Deer love eating leaves. When they’re hungry, they might even have a go at your vegetable garden. If you grow tomatoes at home, you’ll know that it takes time, attention, and patience to bring them to a good harvest. While deer are friendly creatures and we all love them, we wouldn’t want them destroying our precious tomato crop. But do deer eat tomato plants? If deer can harm your tomatoes, what should you do to protect the plants? Continue reading and you’ll learn everything saving your crop from the wildlife.
Do Deer Eat Tomato Plants?
When they’re really hungry, deer wouldn’t be very picky about their meals. They’ll eat most greens that come in their path, and tomatoes are no exception. They wouldn’t pay heed to the time and investment it took to grow a crop. They’ll eat it until they’re full. Unfortunately, it’s not only the fruits that are at stake here. Deer can cause damage to stems, leaves, and sometimes even roots. Most of the time, what remains of the plant isn’t strong enough to give fruit, or even survive.
How To Identify Deer Damage?
So how can you be sure if it’s a deer or some other animals that are after your garden? When deer eat tomatoes, the bite marks will most likely be on the top portion of the fruit. You’ll find serrated marks rather than smooth cuts at the points where they bite off leaves and stems. The bitten stems and leaves will fall to the ground and the surrounding plants will also show signs of being trampled on. Though raccoons can leave similar signs on the damaged plants, the surrounding plants will rarely be harmed.
Are Other Plants Under Threat Too?
So you know that tomato plants aren’t safe from deer. Are there other plants too in your garden that you should be concerned about? Swiss chard, strawberries, raspberries, peas, and sweet corn are also some of the favorite crops for deer. They also like feasting on hostas, roses, azaleas, pansies, and tulips.
Should Deer Eat Tomato Plants?
Other than wrecking your perfect tomato harvest, is there anything else to worry about when deer eat tomato plants? As it turns out, tomato plants aren’t good for deer either. Tomato plants, along with other nightshade plants are poisonous to deer and other animals. The plants from the nightshade family, including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers, contain a toxic compound called solanine.
Solanine is most concentrated in the green parts of the plants, including stems, leaves, and unripe fruits. Though biting on a few leaves and stems might not cause any noticeable damage to the animal, eating away too many plants at once may cause health issues.
How To Protect Tomatoes From Deer Damage
If you want to protect your harvest from damage and also save deer from the consequences of consuming too many tomato plants, the best option is to keep them away from the crop. But how? There are plenty of effective techniques that can keep deer away from your vegetable garden. Here are some of them:
The most straightforward approach is to build fencing around your vegetable garden. However, do keep in mind that deer can easily jump over a 6-feet tall fence to enter your garden! You’ll need a barrier that’s at least 8 feet high to ensure deer won’t get to your plants.
If you don’t want to install a barrier that high, you can install individual cages of chicken wire around the tomato plants. Make sure the cage is covered from the top so there’s no way deer can get to it.
Deer Repellent Smells
Deer have a strong sense of smell particularly because they are prey animals. In their natural habitat, they use their sense of smell to detect danger and run away from it. Deer repellent sprays are available in stores. You can spray these around your garden to deter deer.
Other than that, human odors also help keep them at bay. Scatter personal items, like old T-shirts and shoes around the garden can create a zone with human smells and help keep deer out.
You can also create your own deer repellent spray by mixing 5 eggs in 5 gallons of water and spraying it around the garden. While humans will hardly notice a difference, the smell is strong enough for deer to keep them at a distance.
Planting Deer Repellant Plants
While deer like most plants, there are some that they hate too. Planting these deer repellents around your vegetable garden as a border can also help keep them away. Deer repellent plants include:
Motion Activated Sprays
Motion-activated sprays are available at garden centers. They can be installed in your garden to trigger a spray of water if deer or other animals get too close. The unexpected blast of cold water will scare the animals away.
Ultrasonic devices are also available to keep deer and some other animals out of the garden. These products give off a high-frequency sound that humans can’t hear but is audible and annoying to deer and some other animals.
While deer love eating tomatoes and many other plants in your garden, there are some simple and effective techniques to keep your favorite plants safe. Choose whichever technique works for you and is simple to employ and you won’t have deer bothering your tomatoes again.