One of the most delicious and fun plants to grow is a tomato. These fruits of the soil are delicious, nutritious, and attractive.
But humans aren’t the only ones that love them – there are plenty of animals that find tomatoes to be a delicious snack as well. Tomatoes have a lot of natural sugars in their pulp and skin, which makes them irresistible to unwanted garden visitors! The good news is that there are some easy ways to keep these critters away from your garden; so let’s talk about what animals eat tomatoes and how to keep them out of your garden.
Table of Contents
- 1 Animals That Will Eat Your Tomato Plants
- 2 1. Birds
- 3 2. Squirrels
- 4 3. Groundhogs
- 5 4. Deer
- 6 5. Voles
- 7 6. Rabbits
- 8 7. Raccoons
- 9 Other Animals That Eat Tomatoes
- 10 How to Know What is Eating Your Tomato Plants
- 11 How to Keep Animals From Eating Your Tomato Plants
Animals That Will Eat Your Tomato Plants
There are a bunch of wild animals that will want to reap the benefits of gardening “with you” – and most animals LOVE ripe tomatoes.
Some of these remedies can be used for multiple pests, for instance, the garlic spray will deter cats, flies, and rabbits.
Whatever you do, don’t use harsh chemicals to keep your garden safe! There’s no need to douse food in insecticides. The list of animals that will eat tomatoes is pretty long. All of these animals have a different way they like their tomato juice. Do you know any other animals who enjoy eating tomatoes? If so, please let us know in the comments section below! 🙂
One of the more obvious animal culprits is birds. If you have a bird feeder in your yard, especially one that provides sunflower seeds, then all kinds of birds will want to check out what else is on the menu.
This little feathered “friend” will have no problem feasting on your tomatoes, garden seed, and other plants.
Types of Birds to Watch For
- Blackbirds – i.e. grackles, starlings, and red-winged blackbirds
- Blue Jays
There are plenty of types of birds that will pack at your fruit, but those are some of the more common ones. The catch-22 here is that birds will eat worms on your tomatoes too, so you’re missing out on that. But if you don’t have any tomatoes, then who cares if there are worms! 🙂
How to Keep Birds Out of a Garden
For the most part, birds are great for the garden. They scratch the earth, leave behind nutrients in their poop, and keep worms active. But they can also be a nuisance when it comes to getting into your tomatoes.
Garden or Bird Netting
There are few ways to keep birds out of your tomato patch, and the main way is to use netting. You can drape netting over the plants to help keep them from getting to the fruit. However, you’ll need to stay on top of raising the netting as your plants grow.
You can also use aluminum screening and bend it into an arched shape over the plants you’re trying to save from pecking damage.
Pick Tomatoes Early
The other thing is to pick tomatoes before they’re fully ripe. Birds seem to be attracted to tomatoes once they’re bright red and start smelling like food. Pick your tomatoes when they’re in the “breaker” stage, and start turning from green to red (or yellow tomatoes if you’re growing different varieties). Then you can let them ripen on the counter inside where birds can’t get to them.
This isn’t a perfect solution, as some birds will eat green tomatoes as well, but it can definitely help lessen the impact.
You can also use scarecrows as farmers have been doing for hundreds of years. Or plop a fake owl at the corners of the garden to make them think the space isn’t safe.
Squirrels are common in the USA, and good lord they are all over my backyard. And this animal eats tomatoes for sure.
Squirrels might seem cute for a while – until they sit on your fence eating your tomatoes while staring you directly in the eye.
They’re nimble, can climb almost anything, and will also eat almost anything. Unfortunately for us gardeners, they love tomato plants.
How to Keep Squirrels Off Your Tomato Plants
There are a few good ways to keep squirrels away from your tomatoes:
Yes, you heard that right. These sprinklers can help keep squirrels away, as well as other animals that are easily scared off and sensitive to water:
- Stray cats
Once the sprinkler detects motion nearby, it immediately shoots water. This is great for keeping your plants watered as well 🙂
I don’t want to jinx myself here, but the fence I put up to keep the rabbits out seems to have kept the squirrels out of the garden. That and the compost pile that is on the complete opposite end of the yard (they LOVE eating out of that).
The fence is just a bunch of T-posts spaced around 7-8 feet apart with some chicken wire running in between. The birds that sit on the edge of it seem to “dance” as they try to relax, so I wonder if the movement keeps the squirrels from going in. Doubtful, but I’m hopeful 🙂
But to be safe, it might make sense to get an electric fence that will buzz and freak them out when they sit on top.
I’m not talking about any tomato cage, but the mesh ones with the top on them. Putting these overtop of your tomato plants can help keep squirrels and birds out of there.
Pick Tomatoes Before They’re Ripe
Squirrels love eating ripe tomatoes. Harvesting your tomatoes when they’re just starting to turn pink or yellow and letting them ripen inside on the kitchen counter is a great option to avoid the unnecessary competition.
Propping a fake owl up near your tomato plants can help. This also applies to adding a snake on the ground, but squirrels will get used to it not moving, so you’ll want to switch it up every so often.
It’s like the Elf on a Shelf, but for your garden!
AKA Woodchucks – Groundhogs definitely eat tomatoes. These fuzzy creatures eat ripe tomatoes, and can tear up a garden in no time flat! They’re vegetarians, so they eat all kinds of plants and garden crops.
While fences can help keep out a lot of pests, if you’re trying to get rid of groundhogs, you’re going to have to be a little more thoughtful about your placement. Groundhogs are burrowing animals (as their name suggests), so if you have your fence several inches underground, they’ll be unable to dig under it.
Deer eat different types of shrubs, grasses, leaves, fungi, and other ferns, but deer will also eat tomatoes and other plants in your garden.
They can travel far greater distances than most people realize and they usually come at night time or early in the morning. You can try many things to prevent them from eating your plants like repellents, fencing, lights, scare tactics, deer-proof containers.
Do deer eat tomatoes? They do for sure, oftentimes plucking a tomato right off the vine. They will also jump a fence to get to your tomatoes, so if that’s how you’re trying to prevent them, make sure it’s a good-sized fence (over 7 feet).
How to Keep Deer From Eating Tomato Plants
Here are some great options for keeping deer away and protecting tomatoes.
Soap on a String
Sounds strange, but the smell of soap is not a pleasant one for deer. The scent will help keep them away and away from your tomato plant. Soap works great as a deer repellant.
Deer can jump quite high, between 5-8 feet. So your fence will need to be quite high, but over 6 feet should be at least a great deterrent for most deer.
Lights Resembling Other Predators
These are solar-powered lights that resemble the eyes of predators in the dark. Since deer are usually active at dawn and dusk, these can help steer them in another direction.
Voles are very small rodents that live underground in tunnels. They have tiny eyes, large front teeth, short legs, and muscular bodies which help them dig quickly through the soil to find food sources like worms and insects. Voles eat a lot of grubs, earthworms, insects, and other larvae from above ground. Voles are similar to moles but they eat plants and their roots vs the worms and grub that moles eat.
Voles are herbivores and eat the roots of plants like carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, raspberries, beans, and other vegetables to get their needed nutrients for survival.
These animals can dig through your garden soil by hand or use these strong front teeth to rip through the ground. It’s best to try and prevent them from getting into your garden by using a repellent or putting in a decent layer of perlite. This irritates their skin and will deter them from coming around.
How to Keep Voles Out of Your Tomato Garden
Keep Your Lawn Tidy
Moles like piles of leaves, mulch, and grass. If the grass isn’t mowed regularly, this creates a great place for them to burrow and nest.
Voles need some kind of cover to survive, so clearing up the garden space and keeping weeds at bay will help keep the voles away.
Look for Holes
Voles burrow in tunnels, so finding small holes on the surface of the ground is a great indicator you have a vole issue.
Solar Powered Spikes
These can be great options for keeping out gophers, moles, voles, and even groundhogs. Rodents are practically blind, so they rely on vibrations to help them know when an attacker is present, and these vibrations the stakes give off let them know something large is nearby.
Do rabbits eat tomatoes? They absolutely do.
I had a few bunnies come through and destroy my Roma tomatoes. 5 plants, all eaten by rabbits in one night.
How do I know it was rabbits? They left a trail…
Thankfully, those tomatoes plants were resilient and grew back.
But you better believe I built a fence that following day to keep them from getting to the rest of my tomatoes.
Chicken wire fencing, T-posts, a sledgehammer, and about 3 hours later, those suckers were no longer allowed in my garden.
Rabbits are small mammals with large hind legs which help them run fast and get away, often before you even notice them. Rabbits LOVE to eat nightshade plants like tomatoes and peppers, but they also enjoy eating clover, alfalfa, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, potatoes and turnips.
As I learned the unfortunate way, rabbits will destroy tomato plants, almost down to the ground.
They usually come out at night to start eating vegetables that are close to the ground. They can eat a large amount in one sitting and will take more than what they need causing them to throw up or making them sick. You can try repellents, scare tactics or plant varieties that rabbits won’t eat… but you may have better luck with a fence.
How to Tell If Rabbits Are Eating Your Tomatoes
You can often sense if rabbits are eating your tomatoes by three things:
- Their footprints
- The 💩 or scat they leave behind
- If you see rabbits in the area (even if not in your garden)
While their footprints can be hard to see in a garden, if you have clay soil or the ground is wet, you might be able to see tracks left behind. The picture below shows the odd shape of their tracks.
If you’re part of any gardening Facebook group, you’ve probably seen someone posting a picture of some rabbits nest in their garden.
How to Keep Rabbits From Eating Your Tomato Plants
I personally built a fence to keep the bunnies out. After they ate 5 of my Roma tomato plants almost down to the ground, I just wasn’t interested in trying other methods that might work.
The fence has been up for about 3 months now and has done a great job. I did find a bunny in there once trying to get out, but other than that I don’t believe he ate anything.
Instead of putting up a full fence, you can also put cages around the plants you know rabbits are going to want.
There are plenty of options for cages to use, but I like these ones because they can be placed around existing plants.
Build a Decoy Garden
You can also create a garden that you plan to leave for these animals that eat tomato plants.
I ended up leaving some of the clover that was growing on the other side of the property for them, and just didn’t mow that area as often. Deer love clover too, so this could help with both.
Raccoons are medium-sized mammals found primarily in the Americas. They have gray fur, masked faces, and ringed tails. You won’t see these guys during the day, as they are nocturnal and are most active at night.
Raccoons are equal opportunity eaters and will eat almost anything: small animals like fish, insects, birds, or eggs from nests, as well as plants like corn, beans, and, of course, tomatoes.
They will forage or strip the fruit from the stalk as well as digging up large sections of flower beds to get to their tasty foods.
You can tell if a raccoon has been around by looking for its tracks. Raccoons paw prints are very distinctive and almost look like a child’s handprint with really long claw indentations.
Are Raccoons Eating Your Tomatoes?
- Holes in mulch piles
- Holes in yard
- Raccoon prints
Raccoons may also dig holes in the ground looking for bugs, and may inadvertently dig up your plants without even trying.
How to Keep Raccoons Away
Here are a few ideas for keeping raccoons away from your tomatoes.
If your garden is positioned far enough away from your house (and you’re neighbors’ houses), you can put a radio in the garden and play some heavy metal all night. These guys do not like loud noises, so it can be a good way to get rid of raccoons.
Motion-activated lights are great for the garden and will deter raccoons (and other pests) from getting too comfortable in the garden at night.
Simulated Red Eyes
I love this idea. These simulate larger prey and will definitely help keep raccoons away.
Faux Hawks or Owls
Owls and some hawks are night hunters and they are known to eat raccoons or any other small animals found nearby. Adding a fake hawk or owl nearby can help keep many of these smaller animals away from your garden.
- Smaller birds
- Rodents – mice, voles
Other Animals That Eat Tomatoes
Stray cats are opportunists, and they will get hungry from time to time. Although spring and summer are usually when they have the most opportunities to catch rodents, mice, and other prey, so they’re probably not the culprit. However, they will tear up a garden with their feces and urine, so it’s helpful to keep them out.
The Family Dog
Now, I know you might not want to believe it, but dogs get into EVERYTHING. If you have a dog that roams around on the property, they could be taking nibbles at your plants. I caught my dog chomping on a pumpkin that I’m guessing a squirrel had started for him.
It happens, so just keep an eye out.
If you’re lucky enough to have chickens roaming your property, you’ll have to keep an eye out. They like eating worms and the garden is definitely a place you’ll find those. So you may inadvertently lose a few tomato fruits or plants in the process.
Possums eat tomatoes as well, but will rarely eat the entire fruit. Plus, these enjoy eating ticks and other bugs more.
How to Know What is Eating Your Tomato Plants
What if you know something is eating your tomatoes, but you just have no clue what it is?
Instead of sitting out by the garden for hours every day (although I highly recommend doing that sometime), you can use a trail camera to help you out.
Most have great night vision to help you see if a nocturnal animal is snatching up your tomatoes, or if those half-eaten gouges are coming from some deer nearby.
Using a trail camera is a great way to find out what kind of animals are tearing up your garden and eating your harvest.
How to Keep Animals From Eating Your Tomato Plants
While I mentioned some of these above, here is a full list of ideas for keeping animals from eating tomatoes out of your garden.
You can also plant other things that will entice animals away from your tomatoes.
I’ve found that corn seems to be a deer favorite, and it lures them away from my tomatoes.
Here are some other great plants to lure them away from your garden
- Sow Thistle
- Flowering Kale
Pick Your Tomatoes Early
Most animals that eat tomatoes go after them when they are red, ripe, and ready to be eaten. But did you know that you can pick tomatoes a few days before they are a fully ripe tomato fruit to avoid this extra competition?
I like to pick tomatoes during the breaker stage, which is when they are starting to turn pink (or yellow if you’re growing yellow tomatoes). They are still going to ripen, but that will be done safely on your kitchen counter.
While this isn’t a catchall as some birds like sparrows have been known to eat unripe and even green tomatoes, it can definitely help you keep more of your harvest.
Keeping animal pests away from your tomatoes can be a challenge, but it’s worth it in my opinion. Alternatively you can grow tomatoes in pots near your home, or even indoors to help reduce the pest pressure.