Saturday, May 24, 2014

Keeping Rabbits Out


The fence is finally up!  And it's quite the improvement over the make-shift fence that I slapped together last year:


The Old Fence This Spring, Just After the Snow Melted
I'm not blaming the winter for this fences condition....it didn't look much better last fall

When I built the fence last year, it was all about putting up something as quickly as possible before the rabbits did any more damage.  I wasn't really sure what I was doing & had never worked with chicken wire before.  I also didn't want to spend a lot of money on what would be a temporary measure as I knew that I would be expanding the garden this year.  It worked out pretty well, actually, because I used last year as a dry run for the larger fence that I put up this year.

I wanted to erect the lowest fence possible that was still effective at keeping out the rabbits.  Why?  Well, not only would a lower fence be less conspicuous, but it would also cost a LOT less.  It's surprising what one foot of height can add to the cost of a fence.   A 24” high chicken wire fence would cost about $165 for the fencing & posts.  For a 36” fence, the cost jumps to $315! The U-posts are the largest cost component, with a 4’ post costing over twice as much as a 3’ post ($9 vs. $4).

Fence recommendations for rabbits started at about 24”, all the way up to 36”.  I decided to test out the lower height last year.  If it proved effective, great.  If not, then I could adjust my plans when I constructed the larger fence this year.

I purchased 30" chicken wire - since I place a few inches of the chicken wire flat on the ground facing outwards (to prevent rabbits from digging underneath the fence), the 30" fencing would end up being about 24" tall.  I secure the chicken wire to the ground with fabric staples - the kind that are used to secure landscape cloth.
 
Chicken Wire Stapled to the Ground
 
Then there were the U-posts, which is the largest cost component.  I decided to get the taller 4’ u-posts (1’ is sunk into the ground, so these become roughly 3’ posts), just in case I later found that the 24” height was not enough to keep the rabbits out.  I purchased the bare minimum number of posts for the area around the 4 beds - basically one at each corner & a couple in between.  Anywhere the chicken wire needed extra support, I sunk in a bamboo pole & used a zip tie to attach it to the fence.

Well, after I installed the fence last year, ricketty as it may have been, I had no more rabbit problems.  Yipee!  So now I knew that 24" or so was just fine for the fence height.

This year, I purchased more of the 30" chicken wire and a whole bunch of the smaller (and way less expensive!) 3' u-posts.  The larger bed area is in a sort of L shape, so I used the 4' u-posts for the corners and the smaller 3' u-posts for the supports in between.

Now all I need is a gate - that is on the list for this weekend.
 
New Fence
Won't win any beauty contests, but it is WAY better than before & will serve its purpose very well

Now all I need is a gate - I have put in temporary u-posts (you can see one on the bottom right of photo) where the gate sides will be & am just putting some plywood in front of the opening for now.  I'm hoping that it will be done this weekend.
 
And now that the beds are finally fenced off, I was able to uncover the peas.  Had I not waited, those pesky bunnies would likely have made quick work of those pea shoots. For the bush sugar snaps, I was originally thinking of using twigs to support them.  But then I realized that the variety I purchased (Cascadia) are supposed to grow to almost 3' tall.  I don't know why, but I thought bush peas only grew to 18" or so.  Since I am growing them in a block, I'm thinking they will need more support, especially as it can get a bit windy around here.  So I decided to do a kind of zig-zag trellis with some bamboo poles & jute. I am going to put up a conduit trellis along the edge of the bed with the climbing sugar snaps - another weekend project - the list just keeps growing longer! 



Peas Out In The Open
 
To maximize the use of space, I sowed the climbing peas on the north side of the bed, in a 1' wide row, then I placed the bush peas on the south side in a block that is 3' x 4'.  The one problem that I can foresee is that I will have issues harvesting the peas that are right behind the climbing peas.  The block planting of peas is really an experiment - It would be great if I could do it this way because it would optimize the use of the space.  I am also trying to keep family members in the same bed when I can (although I did have to squeeze the spinach into this bed).  This will make annual crop rotation easier.  We shall see if harvesting from those hard to reach plants becomes too much of a pain.

And my spinach at the front of the bed is coming along.  I feel like I have been waiting forever for it to get to a harvestable size.  Now that we are having warmer days, I'm hoping it will start to really produce - so long as the days don't get too hot, that is.

And this past week, my lettuce fiiiinally reached a good size (there are a lot of finally's in this post, aren't there?). Yummy, yummy, yum!



Beautiful Lettuce
Just makes me want to say “Aaaah…”.
 
Till next time...

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

2 comments:

  1. I couldn't live without a good fence here. The skunks come and basically rototill the soil looking for worms. The groundhogs are vicious. I'm sure there are rabbits too, but I don't see them much.

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    Replies
    1. Rabbits are sneaky. I've never seen them actually "eating" anything, but we do catch them hopping around and next thing you know, the plants start to slowly disappear. I've basically given up on annuals along our walkway - they look beautiful for about a week then then they become rabbit food.

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