Animals eating my vegetable plants - Knowledgebase Question

Randolph, Ma
Question by cquiton
July 1, 2010
I am growing tomatoes, cucumbers, various peppers,and zucchini. Something, I'm assuming is a rabbit is eating the leaves and some of the tops of the plants. Will the plant still grow even if the tops were eaten?


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Answer from NGA
July 1, 2010

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It depends on how much of the plant was eaten and if the feeding continues. A vigorous zucchini plant probably won't be very affected by the loss of a few leaves, but a young plant that gets most of its foliage eaten may not survive. Fencing is the bet way to keep rabbits out of a garden. Fences should be 2 feet high to keep out true rabbits, 3 feet high to keep out hares. With either kind, the fencing should be made of 3/4" diameter wire mesh and should extend underground vertically about a foot and then bent at a right angle away from the garden for about another foot (kind of an underground L-shape) to prevent the rabbits from digging under. If you already have a fence in place, you can just add this underground wire barrier to it. If you are trying to keep rabbits out of an area in the winter, the fence need to extend 2-3 feet above the snow level.

You can protect vulnerable young plants in the garden with row covers and, to protect individual trees, you can make cylindrical wire guards around the trunks. These need to extend above the snow line to protect the trees in winter. There are commercial rabbit repellents on the market, but they need to be reapplied frequently. And dogs are pretty good deterrents. I never see rabbits, which are abundant in my neighborhood, in my backyard where my dog roams, but every year they eat the crocuses in my front yard down to the ground!

Woodchucks are another possibility- they can also decimate a garden. Fencing is also effective in keeping them out of the garden, but it needs to be higher than for rabbits, with an additional 18" not secured to posts, so that it will bend back under the weight of the woodchuck if it tries to climb over. You can also live trap and relocate woodchucks.

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