Growing a Summer Herb Garden in Containers for Your Rabbit
by Jeanette Lyerly
Growing an herb garden for your rabbit can be easy and fun. You don’t need a lot of space, or to be a garden expert, to get started. There are lots of benefits to gardening, including relieving stress, having fresh food to enjoy, and helping your budget. My bunnies love fresh herbs, and herbs are among the easiest plants to grow yourself.
Planning your garden
First things first - how much space? Many herbs and vegetables grow well in containers in a sunny spot on a porch, deck or patio. I like to put my containers on my deck, which is right outside my kitchen. Look for a space that gets about six hours of sun, something many herbs prefer. If you don’t have that much sun, some leafy vegetables, like lettuce, and herbs like mint and parsley can do well with four hours of sun. You also want to consider your water source, and select an area close enough to a spigot that you can keep everything watered. If your house is like mine though, you might need a long hose for watering.
Choose a large container, because larger containers hold more soil and need to be watered less often. That can be important in the hot North Carolina summer! You also want to have enough room for the roots to grow. Make sure your container has holes in the bottom for drainage. If the drainage holes are large, you can place paper towels in the bottom of the pot. If you need to be able to move large pots around your porch or patio, a plant caddy with wheels is a good option.
Choosing or preparing your soil
Good soil is important! A well drained soil that holds moisture and has some organic matter is a great choice. If you followed last month’s post about poop, you have a new use for all the litter from your rabbit’s litter box. Compost it! If you use a paper or wood litter, you can start a compost heap by dumping the entire litter box (perhaps in a spot where your neighbors can’t see it!). Turn the compost periodically. If you start this in the winter, by spring you will have nice organic matter to add to your soil. If you are just now thinking ah-ha!, then you can purchase compost at the garden center and compost rabbit litter for your fall herbs and veggies.
Deciding what to plant
There are lots of choices about what to grow. Choosing plants is all up to your, and your rabbit’s, taste. Most herbs do very well in a large pot, and are loved by rabbits. Spring is a great time for planting many herbs. Favorites at my house are parsley, cilantro, dill, chamomile, sage, lemon balm, thyme, and oregano. You can start plants from seed, or purchase small plants at the local farmer’s market or garden center. If you have a friend who gardens, you can ask if they are dividing their plants. Oregano, thyme, mint, and lemon balm tend to spread, so your friend will probably be glad to gift you with some.
Herbs have strong scents, and often are not troubled by insect pests. To help prevent problems before they start look carefully at plants before your purchase them, checking under the leaves, to make sure plants are healthy before bringing them home. Avoid over-watering, since lots of moisture can promote fungus growth and attract pests. If you do notice bugs on your plants, your first defense is to wash them off. If bugs are persistent, you can make your own soap spray using one tablespoon of mild natural soap, such as Castile soap, in one quart of water. Spray on the plants in the morning to help with insect control. Remember to wash herbs thoroughly before using them.
Harvesting and pruning your herbs so they continue to grow
Herbs respond well to frequent harvesting, so they are great for adding to bunny salads. Cut the stem about one-third of the way down so your plant will continue to grow. For plants like basil and oregano, cut the stem just above a pair of leaves. Pruning regularly will prevent your herbs from going to seed as quickly and prolong your harvest. Herbs can be washed and served fresh in bunny salad, or dried and sprinkled in hay as a treat.
For more information, and links to help you get started, visit: