How to prevent rabbits from eating my low hanging fruits?

ikea_gwJune 19, 2010

Last year I only grew one slicer tomato, Better Boy. Early on in the season, every time a tomato ripened perfectly I would pick it and find out that the rabbits had taken a bite out of it. Now that I am waiting for some of the biggest heirloom tomatoes I have ever grown to ripen, I want to make sure this does not happen this year! So do you have any suggestions on how to deter the rabbits? I was thinking about covering the big ones with a pouch made out of row covers. Would this work? I have liquid fence spray but not sure I want to spray that directly on the fruit.

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Does it help to pick the low-hanging fruit when still pink? Mine seem to be as tasty.

Have you thought of sprinkling cayenne pepper over the fruit and nearby foliage? What else near the tomatoes do the rabbits like to nibble on? Not sure if a rabbit is smart enough to learn, but might be worth a try. I've been scolded for the "cruelty" of this method.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 9:35PM
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Try putting moth balls around on the edge of your tom patch.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 9:55PM
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Doesn't sound like rabbits. They usually don't eat tomatoes. Groundhogs, rats, birds and other rodents take bites but not rabbits. Liquid fence works on rabbits and just make sure you clean the fruit before you eat it. Never use mothballs in an eddible garden area. Unless you like poison in your food...

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 10:06PM
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borderbarb, I definitely will try to pick them when they just start to blush, but do you think the rabbits will take a bite before then?

joe-il, moth balls are not really that good around food especially since I am growing organically.

bigdaddyj, they don't eat the tomatoes. They just take a single bite or a few bites out of one fruit. The only other thing ever got eaten was bush green beans last year. Nobody touched my peppers or squash. This year I lost a few blackberries too... but only the super ripe ones. I saw rabbits everywhere last year, so far no sightings yet.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 10:39PM
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Yes, I realized the critter was taking only bites but yet I've never seen a rabbit do this. Lots of animals will but not rabbits. They don't have the teeth for it nor it seems the desire. Have you actually seen a rabbit taking these bites? Or just saw them around your tomatoes often? I have not a seen a single rabbit this winter. I don't know where in zone 7 you are but here in my zone 7 Delaware we had gigantic snows back to back with up to 4 feet on the ground and may have RIP'ed quite a few rabbit holes...

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 11:01PM
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This sounds like bird damage, especially the berries--the super ripe berries; birds are well known for eating overripe berries because they have begun to ferment. Drunk birds are funny as all heck to watch.

Go to your local nursery or garden center and get some netting. Pain in the butt to lay out, spread over, then work under, but it works like a charm. A simpler method would be to tie strings across the beds and dangle old CDs from them, the flashing of the silver-backings will startle the birds, but it only lasts a while. Then there are scarecrows too, well, if you keep changing the scare tactics it works, but if you don't change the routine then birds figure out the fakery pretty quick. My neighbor put a plastic owl on top of her fence, I always chuckle to myself when I see birds sitting on top of it, lol.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 11:40PM
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Here in south Jersey, I find that when it's hot and dry for two weeks or more, rabbits, squirrels, rodents, will take a bite out of any type of fruit or vegetable, just to find moisture. They get very desperate. This past week I've found young hot peppers torn off the plants and on the ground with bites taken out of them.(you would think hot peppers would teach them a lesson!) I'm going to try putting chicken wire around the base of the plants to see if that works!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 11:57PM
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star_stuff(Greensboro NC 7a)

Yes, that's what I was thinking, skipsgarden. When it's hot and dry, thirsty animals are forced to search for water in fruits and veggies. You could try putting out saucers or bowls of water for them instead...but outside the perimeter of your garden. :-)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 12:08AM
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I agree it is not rabbits.

I suspect you have rats or mice as your problem. People do not like the idea that there might be rats or mice around. But they are. And they will eat tomatoes. If they are simply small nibbles it is probably mice.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 2:00AM
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Rabbits WILL eat tomatoes, eggplants, and anything else they can sink their teeth into. A short chickenwire barrier is anough to keep them out because the can't high-jump or climb.

However, so roof rats, wharf rats, squirrels, chipmunks and the rest of the rodentia can jump or climb ... it might not work for you.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 10:58AM
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Well it has happened. Something, whatever it may be, took bites out of several heirloom tomatoes that are low to the ground. I guess in the future years I will be pruning off the low hanging fruits before they get large. For now, I wrapped floating row covers around individual fruits and hopefully this will help. Now I get to use the ones that are only slightly damaged in fried green tomatoes!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 12:27PM
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Grrr... So sorry Ikea G. I know how frustrating that is. I lost virtually my whole crop last year, tomato by tomato. Just as they were getting close to rippening, I'd wake up to find half a tomato hanging from the vine. I discovered that I had rats, and once they found my garden they were very tenacious. This year I decided to pull out the big guns and built a huge cage all around my tomatoes. (I posted pix a few days ago) It's kind of extreme, but I just didn't want another frustrating season. I feel a bit like Bill Murray in Caddyshack. LOL...But another product that you might want to try, which I have heard has had great success against squirrels and rats is (and I know it sounds kinda gross) fox urine. You can buy it online as a liquid or as a shakable granule. It supposedly tricks critters into thinking that there are predators nearby. My dad has used it on his fruit trees and swears that it has helped. Humans can't really smell it but animals can.
Good Luck,

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 2:02PM
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Sounds like a groundhog. They do exactly what you are describing - take a few bites and leave the rest. They rarely finish a fruit, but go from one to the next.

I had to resort to trapping them and it's the only thing that has helped. BTW, there is never just one, they have families.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 2:30PM
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"They just take a single bite or a few bites out of one fruit. The only other thing ever got eaten was bush green beans last year."

Talk about Deja-Vu, I am having the same _exact_ issue. I've never had issues in years gone by, but I this year I expanded my garden to grow more variety. I am growing bush green beans, cucumbers, beets, watermelons, asparagus, and a couple of other things. Whatever it was was eating the leaves off of my cucumbers, my bush green beans (leaves and beans), and eating tomatoes (leafs and larger unripe fruit), the last straw was when they ate a larger unripe tomato (probably about 2 weeks from ripe), two of my young asparagus plants, and a baby watermelon.

I went out one night and put up rabbit fence around my whole garden, not knowing what it was, as I was heading out there to put the fence up - I was face to face with the culprit, a huge groundhog. He stood there and stared at me and didn't even bother to move until I ran towards him with the fence posts, lol.

So here's my vote towards it being a groundhog. I have tons of rabbits in my yard, but they seem much more content eating the bountiful amounts of clover in my backyard and I rarely see them near my garden. I had suspected them until I saw a tomato taken that was about a foot off the ground and saw that it was carefully "plucked" from the plant, no way a rabbit could've done that.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 3:00PM
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I garden in a community garden and I don't know if I am allowed to trap critters there. So far, the only thing ever eaten was a few blackberries and the tomatoes. They didn't touch my greens, lettuce, peppers, green beans, squash or melons. I guess I am going to see if this wrapping the fruit procedure works and hope that the local foxes will catch whatever it is.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 3:51PM
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sunsi(z5 NY)

Last year we had a terrible problem with tomatoes being eaten or as someone mentioned earlier a bite or two taken the rest of the fruit left to rot. Between that and the awful blight problems we had here in the northeast there wasn't much left for us.

I didn't see voles mentioned but they are veggie lovers too and I know we have those because I've seen them. We also have rabbits and groundhogs so protecting the harvest will be a challenge. Just this morning as the sun was coming up I saw a rabbit leaving the garden area when I put the dog out. Even though I haven't seen any damage yet because there isn't anything ripe but I know the critters are well aware of a good food source now.

I appreciate this thread because it addresses something most us of will experience and have to deal with. I like the chicken wire idea and will be buying a roll next trip to the store. Last year we tried not staking the tomatoes but leaving them to grow on the ground take my word, DON"T DO THAT, lol

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 2:58AM
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Just picked my first heirloom slicer today, 1.6 pound Gold Medal. I think my strategy of wrapping floating row covers around fruits is working against whatever critters I have. Of course this wouldn't work for a large number of plants but for the 13 that I have it doesn't take very long. Plus I can see through the cover so I know when the tomatoes are ripe.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 8:09PM
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Yes RABBITS DO EAT TOMATOES!! The rabbits in my neighborhood are eatting mine. I have watched them. If it weren't for my dog running to far off I'd let him get those nasty little beasts!!! So yes they do eat tomatoes.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 8:24PM
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