Squirrel proof tomatoes?

rathersmallbunny(9)March 17, 2012

Towards the end of last year's tomato season, I noticed that squirrels were starting to eat them, though they seemed to choose mostly the red tomatoes, not the yellow or black. This year, I'm wondering whether planting mostly black/dark green/yellow tomatoes will escape their attention. I don't mind because I prefer black tomatoes in any case, but does anyone have any experience with this?

I read through other posts which suggested blood meal etc. though some people say it doesn't work at all. I live in a crowded neighborhood and would rather not get a BB gun if possible. Any thoughts would be much appreciated! (Those #$%@!! squirrels!)

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

When critters go after red tomatoes, you can pick them as soon as they begin to turn yellow and ripen them indoors. As long as they've begun to turn color, the taste is not affected. An additional benefit is that it will prevent the tomatoes from splitting after rain.

I haven't had problems with squirrels eating tomatoes (that I know of). Some sort of bird with a very thin beak likes to peck teeny holes in ripe tomatoes close to the ground, but doesn't bother those higher up.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 12:15AM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Try sprinkling hot pepper or Cayenne around plants

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 1:32AM
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janezee(Sunset 5, 8b, Whidbey WA)

I take a habanero, a knob of ginger, and 6 or so cloves of garlic, puree them in a blender or food processor with some vinegar, strain it and spray the wood of my raised beds and I have no problems with squirrels, bunnies and other varmints. I think you could just use water, and spray the plants.
Good luck with it.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 11:36AM
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I have used electric fencing around the top of my raised bed. One wire one inch above the blocks or timbers did the trick last year. I also have to have a couple more wires to keep bears and other critters out of my garden.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 9:25PM
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I also used a cayenne solution (maybe also with Murphy's Oil Soap?) which seemed effective against the local chipmunks. The problem was that it needed to be applied after each rain, and sometimes I failed to re-apply quickly enough. This year, I think I will probably just pick as soon as they start to ripen, as they only really seemed to go after the fully ripe ones (some say that they are really in search of the water inside, not particularly the fruit).

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 9:52PM
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harveyhorses(7 Midlothian Va)

I use electric fence too, I have been using the really wide tape, about 2 inches off
the ground, and a couple up higher for bambi etc. Works on neighbors too.
The deer just destroyed my garden a couple of years ago and I fought back. :)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 11:01PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Simple solution. Just pick at breaker/blush stage and ripen inside. That way you don't have to resort to torturing the wildlife with hot pepper concoctions.

As for growing the darker colors, I can't say I have ever seen or read about any study done on it. Living in the woods and despite a healthy squirrel and chipmunk population I don't have an issue with them because I routinely pick at the break stage when the plant has done it can do for the fruit except make it more watery.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 11:21PM
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skycopp(Maryland -7a)

I'm going to throw out this suggestion but I don't know if it works or not. It is just something I'm going to try.
Google 'sensorplug' and take a look at it. It is a motion detector that will turn on whatever is plugged into it. I'm going to try and plug a radio into one these things and put it close to my plants. Tune it to a heavy metal station and see if it chases squirrels away when they trip the detector.
Like I said, don't know if it will work, but it appears cheap enough to give it a try.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 12:54PM
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Thanks everyone for such helpful suggestions. I would LOVE to be able to zap the squirrels with an electric fence, but don't think I have the space to do it as we have such a small urban garden. I basically garden in a small courtyard and along our driveway (we dug up some bushes and put raised beds next to it because it gets the most sun) and also have two little kids at home. The kids like to dig around so that prob. rules out the cayenne as well. The urban squirrels in our neighborhood are bold as brass and not frightened of loud noises or things thrown at them (I've thrown pine cones and they just scoot a little away).

But I like the idea of picking the tomatoes early. I did some research on it and it looks like you can pick them as soon as they change colour -- does that mean a slight blush of colour on the green? This year I'm also going to plant mostly non-red tomatoes and see what happens. I read an article that birds and animals are most attracted to red fruit because it indicates ripeness. Right now I just put in Black Krim, Black Prince, Black Cherry, Purple Cherokee (looks more red in the pic though), Sungold and Odoriko (the lone pink). Last year's Black Krim was the first black tomato that I ever planted and it was fantastic. It also continued producing into cold weather which killed off the other hybrids I had. Will report back and let you guys know whether my non-red tomato strategy worked!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 2:14PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

As digdirt said, Just pick at breaker/blush stage.

Here are two versions of a tomato-ripening chart (same text, different photos):


    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 3:03PM
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Oh wow! That chart is gold! Thanks so much, I'll be saving it.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 9:01PM
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I've heard of this working for smarter birds, it may work on squirrels as well.

Hang Christmas ornaments on your plants.

Seriously, get red Christmas balls and hang them on your tomato plant for about a month before it starts fruiting and just leave them there. The squirrels will see the red and come to investigate. They'll try to gnaw on it, realize its glass/plastic, and leave. They'll come back a few more times, try them again, but eventually they'll figure it out that these are not food and will start to ignore them.

By the time the real food comes out, they'll be so used to there being inedible red things on that plant they won't look twice at the real ones.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 1:09PM
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Squirrels hate spicy chili peppers! My bird feeder got raided everyday by the squirrels but this winter I got the sunflower seed mix dipped in habanero extract. Not only have I not seen any squirrel on my feeder, they don't even go NEAR it. I wonder if they can smell it from a distance even though I can't.

So I wonder if you can use habanero peppers indirectly instead of spraying your tomato fruits directly. Maybe hanging some among your tomato bushes?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 3:17PM
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Karlieb(6b SEKansas)

I did not have any luck last year waiting till 'first blush' to pick my tomatoes as the squirrels didn't care what color they were; they'd grab them, eat half of them and toss them in my yard.

Before my first year of gardening (last year), I actually liked squirrels. I'd think to myself "They can have some and I can have some and we'll all be happy". But no. They had some and I had one. They dug up all my chamomile, basil, thyme and oregano and left them in the sun to die. I don't like them anymore and think of them as a rodent infestation that the city refuses to deal with.

Maybe it's different for those of us that live near parks full of them, but this year I am fencing around my garden with strips of bird netting twisted like barbed wire 3 feet up all the way across. If that doesn't work I'll be going with a capsicum based spray around everything. And if that doesn't work I'll be posting warning signs in my yard and setting up an electric fence.

Very frustrating. :(

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 9:44PM
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Well, I just watched one yank all the little green marble tomatoes off the bush and munch them down, so picking at the blush stage is not an option for me.

My first clue should have been the neighbors who built what look like free-standing screened porches to completely encase their vegetable gardens.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 5:00PM
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thebutcher(6b (Philadelphia area))

Do what I did last year and investigate, I put my GoPro on high speed and slowed down the video to see what this squirrls was doing in my yard in August. They are very curious and I think seem to know what is going on.

About 5 years back they broke into my house and were in the drywall and we contacted the animal program. They told us to get Have a Hartz traps or something like that. I still have them and ready to put one out if I see anything. With that trap (6 or 7 were caught) over a week and we drove them over the Deleware river because they don't like to swim.

They are not cute and fuzzy but if they come between eating my vegtables or break into my home again, they will get a 1 way ticket back to NJ :) with out harming them.

Here is a link that might be useful: last year squirrels

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 5:58PM
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I do several things:

1) Having a dog helps
2) I have one water dish for the dog and three dog water dishes for squirrels-- they seem to eat tomatoes for the water content
3) Put moth balls around young tomato plants
4) grow cherry toms as well as big-fruited toms so I have something to eat
5) try to protect the first large toms of the year. Tried a 1 ounce household ammonia in gallon water spray, egg/hot pepper/dishsoap spray, mothballs,

Hard to tell what works. This year the deer are much more of a threat than squirrels.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 4:09PM
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Fruit color doesn't matter. If pests are eating your fruits and veggies and you want it to stop then here's what works even in an urban/suburban setting so long as you are willing to kill the pests.

Use a correctly sized Havahart trap and a matching sized container full of water to drown each pest once caught.

Bait the trap(s) without using any poison; use peanut butter, nuts, or whatever the pests are eating in the first place. You might need to hang the bait in a mesh bag over the pressure trigger for some pests.

Check the trap(s) frequently.

Dunk each trapped animal in water for 30 seconds.

Bag and discard each dead pest (or feed it to your favorite carnivore).

Rinse, repeat until pests are gone.

If you are not willing to kill the pests then good luck; maybe grow 10x more and share or you can try the charged electric fence suggestion -- I don't have experience with that approach.

Here is a link that might be useful: Havahart live animal traps

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 8:00AM
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*stares at extensive tree canopy outside her window*

I ... do not think I could depopulate the squirrels from this whole suburban acre? Even if I remove the families in my yard, population pressure will just push new ones in. How territorial are squirrels, anyway?

A lady at work told me she is putting cat feces in her garden bed to repel rabbits and squirrels. After I finished sputtering about roundworms and toxoplasmosis, she pointed out that it was her personal cat, so she knew it didn't have any parasites or infections to spread to the soil.

I have not seen any recommendations about using *clean* cat poop as a safe garden amendment. Has anyone else tried this?

I think my next plan is to build a square-foot bed in the front yard, where there are no trees and the squirrels are much less likely to venture. But I appreciate the suggestions.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 8:16AM
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robertz6: how long do the mothballs last in the rain?

Locally, it's recommended that we sprinkle them on areas of yard that overlap streambanks, to repel copperhead snakes from the yard.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 8:21AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I have a suggestion on the topic:
Either put the squirrel in the cage or cage the tomato, or cage them both lol.

This post was edited by seysonn on Sat, Aug 3, 13 at 1:24

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 10:12AM
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