How to deal with Hungry Rabbits

How can you keep rabbits out of your vulnerable spring garden?

Is there a repellent I can use to keep rabbits out of my yard? They eat my tender tulips and irises in the spring.
—Betty Larson, Orion, IL

Unfortunately, rabbits are very hungry in spring, and they’re attracted to young, tender plants—especially flowers. And with spring bulbs, once a flower is damaged, that’s it for the entire year.

You can find garden repellent for rabbits and other critters at most nurseries, garden centers, hardware stores and big box stores. You can also find recipes online for making your own repellent relatively inexpensively using ingredients such as hot sauce, hot pepper flakes, garlic, chili powder, eggs and dish detergent.

To have any chance of working, however, repellents must be applied frequently—at least weekly—and definitely after every rainfall. For best results, apply a repellent as soon as plants emerge; don’t wait for flower buds to start showing color. That way, you might have some success at training the bunnies that those particular plants don’t smell or taste good. However, even if you do everything right, don’t expect perfect results.
—Deb Brown, professor emeritus, University of Minnesota Department of Horticultural Science