I was looking at the bird feeder on my neighbor’s lawn the other day, and I saw a particularly agile squirrel leap onto it from a fence. Bird seed flew everywhere, and the squirrel grabbed what it could before shooting off up a tree.
I followed the trail of scattered seeds and noticed they landed at the feet of the tomato trellis I recently planted. Like lightning, the thought hit me do squirrels eat tomatoes? And if so, how can I keep squirrels from eating my tomato plants?
Do Squirrels Eat Tomatoes?
Like most rodents, squirrels will eat what they can get, and garden fresh veggies are a definite favorite. Squirrels will eat tomatoes right off the vine, and steps may be needed to keep your garden safe from intruders.
However, squirrels do not rampage through a garden indiscriminately. It is unlikely that you will see a squirrel eat tomatoes at night since they prefer the dark for sleeping. You also will probably notice smaller cherry tomatoes being targeted more often than big ol’ beefsteaks.
Squirrels also do not eat green tomatoes on the vine. They prefer ripe and mature tomatoes, so if you are too slow, the squirrels might beat you to your harvest. A lot of the time, squirrels only nibble on the tomatoes and don’t take the whole fruit with them.
There are a few reasons why squirrels only take one bite out of a tomato. They tend to eat as they go and don’t stop very long to enjoy a meal. Predators above and around never rest, and squirrels can’t, either.
Squirrels also have teeth that never stop growing, so they constantly bite and gnaw to keep their chompers at the right length. Some bites may be a snack, and others might just be because. Who knows why a squirrel does anything?
How Do Squirrels Eat Tomatoes?
Squirrels will eat your tomatoes, so now we need to figure out how they do it. Once you know how a squirrel plans on getting to your tomatoes, you can begin to plan how to stop them and protect your garden’s bounty.
Squirrels eat tomatoes the same as anything, one bite at a time. Although sometimes one bite is all that they take. In that case, you may be frustrated to see several tomatoes torn up but basically uneaten. Squirrels target small, almost ripe tomatoes and can damage the branches and neighboring tomatoes in their flurry of movements.
Freshly planted tomato seeds and tomato seedlings can easily be dug up or knocked over by squirrels rummaging through the garden. If left unchecked, this common pest could become a continuous headache for years to come.
How Can You Keep Squirrels from Eating Your Tomatoes?
There are several methods that, when deployed correctly, can do a great job stopping squirrels from eating your tomato plants. The techniques can both block and repel squirrels through non-harmful means.
A quick-fix method that can buy you time while you work on something more permanent is a sprinkler system. Having sprinkler water regularly sprayed at and around your garden can keep squirrels out for a little while. Eventually, they will figure out the schedule, and then your tomatoes are prime for dinner.
To block them from entering your garden, you can use hardware cloth, mesh, or any other type of barrier that still allows air, light, and water in. But covering your whole garden can be tedious, and plant growth may still be inhibited. There are also options to repel squirrels using their strong sense of smell against them.
Certain smells are repulsive to a squirrel or signal danger, so they will avoid a garden that has certain offensive odors. Coffee grounds do a great job of keeping squirrels away from tomatoes. Cayenne pepper and other hot peppers with capsicum can be spread around individual plants for extra protection.
You can also use hair or urine from a predator to scare away pesky pests. Having a dog or cat in the yard will pretty much keep squirrels out of your yard with minimal effort from you. Any meat eater can produce predator urine and be used to ward off squirrels. Make sure to reapply predator urine after it rains for continued protection.
5 Signs Squirrels Are Eating You Tomatoes
If you begin to see small droppings near fences and trees that are mammalian and not a bird in origin, then you likely have squirrels. Squirrels frequent all of the same places birds hang out, so if you check the areas where birds visit, you can confirm the squirrel’s presence. Check around your tomato plants for droppings.
- Tiny nibbles on fruit and veggies
When you begin to encounter tiny nibbles and bites in the fruits and veggies in your garden, these could be signs of a squirrel. These bites will look different than bird damage, and tiny claw marks may also be visible. The foliage surrounding the eaten part of the tomato plant may also be damaged by the squirrel’s quick movements.
- Digging in planters and garden beds
Squirrels love to dig and bury and find the uncompacted soil of pots and newly planted gardens perfect. With very little effort, these squirrels can dig up your soil and store their seeds and nuts. Some squirrels get a bonus if they find your seeds and add them to their collection. Sometimes that lettuce you planted ends up as an oak tree.
- Missing Plants
It is not uncommon for squirrels to pull up, uproot, or run over your seedlings and transplants. If you planted veggies in your garden and the next day they are gone, you might have a squirrel problem.
- Half-chewed seed heads and flowers
Squirrels tend to bring what they are eating with them as they run and nibble little bits at various locations. Sometimes they get distracted and toss a half-eaten flower or seed head and run off. If you start seeing a lot of half-eaten flowers and seeds around your garden, a squirrel may have moved in.
Quick Look at How to Prevent Squirrels From Eating Your Tomatoes
Most of us love squirrels, and seeing them flip and dance outside our windows is a pleasant sight. But in your garden, destroying your hard work, that’s a different story.
Check out the chart below to find the most effective ways to protect your tomato plants and deal with your pesky squirrel problem.
|How to Stop
|Cover fruit with garden mesh
|Harvest fruit right when it’s ripe to reduce pest loss.
|Digging In Soil
|Use ground cover or mulch
|Make it harder for the squirrel to access the soil
|Hardware cloth cage
|Prevent the squirrels from accessing your garden by enclosing it in a barrier completely
|Repel squirrels from the yard
|Use a predator like a cat or a dog, or a predators hair or urine to scare off squirrels