Q: I have planted my tomatoes twice during the past week. Each time some animal has cut the tops off about 4 inches above the ground. He usually eats the tops and leaves the stems sticking out of the ground. What is doing this and what can I do about it?
I want to plant again but this is getting expensive. Please help!
Hardiness Zone: 4b
Sanddd from Minnesota
It sounds like you have a rabbit, deer, or rodent problem. You'll save yourself some money and a lot of additional frustration if you invest in some kind of physical cages or barriers for your tomato plants. There are a number of other tactics, like pie tins, bags, shiny streamers, etc., but animals tend to become accustomed to these in a hurry. You're better off purchasing a cheap roll of chicken wire and fashion some growing cages for your tomatoes.
If you are already supporting them with hoops, simply wrap the chicken wire around the hoops and secure it with florist's wire or even baggy ties. Push the cage into the soil and secure it in place with stakes or pieces of bent wire. Make sure you cover the tops of the cages with wire too, to prevent them from reaching down and nibbling off the tops of the plants. If possible, make these cages big enough so you can leave the tomato plants covered the entire season. Then as the tomato fruits appear, you won't have to worry about them being targeted by chipmunks or birds.
About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.
Could be bunny rabbits, or cut worms. Put a small cage around your plants, OR, use a large juice can, coffee can, or large plastic jar with the bottoms cut off of all of the above mentioned, dig your hole, plant your plants, and plant them inside the container, with the plant just even with the top of container. Critter can't get to your plants this way, AND as an added bonus, you can fill the container with water from your hose, and the water will go right to the roots of your plant. Hope this helps. You can even make a circular container out of chicken wire. And if it is cut worms you will find out this way. (05/25/2006)
Go to the local Menards, Home Depot, or Lowe's and purchase chicken wire and stake it around your plants. It will keep rodents and deer away from plants. Deer will snip the tops off plants and pine trees, so you may have to close the tops of the wire until they are larger. I have also seen people place tin pie plates, or plastic Walmart bags to the wire; the sound of plastic scares the animals away. (05/26/2006)
Sprinkle the tomatoes with cayenne pepper or garlic powder. They are safe for all and the local critters hate the taste. Reapply after rain. Did this to a freshly planted rose bush that rabbits decided was too good to pass up every time it sprouted a new leaf. Once I put the spices on it they immediately left it alone, didn't like the flavor, and now three years later it is beautiful. I buy the big economy size if I know I'm going to be planting, our area has tons of neighborhood rabbits, they're everywhere! So spice it up, a bottle of spice is way less expensive than anything you can buy at the garden center and so much better for all living things. It shouldn't hurt your tomatoes either. (05/26/2006)
Another idea is to use moth crystals. You can get them at your local hardware store. Place them on the ground all around your plants and just the smell will keep them away. Moth crystals also keep animals out of your trees, garden, or even your shed. (12/06/2007)
Put some moth balls around the plants like a fence and the animals will go away. They don't like the smell of the moth balls.
Editor's Note: Mothballs can be harmful to pets so make sure your pets don't get them. (05/22/2008)
I have the same exact problem! No leaves left, just a 4 foot stalk. No tell-tale foot prints in the fresh dirt either (a.k.a. my fat foot stepping on them!). I have ruled out deer because the first one happened in broad daylight within the time of planting (around noon) and my getting straw (around 6 pm) (and no prints, and we don't usually have deer in the yard). Also, I have ruled out rabbits because my garden is fenced (for that reason :). It's obviously not cut worms (due to the short time frame-one night, and the fact that it's the top of the plant being targeted, not the stem at the air-ground interface), which leaves squirrels or birds I would think (neither of which I would really suspect of eating the plant itself?).
Other possible animals that may pass through the yard at night may include raccoons, cats, foxes, opossum, skunks, none of which I would suspect to eat the plant itself, and they don't explain the one that was eaten in broad daylight. One other peculiarity I noticed is that only my Roma tomatoes are being targeted, not my others. Is this the case with you? (05/13/2009)
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