What animal could be eating our tomato plants? We thought it was a groundhog, but now I am not sure. The plants are eaten off at the top so there is just a stem and no leaves. Could it be a rabbit? What do they usually eat? How do we protect the plants that we have? Any information would help. Thanks.
Hardiness Zone: 5a
By Linda from Brighton, MI
It's probably deer. At least that's what it was in our case. We've had some luck using Bobbex, a repellent you apply to each plant. It won't keep the deer out of the garden, but they'll decide that your tomato plants are not something they'd like to eat. Follow the directions carefully.
Have you checked the plants for tomato hornworms? These large caterpillars (get to the size of your finger!) are very hard to see because they look like a curled tomato leaf. They can strip a plant of leaves in a short time. They'll also eat the fruit.
If you see dark green caterpillar poop under the plant, then look for the caterpillars. Squash any you find, unless they have what looks like grains of rice sticking out of their backs. If they have that, they have larva of a parasitic wasp growing in them and will die soon of natural causes. In that case, just move the caterpillar somewhere far from your tomatoes and let it live long enough to produce more natural predators!
Here's some pics:
I've had this happen, not only to tomatoes, but also to seedlings of other plants I recently transplanted into the ground (and let me tell you it is maddeningly after going through the trouble of babying seeds to grow!). It took me a long time to figure it out, but I finally caught the caterpillars doing this.
It's hard to see but the green caterpillars that so damaged my tomato plants were the exact same color green, and it was also as thick or thicker than the stem of the plant, so it was well camouflaged! There is insecticide spray you can buy - one I believe is called Sevin (Seven?) that'll take care of every kind of bug.
Also, you can buy a powder called BT, which kills the caterpillar. But, I don't like buying or using those chemicals, and I don't like killing the pests, so right now my latest test is using 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper and 1 tsp dish soap diluted in a spray bottle of water. I found this after extensive searching on the Internet. I just started it so cannot call it successful yet.
Also, to keep slugs and snails away, I moved one of my parsley plants over near the plants that were being eaten most - supposedly the slugs are repelled by parsley.
When we set out our tomato plants, an animal ate 6 of them to the ground. Also nibbled on the green beans. I searched Thriftyfun to find out what to do and found the tip about hanging Irish Spring Original Scent Soap around the garden.
I made some little bags and my husband made some wire stakes to hang them on. Out of each bar of soap, I put about 1/5 of the bar into each bag and hung them at the beginning and end of several rows around the garden. It is low enough that it is not in the way of plowing and it has worked really well. We have a beautiful garden. No more munching on the plants and no more deer tracks in the garden.
I had the problem with my newly transplanted tomato plants. The leaves were all pulled from the plants. I went out the next morning to check on the plants, and caught the culprit in the middle of the crime! It was a black colored bird, with a yellow beak. I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to birds, so I don't know what kind of bird it was. All I saw was this vicious bird ripping my tomato plant leaves from the stalk! I have since erected a rabbit-proof fence (prep for the future) and a net over the top of the fence.
Ah, I never even thought it could be a bird but after reading that post now I feel differently. Last year the deer went to town on my tomato plants in my NJ garden and they left their fertilizer everywhere. This year some of the tops of my tomatoes- leaves primarily, have been eaten. I didn't notice any deer fertilizer anywhere though which is good. I saved large Costco sized onion and potato mesh bags and covered every plant. So far, so good. The plants are still able to expand, receive sunlight and will hopefully keep the animals away. Thanks for all your tips!
I've had that problem! With young pepper and tomato plants! Completely gone-or something ate it to a stem only! Could be birds-I've seen robins in my garden-pecking around for worms-ha-maybe? Since my garden is fenced in, cause of my dogs too. I might blame the birds at this point?
To save young tender plants from critters-or whatever, start saving up gallon plastic milk jugs, cut out the bottom-leaving top ok as is. Put a stake at your plants-and slip over the milk jug thru the stake down to the ground. Hey, it protects the plants during heavy rain and storms! It's a little more work- but it'll help until the plants get bigger and stronger! You can remove them-and stack them on a big stake stick! I swear by this method!
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