The odds are pretty good that if you visit any given vegetable garden that you will find at least one tomato plant. In fact, tomatoes are the most grown vegetable in the world. They are appealing not only for their flavor, but also for being extremely simple to grow and productive fruit producers.

Despite the many advantages of growing tomato plants, they are not immune to pest damage. This article will specifically focus on deer and if their palate has a taste for tomato plants.

Do Deer Eat Tomato Plants?

Deer will eat almost any type of vegetation if they are hungry enough. This includes tomato plants. However, they do have preferences for the type of plants they eat. Plants like hostas, tulips, and daylilies are certainly favorites of deer that homeowners often struggle to keep deer away from. But, do deer frequently eat tomato plants?

According to the UConn Home & Garden Education Center, tomato plants are rarely damaged by deer. That being said, you should strongly consider protecting your tomato plants from deer if they visit your yard.

Let us tell you about our experience with deer and tomato plant.

We live in a suburban area that is heavily populated by deer. We attempted an open vegetable garden for three years. Two of these years the deer moved in in stealth at night and nipped off the top of some tomato plants before they likely moved on to something more appetizing (i.e. our Hostas).

The third year we moved our garden to an area we thought the deer never traveled by. However, they again found the garden and ate the top of one tomato plant. We installed a fence around the garden and haven’t had an issue with the deer since.

How to Protect Tomato Plants from Deer?

Whether you live in a rural, suburban, or even an urban area, there is the possibility that deer will eat your tomato plants or other crops such as pumpkins or cabbage if they are actively roaming nearby. You should consider implementing one or more of the methods listed below to prevent deer from eating your crops.

  • Install a Fence – We touched on installing a fence above, but let’s get into a bit more detail. Deer can jump up to 8 feet high so it is essential that you erect one tall enough to prevent deer from easily leaping over it. The University of Vermont states that the fence can be only 6 feet tall if it is slanted at a 45° angle the direction that the deer approach the fence. Deer will be discouraged from jumping this type of fence since they cannot jump both high and for distance. 
  • Motion Activated Devices – There are many products designed to be triggered to scare off deer once they get close to the garden. Some of these device include motion activated sprinklers, sound machines, and strobe lights. 
  • Visual Deterrents – Scarecrows, flags, reflective tape, and CDs are examples of visual deterrents that have been known to scare off deer. The key to using visual deterrents is to routinely mix it up since deer can quickly learn when something is not a threat. 
  • Dog on Watch– A dog that patrols the yard can be highly effective at driving off deer. The dog needs to bark and/or growl so that the deer thinks a real threat to it is present. A passive dog will provide little or no benefit. Of course, the dog’s safety should always be in mind. It always best to have damaged tomato plants from deer over having a dog run away chasing the deer or get injured. 
  • Deer Repellents – Certain store bought spray repellents can be effective at deterring deer. Look for the repellents that can safely be sprayed on the plant. A popular option is the 100% natural Deer Out that can be used on vegetable plants. Be sure to completely follow the directions of the product, especially in regard to applying and reapplying the spray. 

Conclusion

Good luck protecting your tomato plants from deer! We understand the frustration of seeing plants grow to only have them damaged without warning by deer. We hope this article inspires readers to protect their tomato plants (if necessary) so that they can fully reap the benefit of beautiful fruit come harvest time. 

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