It’s time! If you live in the Dayton area, it’s time to start those bunny gardens! Whether growing greens for your own houserabbits, the wild bunnies, or the unfortunate stray (til s/he can be rescued), it’s just not that difficult, expensive or time-consuming to start a rabbit garden.
Radishes, spinach, lettuce and sugar snap peas are favorites among the long-eared bunch, and they should all be started now. Even just a few square feet can provide a variety of tasty snacks; flower pots are also good choices for growing these spring varieties, and if you are growing for the wild bunnies, a shallow window box placed on the ground can provide greens that are within reach.
Get some decent grade growing soil or else improve your own; if you have houserabbits, you have your own soil enrichment factory. Dump the contents of their litterboxes on your garden and turn it under, and/or start a small compost heap at the back of your property. I started a new garden this year by digging up a small area of lawn in front of Captain Oliver’s cairn; I added compost to the clay soil, picked out the sticks and crumbled the bigger clumps of soil by hand.
Radishes, lettuces and spinach went into the majority of the garden, with sugar snap peas planted around a couple of tomato cages (to support the vines later). The borders are transplanted dandelions, and when the plantain and mint shows up in the yard in a few weeks, I will transplant those as well. Marigolds can be added in May to a bunny garden for color; my houserabbits love the stuff, although the wild rabbits seem to leave it alone.
By the time the weather is warm enough that the greens will “bolt” (flower and turn bitter) it will be warm enough to plant basil, oregano and other herb plants.
Mist the soil lightly after planting.
To keep the squirrels from randomly digging in the newly turned earth (they think you have hidden thousands of acorns in there) you can sprinkle bone meal on top of the soil; it’s cheap and it also improves the soil. Sprinkle it on as if you were ‘salting’ the garden. While it also keeps bunnies away, once the plants are a couple inches tall the squirrels won’t be interested in digging there and you can stop using the bone meal. Garden centers, Meijer, and most hardware stores carry bone meal.
The same principles apply for growing greens in window boxes or other containers.
You don’t need fancy heirloom seeds, the rabbits don’t really care. Grieve Hardware at 1219 E. Stroop Road has seeds on sale right now at 3 packets for a dollar; Dayton area Rite-Aid drugstores (of all places) normally sell seeds for twenty cents a packet. Both places have a fine selection of spinach, lettuces, radishes, herbs and marigolds, as well as other flower and vegetable varieties. I had to get sugar snap peas at Ace Hardware on Stroop Road (for a premium price) although Meijer also carries them, and Lowe’s on Wilmington Avenue has an overwhelming variety of seeds of every type right now. Get a bunch, as greens and radishes need replanting every 3 weeks or so to keep the garden going.
Greens and radishes are a fine start, although you never know what rabbits will fancy for breakfast. Last spring a baby bunny was snuggled down in the radish patch every single morning for a week. She never touched the radishes (although I was willing to share, even though this was “our” garden). One morning, I went out to check on the radishes, and for the first time looked over at the sugar snap peas…or what was left of them, which was a few green “sticks” at this point. My houserabbits on the other hand, adore radish greens and have little use for sugar snap peas, although they will eat them on occasion, apparently as a personal favor to me.
Get some fresh air. Work with the land, improve the environment and enrich the life of a bunny or two. Or ten. They will return the favor by helping fertilize your garden for the next planting.
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