Wabbit worries!

Dear Martin

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the Kitchen Diary to date and am hoping that this year, at last, to get my raised beds into place.  However I have two issues to contend with which I would appreciate some advice on.  

Firstly, I have allocated 4 square raised beds made of larch to a strip of land which forms part of a walled-side garden that slopes gently down towards the main garden. I would have much preferred for the beds to have been laid out in the middle of the side garden but unfortunately my husband wouldn’t give up his lawn!  I guess I am right in thinking that I will have to level out some of the strip in order to avoid water run-off and to give equal light to the plants in the beds.  As it is not feasible to flatten out the whole strip I am considering creating a sort of stepped effect with the beds – do you think this might work?   

Secondly, cute but unwelcome rabbits appeared on our estate last year, nibbling at our lawn.  Is there anything you can suggest I do to protect open crops in raised beds from such critters as I guess fleece or even insect barrier membranes might not deter them.  I don’t think I can eradicate them fully (unless I can locate the chap in the village who I saw taking his ferret for a walk one day in one of the fields!)  I know that some people have to sink wire mesh below ground and next to a fence to stop rabbits getting into a plot but I am not sure if this is over the top for raised beds.  



Dear Eileen

Many thanks for your recent message regarding my Kitchen Garden diary and the potential problems with rabbits you may have once your raised bed project is completed.  I’m delighted to hear that you are enjoying the updates from the garden and I hope that the mix of images and copy convey exactly what is happening in the garden each month. Judging by your message, you’re a keen gardener yourself and can probably relate to the problems and successes we regularly experience in the garden!  

Onto your raised bed query and I would certainly advise you to level the surface where the beds will be located. Whether you raise the lower levels, or dig out part of the slope, is entirely up to you – and creating a stepped system of beds is another popular option. You have probably already considered this, but do make sure the higher beds do not stop any sunlight reaching the lower stepped ones; and if the soil you are going to place the beds on is compacted, it’s always good practice to lightly dig over the area to improve drainage. Deeper beds will also give you more scope for growing crops which require a greater depth of soil – carrots and potatoes readily spring to mind.  

The potential rabbit problem is a bit more difficult. One school of thought is to leave the area unprotected and see if the rabbits pay any interest to the new crops – you may get lucky and find they are content to graze on the lawn and feed on other ‘low effort’ foodstuffs.

The other option is to set up some kind of defence system, and I’ve compiled a brief list of possible options below:   Rabbit Wire – This galvanised wire mesh, aka chicken wire, is usually erected around the area to be protected. The rolls are 91cm wide so even after digging the recommended 15cm into the soil to stop burrowing raids, you still have a 76cm high barrier. The mesh comes in three sizes (12.5mm, 25mm and 50mm) and this form of physical defence is often the most successful.

Outdoor Ultrasonic Repeller – A completely different method of protecting your crops. The sensor covers a 70ft x 50ft arc and the unit will produce a powerful burst of ultrasound should any creature enter the protected area. Detects rats, cats, rabbits, foxes and deer; battery powered; and far less obtrusive than rabbit wire.  

Havahart Spray-Away – A combination of an infra-red sensor and a water jet! Pests encroaching into the protected area are scared away by the 3 second jet of water which can reach 10m. Battery powered and requires connection to mains water. 

Many thanks once again for your enquiry, and of course your kind comments regarding the Kitchen Garden diary; I’ll continue to bring you news of what we’ve managed to grow – and eat – later in the year.