Do Rabbits Eat Tomato Plants? (& 7+ Ways to Keep Them Out of Your Garden!)

chenell
By: Chenell - Lead Writer and Gardening Advocate
Published:

I love to grow tomatoes. But one day I came out to my garden to find 5 of my Roma tomato plants eaten almost all the way to the ground.

It took me a little while to figure out who the culprit was, but my first inclination was the cottontail rabbits that hang around my backyard, so I decided to build a fence.

Initially, I was trying to avoid this because it adds a little extra work to the garden – finding a way to get the hose to reach, building a fence door, and it just looks a little less natural.

But after the rabbits ate my tomato plants, I knew it had to be done.

Do Rabbits Eat Tomatoes?

Yes, rabbits eat tomato leaves and the fruit of your precious tomato plant, and they aren’t very picky when it comes to tomato varieties, anything goes.

Rabbits will even eat the tomato leaves and tomato fruit. Don’t be fooled by their cuteness, these small animals can do a lot of damage to a tomato plant in a single night.

Taking the extra steps to protect your tomato seedlings as soon as they are planted is a good idea. A fence is one of the more foolproof ways to keep rabbits out of the garden, but there are quite a few other methods if that’s not an option for you.

rabbit eating tomato plants

How to Tell if Rabbits Are Eating Your Tomato Plants

So how did I know it was a rabbit eating my tomatoes?

First, I had seen a bunch of baby bunnies around, so I had a gut feeling.

Second, they left some droppings behind to solidify the thought.

Deer eat a lot of the same foods as rabbits, so it could be a deer munching on your plants. Since most rabbits prefer to eat in the early morning or around dusk, the only way to know for sure is to put up a trail cam and/or catch them in the act.

Or find some droppings left behind, which I did.

What Do Rabbits Generally Eat?

Rabbits are herbivores and eat a lot of plants like grasses, clover, and even hay. They’ll also eat a bunch of vegetables that grow in your garden, like cucumbers, lettuce, and of course tomatoes. Ugh.

A healthy diet for a bunny includes straw, hay, and bermudagrass – which I have a TON of.

How Far Do Rabbits Travel for Food?

Rabbits don’t stray too far from their burrow. They usually stay within 200 yards of their main home, but when they are young they can migrate up to 2.5 miles.

cottontail rabbit in the grass

How to Keep Rabbits Away from Your Tomato Plants

What can you do to prevent these adorable, yet annoying rabbits from eating your tomato plants? Here are some methods I’ve tried, and others I’ve heard great success with.

1. Fencing

A fence is one of the best ways to keep rabbits away from your tomato plants. They can’t jump very high, so if rabbits are the only animal eating your tomato plants, then you only need a short fence to do the trick.

You can make your garden or raised bed off-limits by placing chicken wire around it. Make sure the bottom of the fence is sunk into the ground to prevent digging. Rabbits can squeeze through very small openings and burrow under fences that are not sunk into the ground.

You can get chicken wire at your local garden center, or you may even have some laying around. Here is the fence I built after finding rabbits in my garden.

chicken wire fence
The fence around my garden in 2020

Things to Keep in mind:

  • Make the fence high enough to keep rabbits out (2-3 feet)
  • Make sure the bottom of the fence is well-grounded and doesn’t have small spaces underneath that rabbits can dig below to get in
  • Don’t just use pickets, make sure to cover the bottom foot or two with chicken wire or welded wire

Rabbits are smart and stubborn creatures, so they may try to find other ways around your fence.

2. Motion Activated Sprinkler

Rabbits do not like getting wet unexpectedly. A motion-activated sprinkler will be a great option for keeping rabbits, and also deer, squirrels, raccoons, and more out of your garden.

I tested it out and it works! Here is the motion-activated sprinkler in action in my garden:

This sprinkler is great and will do just what it sounds like it does – turn on when it senses motion. I also highly recommend getting a trail camera to catch this action on video because it’s quite hilarious.

Pro Tip: Make sure to turn this off if you are going into the garden. And if you forget to turn it off, please send me the video of you realizing it just a second too late 🙂 Sorry, but that’s some funny stuff.

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3. Predator Scents

Rabbits won’t go near a spot that smells like a predator is nearby. Planting predator urine or their scent can be a great option. Bloodmeal is another scent that gardeners use to keep rabbits out of the garden, as rabbits find its smell and taste revolting.

4. Red Pepper Spray

Rabbits also hate the smell of red pepper or garlic, so creating a hot pepper spray that incorporates both is a great option. Deer also hate this scent, so you can kill two birds with one stone here.

Rabbits sniff a lot to find their food, so once they smell these scents they’ll be unlikely to stay around for long.

5. Rabbit Repellents

If you don’t want to use a commercial repellent or spray mixture of any kind, then there is still hope for keeping your garden rabbit-free.

Use a spray that is safe for plants and place it around the outside perimeter of your garden to keep rabbits away. Some rabbit repellents contain garlic and red pepper, or a rotten egg mixture, which will save you from having to create the spray yourself.

6. Decoy Garden

What do rabbits love to eat more than tomatoes? Clover.

Clover provides a lot of the nutrition they need during the summer months, so it’s a staple for them.

So I left a patch of clover that was on the other side of the yard to give them something to munch on that wasn’t something I wanted to munch on.

This has worked quite well for me. I just don’t mow that patch of the lawn often, and I always see the rabbits over there instead of in my garden.

They’re going to be here anyway, might as well give them something to eat!

7. Mylar Tape

Many gardeners use mylar tape to keep birds from eating their tomatoes. But this method also can work as a way to deter rabbits. These plastic shiny ribbons flutter in the wind and can scare many pests away from the garden.

tomato companion plants

8. Companion Planting

Companion planting is the practice of planting certain plants in close proximity to each other that will benefit from one another. Generally, this is thought of for keeping worms and pests away, but planting certain crops near your tomatoes can help keep rabbits away from your tomatoes.

Garlic is the best companion plant for keeping rabbits (and deer!) away from your tomato plants. And the best part is the garlic scent will make the tomato fruits themselves taste better!

Growing tomato plants is so rewarding, but there are a lot of pests you’ll need to watch out for. Not only do you have to watch out for tomato worms, but rabbits are pesky creatures that you want to stay away from your vegetable garden as much as possible.

Rabbits Eating Tomato Plants

While they can be cute, rabbits can also be a terror for your garden, eating away at all of your hard work. I know from experience, you will want to set up a fence BEFORE they start eating your plants, trust me.

chenell

AUTHOR

Hi - I'm Chenell! I'm on a mission to learn how to grow my own food, and help other people do the same.

I lived in the city for almost a decade, but after moving to the suburbs, I started making my Iowa blood proud and growing all kinds of food 🌽 I started this website to help keep track of the journey while teaching others the mistakes and things I'm learning along the way. You can follow along with the journey and learn more here.

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