Outsmarting Rats to Save Your Tomato Crop

As a home gardener, nothing stings more than putting in months of tender loving care only to have your ripening tomato crop devoured by stealthy rats. While these resourceful rodents can outwit many deterrents, with some clever strategies you can beat them at their own game and protect your precious tomatoes.

Below I’ll share tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years to thwart those tomato-thieving rats and get most of the harvest for myself

Start with Preventative Measures

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to rat invasions Make your whole garden area less hospitable to rats from the get-go with these approaches

  • Clear away hiding spots like tall grasses, woodpiles, and junk piles near the garden.

  • Eliminate food sources like pet food bird feeders or compost heaps that could draw rats.

  • Install physical barriers like fences, hardware cloth, or wire mesh around the garden perimeter. Bury fencing 6-12 inches underground to prevent burrowing.

  • Use row covers over plants to make access harder. Support covers so they don’t crush plants.

  • Interplant tomatoes with repellent plants like onions, garlic, or marigolds.

Protect Fruiting Plants

Once tomatoes start ripening, you’ll need to take extra measures to shield the vulnerable fruits.

  • Enclose individual plants or rows in cages made of chicken wire or plastic mesh.

  • Wrap ripening tomato clusters in lightweight netting or row cover fabric. Secure with clothespins.

  • Cover pots with aluminum pie tins or screens weighed down by bricks. Remove during day.

  • Attach shiny spinning pinwheels near plants to scare off rats at night.

  • Position battery-powered ultrasonic pest repellers around the garden’s perimeter.

  • Use natural repellents like hot pepper spray, predator urine, or essential oils on fence lines. Reapply after rain.

Harvest Strategically

Outsmart rats by beating them to the bounty with smart harvesting:

  • Pick tomatoes as soon as they start blushing pink or yellow. Ripening ethylene gas will continue the process indoors.

  • Check plants thoroughly every evening and harvest ripe fruits. Leave none overnight.

  • Remove any damaged or spoiled fruits promptly so they don’t attract rats.

  • Pick nearly-ripe green tomatoes at season end and ripen indoors in a paper bag.

Trapping as a Last Resort

While I prefer non-lethal methods, trapping can be the only way to eliminate a persistent tomato-pilfering rat.

  • Bait live traps with peanut butter, sunflower seeds, bacon, or dried fruit. Check traps frequently.

  • For humane disposal, release trapped rats at least 5 miles from home. Never relocate near another home.

  • As a last resort, set lethal snap traps along runs outside the garden, not within. Check and remove promptly.

Remain Vigilant

Rats are clever adversaries, so remain alert and proactive:

  • Inspect barriers regularly for breaches and repair immediately. Look for burrowing too.

  • Observe rat activity patterns and customize deterrents accordingly. Vary approaches.

  • Monitor ripening fruits daily and pick before rats do. Don’t leave ripe ones overnight.

  • Remove food spills promptly. Allow no trash or debris to accumulate.

  • If trapping, use multiple traps and move locations periodically.

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

While completely excluding rats from the garden may be impossible, with dedication and savvy tactics you can outsmart them and triumph over tomato thievery. Employing a mix of barriers, traps, repellents and harvest vigilance, you can foil those furry fiends and have plenty of ripe, juicy tomatoes for yourself.

And there’s no taste quite as satisfying as savoring a homegrown tomato you protected from the clutches of the rat that dared to steal it! Here’s to a bountiful, rat-free tomato harvest for all.

Re: How to stop rats eating my tomatoes?

Welcome to the Bunnings Workshop community. Its fabulous to have you join us, and thank you for sharing your question about protecting your tomatoes.

I think the gap between the bird-proof mesh is still too big, letting the rats get through. Another possibility is that the rats are getting into the garden through a weak spot in the mesh at the very bottom. My first suggestion is to look over the whole area to see if it’s been damaged or if there’s a hole in the ground that the rats can get through.

If the mesh is intact there might be a tree branch or fence panel that the rats are using as a bridge to get in. If after checking thoroughly that there is no weak spot, I suggest taking the next step and that is to create an individual mesh cage for the tomato plant. I suggest using Whites 90cm x 5m x 6.5mm x 6.5mm Mouse Mesh. Its designed to prevent vermin access and is hot dipped galvanized to withstand the weather.

Ive placed a sample below to give you an idea of how to build it. Youll need pliers and a Whites 0.70mm x 75m Wirepak Galvanised Tie Wire to stitch the ends together. I suggest using Whites Heavy Duty Pins – 10 Pack to keep the cage anchored to the ground. Please make sure to wear gloves and safety goggles when cutting and building the wire cage.

If you need further assistance, please let us know.

How to stop rats eating my tomatoes?

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Keep Rats and Squirrels Out of Your Tomato Garden


How can I keep rats from eating my tomatoes?

If after checking thoroughly that there is no weak spot, I suggest taking the next step and that is to create an individual mesh cage for the tomato plant. I suggest using Whites 90cm x 5m x 6.5mm x 6.5mm Mouse Mesh. It’s designed to prevent vermin access and is hot dipped galvanized to withstand the weather.

What keeps rats away from vegetable garden?

Any strong-scented vegetable (like onions or garlic) or herb (like basil or thyme) that you can think of has probably been claimed by someone as a rodent repellent. The evidence is limited at best, but try planting several of these pungent options all around the outer edge of your veggie garden. It’s worth a try!

How do you keep animals from stealing tomatoes?

Protect your harvest Wrap individual fruits on tomato, eggplant, or other vegetable plants in small pieces of bird netting. Squirrels seem to be most interested in stealing tomatoes just as they ripen, so wrap the mature fruits and ignore the green ones.

What is eating my tomatoes at night?

Here are common nocturnal pests that eat tomatoes, and some evidence they may leave behind: Deer: Leave ragged edges on leaves. Rabbits: Leave distinctive 45-degree angle cuts on plants. Raccoons: Often leave half-eaten tomatoes and scattered debris. Opossums: Known to feed on whole tomato fruits.

How to keep rats away from tomato plants?

To keep rats away from tomato plants, use peppermint as a deterrent. Rats have a very sensitive sense of smell and do not like its pungent smell. You can grow peppermint near tomato plants or add its scent by soaking cotton balls in peppermint oil and placing them around the tomato plants.

How do I protect my tomato plants from rodents?

Prevents rodents from reaching plants. Blocks burrowing when installed in trenches. Tip: Make sure the fence extends underground to prevent digging and burrowing. Rats have a particularly negative impact on tomato plants, from chewing on the fruits to potentially transmitting diseases.

Do tomato plants have rat populations?

Managing rat populations is vital for the health of your tomato plants and personal safety. Some preventive measures include maintaining garden hygiene and being vigilant about garden practices that can unintentionally harbor these pests.

How do you keep rats out of a garden?

Just build a sturdy fence with chicken wire. This will keep rats and other small animals out to protect your plants. Make sure to reinforce the fence by digging trenches and stapling hardware cloth to the bottom of the fence. Rodent burrowing can be stopped by digging trenches and covering them with hardware cloth. 4.

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