Protect Tomatoes from Squirrels

jennypennynjSeptember 7, 2008

The squirrels picked my neighbors tomato plants clean. They took all of the tomatoes when they were green, just starting to lighten in color.

They got one of mine so far, and I don't want to loose more tomatoes. Can you recommend a way to protect them?

Here are the options I thought of .....

1. I could put bird netting around the plants. I think that would be able to keep the squirrels out.

2. I could pick the tomatoes as soon as they start to show any sign of turning red and then let them ripen in the house.

Thoughts or alternatives are appreciated!

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Actually, I love squirrels. They're delicious. You might try a spray product called "Repels All". Lowes has it. Spray a few objects to set up a perimeter and they don't cross to do damage.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 1:43PM
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habitat_gardener(z9 CA/Sunset15)

Several years ago, I went to a talk where someone suggested planting sunflowers to divert squirrels' attention away from the tomatoes. So I did that, and they ignored the sunflowers.

One year the squirrels took a bite out of almost every Cherokee Purple and Caspian Pink, which were the most fragrant ones in my garden that year. They seemed to ignore all the hybrid red tomatoes in neighbors' plots at the community garden. So the year after that, I planted lots of cherry tomatoes (figuring that no matter how many the squirrels harvested, there'd still be plenty for me), and I also planted lots of heirlooms that weren't red. That seemed to work.

This year, I tried Cherokee Purple again. So far, no bites. But I had a volunteer sunflower in my garden and I let it grow. A few weeks ago, I happened to notice that many branch tips on the sunflower looked bitten off! And then I saw little sunflower heads several feet away. So the squirrels do seem to prefer sunflowers to tomatoes in my garden this year! By the way, I also keep a little saucer of water in my garden for wildlife, so perhaps the tomato bites were a way to get moisture.

A couple days ago, I heard a lot of scrambling when I got to my garden and saw a big red tomato behind my compost bin after the squirrel ran up the tree. Also, whenever I've seen a squirrel in a tree with a tomato, it's been big and bright tomato-red. So there may be something to my idea of planting colors other than shades of red (including pink and purple, perhaps) and cherries. They also haven't touched my big luscious German Orange Strawberry tomatoes.

For my neighbor's garden, where the tomatoes are planted in the middle of squirrel territory and not visible from the house, I'm going to make a chicken-wire enclosure now that their tomatoes are starting to turn red. The trick to using this material is to leave the top few inches (at least 4-6 inches) floppy, so that they cannot climb over the top. It's supposed to deter raccoons as well. It will be interesting to see if this works.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 2:26AM
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I use an electric fence and it works well.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 6:59AM
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skipphin(Chicago z5)

Has anyone tried this? It's a motion-sensor sprinkler that is supposed to be a deterrent. I, too, have problems with squirrels. I also have problems with neighbors in the night, I just discovered, and I'm ready to soak someone. If anyone is familiar with this product, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 3:56PM
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Squirrels love little green tomatoes. I haven't had much toruble with squirrels this year. After eating my nectarines, and pears my tomatoes are next.

This year they only ate the little green tomatoes off of my container plant. I put chicken wire around the tomato plant, but I didn't cover the top. It worked.

I spent this morning blowing down the drive way a few blocks away. It was covered with pecan shells half eaten by the squirrels. Very green peacans. Squirrels love pecans much more than tomatoes.

See my tomatoes covered with chicken wire last year.


Here is a link that might be useful: Chicken Wire Over Tomatoes

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 7:25PM
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I agree with "containerted". I have heard good things about 'Repels-All'. Squirrels are also good in the stew pot. I have tried pie tins and wind chimes this year at my girlfriends request. She hates me shooting the Squirrels and rabbits. These simple things have helped a lot. Unfortunately I have lost all my tomatoes here in La Pine to the freezes so all we have left are at her place, 700 feet lower.
Good luck,

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 8:27PM
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Bird netting doesn't even slow the squirrels down. They enjoy tearing up the netting.

My neighbor tried it last year, and it didn't work.

Chicken wire does work.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 7:37PM
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tomatogreenthumb(6 WV)

A powerful .22 cal. air rifle has always worked great for me! It solves the problem and also puts meat on the table.

There is a place for a garden and a separate place for the animals, and they should not mix.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 5:36PM
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We used to eat squirrels when I was a kid.

I don't think it wise to be killing squirrels in the city even with an air rifle. I think the neighbors would be complaining.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 7:41PM
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cdbva(6 or 7)

Jenny, last week I saw a squirrel run off with a green tomato that probably weighed more than he did. I can't believe how angry it made me feel ;)

I went out and got some bird netting, and that has kept them away this week. We have a lot of squirrels, so I think it's safe to say it's been successful.

Today I found that a baby tomato (technical term for that?) had somehow managed to position itself inside one of the 1/2" squares and then grown to maybe 3/4". I was able to cut the square open with a seam ripper and rescue it, but it sure looks funny. Will be interesting to see how it matures...


    Bookmark   September 14, 2008 at 5:51PM
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One more plug for Repels All Spray.

I had sprayed regularly (every week or 10 days) with Repels All since late May this year. I guess I kinda got used to not seeing the little devils. But, parts of my garden are winding down, and I guess I hadn't used the Repels All spray in a while. But, my dog (Cookie - the Yorkshire Terrier who thinks she owns everything within her sight) went ballistic and was barking loudly. My wife explained that there were squirrels on the front porch digging in her Mums. I got up and sure enough, there were three of them out there having a good time. A quick question and I was informed that they had been out there regularly for the last couple of days. I walked to my chemical cabinet on the side porch and got the bottle and sprayed a few squirts on the sides of the front porch. Then a squirt or two on the trunks of the trees they went up when I went out there. I also re-established a perimeter for my remaining tomatoes. Now, it's three days later and I haven't so much as seen a squirrel since I sprayed. Call it what you want, the stuff works.

And, best of all, I don't have to kill them (Pssst, my wife made me say that).

    Bookmark   September 14, 2008 at 11:04PM
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duajones(z9 TX)

3 or 4 yrs ago when I first started growing tomatoes, I had 3 or 4 plants in containers. Squirrels got the first few tomatoes before I had a chance to pick them. Coincidently, my brother put up a squirrel feeder and began putting sunflower seed in it. I noticed the squirrels started to ignore my tomatoes. I put up a second and then a third feeder. The squirrels walk right past pecans, walnuts, etc to get to the black sunflower seed. I put seed in the feeders every morning and havent had a problem with them since. I also keep fresh water for them. They still get into my hummingbird feeders but dont bother my tomatoes at all.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 10:30AM
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susancol(7 Atlanta)

I thought I had squirrels eating my tomatos too. Until I found the 3 HUGE 6" Tobacco Hornworms eating away at them. Scary to think that an insect can take bites as big as a Squirrel! I drowned the worms, by the way. Don't advise that plan for your squirrels, though. Good luck with them!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 4:24PM
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How about wrapping a plastic bag around the tomatoes???

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 12:50PM
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Squirrels (I assume--I see them crossing our deck frequently) have been nibbling the tomatoes; this morning I found 5 small ones left on the welcome mat (to appease me?) and about a dozen scattered on the deck; one of the geranium blooms lopped off, some of my begonias. I have 3 large cherry tomato plants on my deck--will have to make a trip into town to buy some Repel!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 11:56AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

There are 3 ways to deal with squirrels:

1) feed them
2) eat them
3) BEAT them

I like number (3); Just pick the maters at the slightest suggestion of color. And let them ripen inside. This is the most economical and ecological and humane method.
Live and Let Live !

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 8:12PM
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