Photo by Caitlin Wilson
Just over a year ago, I bought my first house — all 720 square feet of it — along with a yard that looked like it had never been turned to anything but lawn. When I first saw the yard, on an unseasonably warm January day, I knew I could transform it into a vegetable paradise ringed with roses. I had boundless ambitions, a hatchback car, and a shovel, along with childhood memories of maintaining a vast garden with my mom.
I wasn’t quick enough last year to get much of anything growing, but I was determined to have a garden this year. I brought in dozens of loads of compost, topsoil, and mulch, piling them into low raised beds bordered by scrap wood I had scrounged from neighborhood driveways on trash day. Meanwhile, my living room gradually filled with recycled yogurt cups and mushroom containers holding starts of every type of seed I could get my grubby hands on. I also ordered some shrubs from a nearby nursery, and somehow my original order of about four roses grew into a dozen, which showed up by twos and threes.
As I started planting, I realized that no matter how fiercely I wanted a garden, the local rabbits just as fiercely wanted to make salad of anything more than half an inch tall. No matter how often I let the dog out to chase them off, or how thoroughly I fenced my precious shrubs and perennials with chicken wire, I found neatly clipped twigs and beheaded seedlings every morning. The situation called for more extreme measures.
I fenced off the vegetables with hog panels, and then my partner and I zip-tied chicken wire to the inside. That took care of the veggies, but there was a lot of yard the rabbits were still merrily romping and chomping through. At last, and again with help, I got the whole yard fenced with rabbit wire. There are still a few intrepid visitors, but most of the rabbits seem to have sworn off my yard. It’s just too much effort to get in, and then there’s the chance that a speedy little dog will chase them hither and yon while they try to remember exactly where they squeezed under the fence.
Many of my early starts croaked when I planted them out — probably a combination of inconsistent watering and poor hardening off — but the replanted seeds took off, and a few seedlings from local farmers markets filled in the gaps in the garden plan. We’ll definitely have enough okra, basil, and popcorn, and the bean crop is looking good so far.
I’m sure I’m in good company with my anti-rabbit efforts. What lengths have you gone to for a garden? Email me at CWilson@Grit.com, and you may end up in the magazine.