Peppers (Capsicum annuum), ranging from bell peppers to chili peppers, thrive as a warm-season annual in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 1 through 11. Some varieties, such as the "Black Pearl" ornamental pepper, grow as a perennial in zones 4 through 11. Unlike other common vegetables, peppers are not the first choice for hungry rabbits. You may still find these pesky pests feeding on new leaves and young shoots, however. Defend your peppers before it's too late.
Build Your Defense
The most humane and most effective way to keep rabbits away from your pepper plants is by completely excluding them from your vegetable garden with a rabbit-proof fence. Erect a fence around your backyard using mesh with 1-inch-wide openings or smaller. The fence should measure at least 24 to 36 inches high and go at least 6 inches into the ground. If the thought of fencing in your entire garden sounds like too much work, create a circle of mesh fencing around each individual pepper plant instead.
Create a Habitat Hell
Most rabbits don't like wide, open spaces. They are prey to many animals, and thus prefer landscapes with lots of hiding spots. Modify your backyard landscape to make your garden as inhospitable to rabbits as possible. Clean up all garden debris, thin out dense hedges and shrubs near your vegetable garden, and eliminate stands of weeds and brush.
By creating clear, open spaces around the pepper plants, the rabbits may be encouraged to move on to easier foraging that's more protective.
Spritz On an Anti-Rabbit Spray
If rabbits, deer and other pests are still finding their way in and among your pepper plants, apply a defensive spray to your vegetables. Chop up a fresh jalapeno pepper and a yellow onion and place them into a pot. Add a tablespoon of dried cayenne pepper. Pour in a couple quarts of tap water and boil the mixture for approximately 20 minutes. After the solution has cooled, strain it through a cheesecloth and pour it into a plastic spray bottle. Mist the concoction onto the pepper plants. The pungent smell and spicy taste will keep rabbits and other animals from feeding on pepper fruit and foliage.
Reapply once every three days, or whenever you water your plants or after it rains.
Employ Scare Tactics
The scents of blood or of predatory animals can scare rabbits right out of your landscape. For example, some gardeners have had success sprinkling dog hair or dried blood meal around the perimeter of their vegetable garden. Other gardeners have pounded stakes into the ground every few feet around their vegetable garden, tied a cotton ball to each stake and sprinkled a few drops of fox urine on the cotton balls. Such tactics only work for as long as the smell lasts, however, so you need to reapply it every few days or whenever it rains.
Another idea that has worked for some landscapers is setting up motion-activated garden statues, such as frog decorations that croak anytime something moves. When the rabbits set off the motion-activated sensors, the noise from the garden decorations scare them away.
- Old Farmer's Almanac: Bell Peppers
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Capsicum Annuum 'Black Pearl'
- University of Illinois Extension: Plants Not Favored by Deer and Rabbits
- Horticulture Magazine: Ways to Keep Rabbits From Eating Garden Plants
- Dallas-Fort Worth Wildlife Coalition: Cottontail Rabbits
- North Dakota State University Extension Service: Rabbits
- Frederick County Master Gardener Program: Keeping Rabbits Out of Your Garden
- Vegetable Gardener: Keeping Rabbits Out of the Kitchen Garden
- Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station: Keeping Rabbits Away From Desirable Plants in Your garden and Landscape
Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.