If deer are common where you live, and you’re growing tomatoes, you might be wondering whether deer eat tomato plants.
As deer are herbivores, they do eat tomatoes. In fact, they’ll eat your tomatoes right off the vine and will even munch on the tomato plants themselves because they actually prefer to eat the leaves and stems rather than the fruit.
So, you could easily have your entire crop of tomato plants wiped out if you have deer visiting your yard.
Do Deer Eat Tomato Plants?
Deer do eat tomato plants. They’ll devour the entire plant and not just nibble on the tomatoes on the vine. This is quite disturbing since all parts of the tomato plant except the fruit are mildly toxic to us humans.
Further research indicates that the green parts of the tomato plant are also toxic to deer. You see, the tomato plant is part of the nightshade family of plants that also include potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. These plants contain a toxic compound that is called solanine.
Even unripe fruits can contain a certain amount of this toxic compound. While a deer who munches on just a few leaves or stems may not notice any major effects, consuming too many tomato plants could have some detrimental effects on the health of the animal.
Plants in the nightshade family are often referred to as deer-resistant plants. However, these are only deer-proof to a small degree. This is because deer, being ruminants, need to devour a huge amount of plant material on a daily basis. In fact, it’s reported that adult deer need to eat around seven pounds of plant material each and every day.
Therefore, if they’re hungry and there’s not much else around for them to eat, unfortunately, your tomato plants are fair game.
So, what can you do to keep deer away from your precious tomato crop?
10 Ways to Keep Deer Away From Tomato Plants
There are quite a few things that you can do to protect your tomato plants, as well as all the other goodies that you have growing in the garden from roaming deer.
Here are just a few things to consider:
1. Build a Strong Deer Fence
If you want to fence your garden, you need to ensure that the fence is at least 7 to 8 feet tall. Otherwise, the deer can jump over it. It also needs to be quite sturdy so that they can’t push their way through.
This can be one of the best solutions, but it can be quite costly if you want to fence your whole yard rather than just your vegetable garden.
Alternatively, you could consider installing an electric fence around your property or just your vegetable garden. You just have to remember to turn it off before you go into the garden to tend to your plants.
In order for an electric fence to be effective, ensure that the bottom wire is no more than 10 inches above the ground. Then add around 5 or 6 additional wires that are around 12 inches apart so that the deer can’t just climb through the fence.
2. Use Deer Repellent Sprays
There are plenty of deer repellent sprays available on the market. They come in two different forms, including a contact repellent and an area repellent.
Area repellent sprays are used around the boundary of your yard or even just the boundary of your vegetable patch. These sprays emit an odor that is unpleasant to deer. The most commonly used odor is that of predator urine. As well as the sprays, there are also deer repellent granules available in the same unpleasant odor that you can scatter around the garden.
On the other hand, the contact repellents are sprayed onto your plants and produce an unpleasant taste when the deer try to eat your plants. Tastes include things like cloves, garlic, rotten eggs, or capsaicin. If you decide to try this type of deterrent, make sure that you get a spray that is safe to use on edible crops.
You can even make your own sprays at home using pungent spices such as garlic, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, or curry powder. All of these strong scents will work to keep deer away from your garden.
But remember, these smells won’t linger for long, so you have to ensure to use the sprays on a regular basis if you want to protect your vegetable garden from those roaming deer.
3. Install Motion Activated Sprinklers
Motion-activated sprinklers can be quite effective in keeping deer away from your precious plants. These will emit a blast of cold water when the sensor is triggered near your plants. Quite often, this will scare the wary deer off to find some other morsels to munch on in peace.
Apart from spraying any visiting deer with water, these types of sprinklers are also a little noisy when they’re activated, and this will often scare deer away quite quickly.
4. Enclose your Vegetable Patch in Deer Netting
Another effective way to keep deer out of your vegetable patch is to enclose the entire garden in deer netting. But, you have to ensure that you use it around all sides of your patch as well as over the top so that the deer can’t jump over the netting around the perimeter.
5. Fill Old Stockings with Irish Spring Soap
Apparently, deer do not like the strong scent of Irish spring soap. Many people have found success by placing some of this soap into old stockings and hanging these around their vegetable gardens.
6. Fill your Garden with Strongly Scented Plants
Deer are not fans of really strong scents and will keep away from gardens that have an abundance of these. Consider plants like garlic and lavender, as well as strongly scented herbs such as sage and basil.
Other plants to consider include anise, chives, dill, cilantro, lemongrass, mint, and rosemary.
7. Use Fake look-alike Statues to Scare Deer away
There are many different types of fake, plastic, or resin statues that you can get at your local garden center that will effectively scare deer away from your plants.
These include predator statues such as owls, eagles, and hawks. Some even have flashing eyes or heads that rotate and can be motion-activated.
8. Consider Ultrasonic Deer Repellents
Ultrasonic deer repellents emit a sound that is not audible to the human ear but can be heard by deer and other animals. Many of these devices can be motion-activated, and, because deer are quite timid, the sudden sound can easily scare them away.
Apart from these, you could also try and hang some wind chimes around your garden. Once again, the sudden and unexpected noise is likely to scare the deer away from your garden.
9. Feed your Plants with Bone Meal or other Animal Manures
Let’s face it, if you’re growing juicy, healthy tomatoes, you’re going to be using some type of fertilizer anyway. Consider using a pelleted bone meal or animal manure and scatter this around your plants.
Because deer are herbivores and have quite a few animal predators, the scent of the animal manure is likely to keep them away from your garden.
10. Get Yourself a Dog
It’s common knowledge that deer don’t like dogs. In general, they consider them as predators and will not go near a yard that contains a dog. Of course, this will only work during the day while the dog is out in the yard.
But, if you couple this with some of the other deterrents, you should still be able to deter deer from your yard, even during the night when the dog is fast asleep indoors.
Will The Smell of Coffee Grounds Keep Deer away?
Although this hasn’t been scientifically proven, we do know that deer don’t like really strong scents, so scattering used coffee grounds around the vegetables may just be a good deterrent.
As an added bonus, the coffee grounds will also supply some nutrients to your plants but remember to keep them away from plants that prefer more alkaline soil. This is because coffee grounds do add some additional acidity to the soil as they decompose.
Are there any Garden Plants that Deer don’t Eat?
When it comes to plant materials, deer aren’t all that fussy, especially if they’re hungry. There are, however, a few plants that they will generally avoid. These include common flowering plants such as daffodils, poppies, and foxgloves.
Deer will also stay away from many strongly scented herbs such as lavender, salvia, and sage. They also don’t like flowers such as bearded irises and peonies.
Marigolds are another flower that deer don’t like. These are excellent for growing as a border around your vegetable garden as they’ll also attract pollinators such as bees. But, make sure that you select the most fragrant varieties.