varying degree of effectiveness, moth balls, fox urine,
liquid fence, cat fur, human hair, and hot pepper spray. The gardener indicating the list goes on.
"We even got a dog specially bred for small game hunting," Ortyl indicating the breed as Petite
Basset Griffon Vendeen. "He chases them out during the day, but they do their best damage
nocturnally when he’s asleep on the job."
Her latest methodology, good old-fashioned fencing. Forget the chemicals and gadgetry, merely block their
path to your greens.
At first, Ortyl tried one large fence around her circular garden. That was less than an ideal solution.
Bugs and the bunny buddies were able to jump through the openings and had a great time munching away.
"Then I began fencing individual crops of up to a 3-foot diameter, and that has finally done the
trick," she stated. "Apparently they don’t jump into the individual cylinders because they
The one downside is aesthetics. Lots of little fences throughout a garden is not necessarily an image
most gardeners want to showcase.
To minimize that, Ortyl uses lawn fencing with a metal-covered green vinyl.
"It looks a lot better than chicken wire and blends in with the foliage," she states.
The rectangular openings measure 2 by 3-inches. Smaller, ½ inch, openings are also available to repel
chipmunks if needed, but she feels that does detract from the beauty of the garden.
According to the gardener, what she uses is sturdy enough to last, but flexible enough to bend. It also
comes in various heights. She will use the different heights based on the plant she is protecting.
However, she does note that the bunnies can stand on their haunches to nibble what grows over the 1-foot
fence. Thus, a 2-foot or 3-foot variety may be better.
Ortyl says among the plants most attractive to rabbits in her garden are asters, oriental lilies, white
coneflowers (but oddly not the pink), white bleeding hearts (but again not pink), sunflowers,
hollyhocks, hostas, willows, fothergillas, and some roses.
"They prefer the tender new shoots close to the ground, so as the plant grows taller, chances of
survival improve," she indicated.
Nonetheless she leaves her fencing in place all year round.
She has also found the rabbits prefer the plants further from the house, and likely the dog.
Another purpose of fencing is for support of tall plants which tend to flop over as the season
"I fence sedum, crocosmia, and a few others for that reason," she affirms. "As the plants
grow through the openings, you can hardly tell that the fencing is there. This sure beats staking, for
convenience as well as appearance."
She summarizes, "Good luck with your critter control."
How to install a garden
Master gardener Joy Ortyl explains how she installs the fencing around various plants in her gardens.
She says after selecting the right height of fence, she uses wire cutters to cut the appropriate size
Make the cuts, leaving extra edges on one side so you can bend them through to create a cylinder.
Her method requires two or three garden stakes for each cylinder. These stakes can be purchased in the
identical metal-covered with green vinyl to match the fencing she prefers.
The stakes come in various lengths ranging from 2-feet to 4-feet. Ortyl says the stakes should be one
foot longer than the height of the cylinder and should be inserted in a weave through the fencing.
The stakes are then pounded into the ground with a heavy hammer.
Ortyl says the process is fairly quick, and goes faster as the gardener becomes more familiar with the