Advice on tomato plants eaten by deer

donnaroeJune 19, 2012

We planted 30 heirloom tomato plants and had a fence about 5 feet high around them. I asked my husband to spray them with deer deterrent, and he said with all of the stakes and the fence, the deer would leave them alone. Well, yesterday we noticed that the tops half of the plant (the growing tips) had been eaten on 21 of the plants. Will these plants ever recover to produce tomatoes. Is there anything we can do to help them recover?

Also, I am looking for a tried and true home made deer deterrent which we can make and spray. The ones available in the stores are sending us to the poor house-they are $10 for a small spray bottle. I have googled this subject, and there are so many different recipes online that you can make-I just want to choose one recipe which really works! If someone has some experience with making their own, I would appreciate some advice. Thank you

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noinwi

They don't like anything sulfurous or garlicky, so a very cheap spray to start could be made with fresh or powdered garlic soaked in water and filtered into a sprayer. Some of the many homemade recipes work(just do a search here or google), but smell so bad you won't want to be near your own garden(JMO).
I noticed every time I used my Safer Fungicide(sulfur based)they would pass on those plants. I have since started using deer netting, but I still use the fungicide on target plants that are not under netting.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 10:40PM
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kamapuaa

Nothing will keep the deer away. I've heard deers in rural areas are a little more timid, but in the suburbs all you can do is raise the fences higher. Heirloom tomatoes will grow back like nothing happened. There's nothing special you can do to help them recover.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 12:06AM
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barnhardt9999(8a)

I've notice the deer tend to eat my tomatoes in the front yard rather than the back yard where I often urinate in a feeble attempt to kill the Bermuda grass growing into my raised beds. The back yard also has hydrangeas which they prefer over tomatoes. They also seem to love mulberry foliage. A mulberry tree would be easy to top short enough for them to reach. Any chance you could plant decoys?

The ones with the tops eaten off will still grow tomatoes. The plants will tend to be a little bushier and less upright.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 12:09AM
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mrsbeasley(4a Northern Ont)

Barnhardt9999 is quite correct. Human urine tends to repel deer. I sometimes punch nail holes in the lid of a jar, put human urine in the jar, and nestle it among the foliage. That way the rain won't wash it away, and the deer stay away all summer.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 7:11AM
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evdpgh

"I am looking for a tried and true deer deterrent"...A Winchester Model 94 .30-30 carbine.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 8:27AM
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harveyhorses(7 Midlothian Va)

LOL, the deer around here could give two flicks of their tails for urine. Or hunan hair, They do have an aversion to lead. I am on 1.8 acres, it used to be the country but like everything developed. We are on a pond, and less than a mile from the river, so it is a perfect location for them. and me.
I swear one of them sauntered over to where my brother had JUST marked (no I did not watch) sniffed and walked right on all of four of five steps, and continued grazing.
I have electric fence around my raised beds, only about 4ft high, my theory is the fence is close enough to the beds they can't judge their landing. Yes I know that is codswallop, but they have not bothered my garden except when I forgot to turn it on.
I also use a motion sensitive sprayer. it works great but needs to be moved from time to time.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 8:33AM
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drtomato(5 Ortonville MI)

DEER REPELANT

4 eggs
2 tbls ground red pepper
2 tbls garlic powder
2 cups water

Put it all in a blender for 5 min.

Strain it into a discarded laundry detergent bottle (non-bleach) that has a little left over soap in it. add 1 gal. water and shake.

To use- pour into a sprayer and apply once a week to plants or after every rain.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 11:19AM
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DFW_Gardener(7b)

You might consider getting a dog.

Here is a link that might be useful: DFW Gardener

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 12:16PM
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pasco(7)

i eat the deer...problem solved and i'm very healthy for it!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 3:40PM
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pasco(7)

i eat the deer...problem solved and i'm very healthy for it!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 3:41PM
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robertz6

Try looking at it from the other end. What are nearby food sources that the deer might eat? How much you need to do to reduce the deer problem depends on other food.

I have three neighbors within 150' who also plant tomatoes. Right now I just have to do more than they do to discourage deer. My one dog does not spend as much time outside as the nearest yards two dogs. The other two guys don't have dogs. So I have to do more than the other two guys. I put down mothballs, spread hot pepper around, and put up old VHS tape around the tomatoes.

When October comes it will be a different story. All three of the neighbors toms will be burnt up by than because they don't use compost tea and prune off the wilts/blights. So in October the deer will only be looking at my yard. More mothballs, and I comb all the neighborhood dogs for a good selection of doghair.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 4:24PM
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robertz6

Try looking at it from the other end. What are nearby food sources that the deer might eat? How much you need to do to reduce the deer problem depends on other food.

I have three neighbors within 150' who also plant tomatoes. Right now I just have to do more than they do to discourage deer. My one dog does not spend as much time outside as the nearest yards two dogs. The other two guys don't have dogs. So I have to do more than the other two guys. I put down mothballs, spread hot pepper around, and put up old VHS tape around the tomatoes.

When October comes it will be a different story. All three of the neighbors toms will be burnt up by than because they don't use compost tea and prune off the wilts/blights. So in October the deer will only be looking at my yard. More mothballs, and I comb all the neighborhood dogs for a good selection of doghair.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 4:25PM
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robertz6

Try looking at it from the other end. What are nearby food sources that the deer might eat? How much you need to do to reduce the deer problem depends on other food.

I have three neighbors within 150' who also plant tomatoes. Right now I just have to do more than they do to discourage deer. My one dog does not spend as much time outside as the nearest yards two dogs. The other two guys don't have dogs. So I have to do more than the other two guys. I put down mothballs, spread hot pepper around, and put up old VHS tape around the tomatoes.

When October comes it will be a different story. All three of the neighbors toms will be burnt up by than because they don't use compost tea and prune off the wilts/blights. So in October the deer will only be looking at my yard. More mothballs, and I comb all the neighborhood dogs for a good selection of doghair.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 4:26PM
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donnaroe

Thank you~ I will try the home made deer deterrant spray. I hope we get some tomatoes on these plants. They sure look pitiful now.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 10:24PM
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cole_robbie(6)

I second the suggestion to get dogs. My two German Shepherds have been flawless this year. I have about 3-4 acres set out. Last year, no attempt at deer repellent was made, and they ate everything. My area has far more deer than people. Putting a dog pen next to the garden disrupts the nightly travel routine of the deer. Otherwise, they just keep coming back.

Beyond dogs, deer hate strong smells. Irish Spring soap and rotten milk/egg mixtures are two additional deterrents that I am using. I mix milk, eggs, and water in a jug, poke small holes in the top, and set it in the sun next to the plants. Some people spray the milk & egg mixture directly on the plants. Deer have a sense of smell that is 20x stronger than ours. If we can smell something at all, that scent would be overpowering to a deer. I'm sure they think we are disgusting creatures :)

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 1:00PM
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tedposey

Several years ago while deer hunting I came upon a half disolved bar of Irish Spring soap. About tweenty yards further was a fresh scrape about a yard and a half diameter. That soap was not a deterrent !
Another time I scraped the leaves off an area underneath an ovehanging dogwood limb and urinate in it myself. Two weeks later I revisited that location and my scrape had been enlarged snd freshened. I don't believe one mamals urine smells any different than most others. Skunks and civits being an exception. Lol

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 2:32PM
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kamapuaa

Deer in the Bay Area will just laugh at the soap and sprays and smelly egg mixtures.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 11:31PM
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euarto_gullible(5)

donnaroe,

As long as you didn't prune all the suckers, there should be some new growth, even if they ate all the tops. You can also try spraying your plants with fish emulsion to speed up their recovery. It's a good fertilizer and a pretty effective deer repellent when freshly sprayed.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 12:30AM
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donnaroe

Euarto, we did prune all of the suckers prior to the tops being eaten. I look forward all year to large tomatoes, and now will probably have nothing-they are not growing at all. Do you think we would have time in North East Ohio to plant new ones to get a crop this year? I am very skeptical if we would. Needless to say, I am heartbroken at the thought of no bumper crop of large, beautiful tomatoes to enjoy and share with friends.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 8:27AM
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kamapuaa

More suckers will come up. I've had plenty tomatoes get their tops eaten and really don't think it's an issue. But with 21 damaged tomato plants you can hedge your bets. Why not pull a few of them, and replace them with something from the store? Zone 5 frosts October 15th, you could get a month or two I imagine.

I had a tomato plant stolen by gophers, I bought a replacement from the grocery store a few weeks ago and it's already set a few fruit.

And 9 undamaged tomato plants sounds like a lot of tomatoes. Stop pulling suckers, to let them produce more.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 1:35PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

The plants may well put out new suckers. You have good root systems there. Have you given them some fertilizer?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 1:54PM
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donnaroe

Thank you- the stores are all out of mortgage lifter and brandywine. They have Rutgers and German Johnson left-I am on my way now to pick some up. This happened a week ago and I see no new growth, so if we get some side shoots or suckers, we will be sure to let them go-I am keeping my fingers crossed!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 1:57PM
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donnaroe

Yes, when they were planted, two jobes tomato spikes were placed by each plant, and my husband dressed the top of the ground with treated steer manure which we bought in Amish Country near here. So you can see why I am so upset about this-we spent alot on the jobes fertilizer and the steer manure-plus the plants!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 2:01PM
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euarto_gullible(5)

Even if you pruned suckers aggressively, it's likely you missed a few nodes, and oftentimes they do grow back, especially if you prune suckers when they're very small.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 12:40AM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

What are "civits " ?

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 6:03AM
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Bets(z6A S ID)

dickie,

A musk producing animal: Civit.

Betsy

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 10:20AM
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donnaroe

DRtomto~ I mixed up the recipe you posted for deer detterant spray and have used it. Wonderful, that it does go through the spayer hole and does not clog. I see that you recommend that it be re applied after a rain. My husband is watering our tomatoes with an overhead sprinkler. He did not think this spray would have to be re applied after he waters. I think he is wrong, according to what you write. Am I right?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 10:50PM
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drtomato(5 Ortonville MI)

donna-
I usually give the new growth, the little tips of the new growth, a spray after a rain or shower. There's no need to ever water the plants leaves, all the water absorbed by the plant comes from the roots.
Why this stuff works is because deer don't eat meat(protein). Eggs are protein, so they are naturally turned off by the odor. They also don't like the capsaison in the red pepper. Bugs don't like the garlic. Also the longer it sits in the bottle and gets stinky the better it works.
I live in the country and have deer all around me. I eat deer and have venison in my freezer year round.
People that I have given this recipe to can't thank me enough. This stuf works better than a electric fence. We literally watch the deer walk right up to the plants, take a smell, turn their heads then walk away. Pretty cool to see.
,Dan

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 7:59AM
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