Growing your own tomatoes guarantees your access fresh garden tomatoes. However, that fresh tomato supply becomes limited when pests begin eat your harvest. Small insect pests like caterpillars, along with larger animal pests, such as deer or rabbits, eat ripe tomatoes. Take measures keeping pests away from your fruit. Use preventive measures alone or in combination with others to protect your summer's bounty from unwanted pests.
Place cages around the plants, run a chicken wire fence around the tomato plant area or cover the area with bird netting. Choose a barrier appropriate for the pests eating your tomatoes. Bird netting keeps birds, caterpillars, snakes and other small pests out of the tomatoes while keeping large pests out as well. Chicken wire is effective against large pests, such as deer or rabbits, but may not keep out birds or small rodents. A fence barrier must be at least 3 feet tall to keep pets out and should run at least 6 inches into the ground, preventing burrowing pests.
Audio and Visual Deterrents
A good deterrent keeps pests away. An unexpected flash of light or sudden movement startles most animals, while a sudden or loud noise is also effective. Make audio and visual deterrents from simple items found around your home, such as CDs strung around your tomato plants, pie tins dangling around the garden, inflatable owls or artificial snakes placed throughout the plants. An old, stinky shoe placed on a stick in your garden provides smell and movement undesirable to deer.
Sprinkling your tomato plants with a deterrent dust prevents garden pests both large and small. Use a commercial dust, such as an insecticide labelled safe for use in vegetable gardens. Try a natural dust such as blood meal or hot pepper as an alternative to synthetic chemicals. These powders deter pests by creating an unpleasant taste or smell on your plants while being safe for use around humans. Reapply the dust after watering or rain.
Commercial pesticide sprays applied regularly to tomato plants keep pests at bay. Choose a spray safe for use in vegetable gardens. Be aware that these sprays may contain toxic chemicals harmful pets or humans if accidentally consumed. Safer alternatives include soap sprays or sprays made with molasses. Apply these sprays to plants after each watering or rain for effective pest control.
If your tomato thief is of the rodent or small animal variety, a dog or cat is an effective control, as they naturally prey on these animals. Dogs often deter large animals, such as deer. An alternative is to scatter the garden with dog hair to provide the smell deterrent without the animal.