7 Animals That Eat Potatoes (& How to Keep Them Out of the Garden)

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By: Chenell - Lead Writer and Gardening Advocate
Published:

Potatoes are a favorite among root vegetables, and a good source of vitamins, potassium, and fiber…but not just for humans, animals love them too. If you come out to the garden and find your potato crops have been rummaged through, it might not be super obvious which animal (or neighbor!) got to them.

Let’s go through some of the more common animals that could be eating your potatoes.

What Animals Eat Potatoes?

While there is a wide variety of them, some of the more common animals that eat potatoes and their leaves include birds, squirrels, mice, deer, rats, voles, and chipmunks. A lot of insects enjoy eating the potato plant too, like wireworms, grubs, potato tuberworms, and flea beetles.

Let’s talk through each one and what you can do to get rid of or prevent these pests from coming around in the first place.

potatoes attached to plant

1. Chipmunks

Chipmunks are another animal that loves eating potatoes, so don’t be surprised to see them running around your garden.

chipmunk eating

Unlike squirrels, chipmunks don’t hibernate during the winter so they gather more than they need during the summer and fall and put them in burrows for storage.

Chipmunks will dig up the potatoes and eat the vines. Make sure to protect your plants if you don’t want these little critters raiding your garden.

How to Keep Chipmunks Off Potatoes

Unfortunately, keeping chipmunks off of your potatoes isn’t easy. As they will dig them right out of the ground.

Bird netting can do as well of a job for chipmunks, and can help with squirrels too.

It lays on top of your plants and makes it much more difficult for rodents and other pests to reach the potato tubers or parts of the plant they’re trying to eat.

2. Squirrels

squirrel eating

While they usually won’t eat white potatoes, squirrels eat potatoes and are big fans of sweet potatoes.

I love growing sweet potato vines as an ornamental, but it’s not fun when a squirrel or two come across them.

If these rodents get the scent of sweet potatoes, good luck keeping them away. They love eating sweet potato vines.

How to Keep Squirrels Away From Potatoes

Keeping squirrels away can be a bit of a challenge since they’re very nimble, but there are a few good ways to do it.

3. Garden Mice, Voles & Rats

voles and sunflowers

Garden mice and voles are also culprits for eating potatoes out of the garden. They will dig the newly planted garden potatoes out of the ground as well.

If you’re not seeing potato seedlings sprout up out of the ground a few weeks after planting, you might have been robbed of them. These rodents will eat all kinds of seeds and plants, so keep that in mind.

How to Keep Mice From Eating Your Potatoes

Simple answer: get a cat. 🙂 While that’s a great option, it’s not always doable.

Mice can be kept away with small barriers like a solid fence, which of course has a lid. This isn’t exactly ideal for the garden though.

Companion planting is another great way to keep unwanted pests away. This is when you grow plants nearby that help the plant they’re near and vice versa. Since mice don’t love the smell of garlic or onions, you can plant your potatoes near them.

Sage is another great option with a pungent smell that deters pests.

The scarecrow method can work with mice, voles, and rats as well, as they will want to avoid places that have predators lurking.

4. Raccoons

raccoons

While raccoons won’t be the first to show up to eat your potatoes, this is a definitely possibility. If they get hungry enough, they will eat leaves, seeds, nuts, and other plants in your garden.

How to Keep Raccoons From Eating Your Potatoes

There are a few methods for keeping raccoons out of the garden. Wind chimes, laser red eyes (that simulate a predator at night), and motion-activated sprinklers work great.

Raccoons get scared by loud noises and sudden movements, making this option a great one. Motion-activated sprinklers are one of my favorite ways to keep all kinds of animals out of my garden.

Pro Tip: Get a trail cam as well and watch your new tool in action!

5. Deer

deer resistant grasses

Yes, deer do eat potatoes. Potatoes are a good source of food for deer because they are high in fiber and vitamins. Deer will also eat the leaves of the potato plant.

How to Keep Deer from Eating Potatoes

There are a few things you can do to keep deer from eating your potatoes. The sprinkler I mentioned above works great for keeping these pests out of the garden as well.

Fencing

Planting potatoes in a garden that is enclosed by a fence at least 8 feet tall is really the only foolproof way to keep them from eating your potatoes.

A 4-foot fence is like a fun obstacle they can jump over easily.

Scents and Smells

Another method for keeping deer out of the garden is Irish Spring soap. It sounds weird, but they will usually stay pretty far away from that scent.

Other than that, you can spray chili pepper spray on the potato leaves to help protect them. Once they get a small taste of the pepper, they’re likely going to move on to another food source.

6. Birds

Birds get a lot of nutrients from potatoes, so they will absolutely eat them if given the chance.

birds eating sunflowers

Most birds won’t bother your potatoes until they are more mature and and ready to be picked.

How to Keep Birds Away From Potatoes

If you’re growing potatoes you’re not going to love seeing birds ravaging your plants. There are a few ways you can keep birds off your plants.

Bird Netting

One of the best ways to keep birds out of the garden is to use garden or bird netting. This might not be the most ideal method since sunflowers are so nice to look at, you probably don’t want to cover them at all. But that might be a tradeoff you want to take.

Scarecrow or Fake Hawk

The other option is to set up a fake owl or scarecrow in the garden. Many birds will try to avoid anywhere a hawk is in plain sight as they don’t want to be attacked.

Plastic Owl Scarecrow Sculpture

Fake owls are great for keeping many animals out of the garden, including squirrels, deer, birds, and more.

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Birds are pretty smart though, so you will want to move it regularly so they don’t get used to it.

7. Rabbits

rabbits eat sunflowers

Rabbits eat potatoes and other root vegetables like carrots, but they have also been known to eat potatoes. Of course, they won’t be able to reach the potatoes without digging them up, but don’t put it past them.

How to Keep Rabbits From Eating Your Potatoes

Rabbits love to eat garden plants when they can’t find enough clover around their nests. One great way to protect your potatoes are to plant their favorites elsewhere.

I have a ton of clover in my yard and this does help a lot. They are always over by the clover, and seem to leave my other plants alone (for the most part). It’s not foolproof, but it helps quite a bit.

A motion-activated sprinkler can work well here as also. The fast movements and water spray will scare the rabbits away quickly.

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

8. Insects and Other Pests

Potato flowers are great for bringing bees and other beneficial insects around your garden, but they also attract some not-so-great insects as well.

Wireworms are the first one I was no-so-lucky to find on my potatoes last season. They dig into the potatoes themselves and create holes and cause the potato to decay faster.

Some other potato bugs include:

  • Potato tuberworms
  • Colorado potato beetles
  • Flea beetle
  • Potato aphids

How to Repel Insects From Your Potatoes

There are a variety of insects that love eating potatoes, but how do you keep the ones that harm the plants away? I will be using neem oil this year to keep aphids and mites to a minimum.

Organic Neem Bliss - 100% Pure Neem Oil
You can use this stuff on all kinds of insects in your garden, but this year I'll be using this to keep spittlebugs off of my sunflowers for sure. strong This is my favorite organic option for aphids, spider mites, and tomato worms as well.

Potatoes Are Loved By Many Animals

Potato plants produce tubers that are a valuable food source for many different types of wild animals. They offer a good amount of fiber and carbohydrates that animals need for survival during the winter.

By growing these plants in your garden, you can provide a source of food for local wildlife. Not only will you help to feed the animals in your area (whether or not that is your goal!), but you will also enjoy the beauty of the flowers.

You can plant potatoes near other vegetables and plants that deter animals and pests, but at the end of the day you might need to use more reinforcements.

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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