Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Calling All Gardeners: What's Eating Our Tomatoes?

I spent a lot of time this past spring shoveling out the old clay dirt that was in my garden and replacing it with the mix that is recommended in the book, Square Foot Gardening.

It was hard work and there was an initial expense, but I knew I wouldn't have to deal with the weeds any more and I knew my plants would love it.

I picked my first red tomato recently and I could immediately see the fruits of my labor.

Until I turned that beautiful tomato around and saw this...

I almost cried. It was as if a human took a big fat bite out of the tomato, as if it were an apple. But that was no human...it was some sort of critter, but I have a 2 foot tall fence around my box, for crying out loud.

You might not know this, but I live in bunnyville. My yard and garden is their 24 hour buffet. But this isn't the back woods and these bunnies aren't Thumper. No, I live in the burbs and these bunnies are practically domesticated animals. They flurry around the neighborhood in their little bunny community as if they own the place!

Upon showing my tomato to my fellow gardening neighbor, she told me that she was having the same problem. She found 5 tomatoes eaten the same way. She has not seen tomatoes eaten this way before. Her husband spent the day putting a fence around their tomatoes. I have a fence though. I am treating this as an act of war.

But my neighbors weren't so sure this was the work of a bunny. Could it be a chipmunk, a ground hog or dare I say it, a skunk? It must be an awfully nimble ground hog or skunk to slink through the slight opening were the wires come together around my box. I re-secured the fence immediately.

So, I'm calling all gardeners for advice. What's Eating Our Tomatoes? Is this the work of a bunny, chipmunk, ground hog or skunk? Any ideas? Please, for the sake of my sanity and the many tomatoes just waiting to turn red, please give me your advice! Thank You!

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  1. I have tomatoes that look like that too and have gone on a full scale offensive against the critter eating my tomaotes and cucumbers. We are using a humane trap and so far we have caught a rat, a mouse and a chipmunk, all of whom could have been the culprit. I also caught a squirrel red handed, with a tomato between his paws, taking dainty little bites out of a lovely red tomato in the middle of my yard! I haven't caught him yet, but rest assured, I will. Best of luck on catching your critters. I highly recommend the humane trap with a soda crackers smeared with peanut butter as the bait.

  2. Jenny - Rest assured, whatever I do will be humane. My neighbor has a trap and he takes the critters out to his cabin in the woods and sets them free.

    I was talking to my neighbors last night about it again because they have found some more eaten tomatoes and now we are wondering if it is crows who are eating the tomatoes that way. I'm not sure how to handle that??

  3. I have had rabbits and raccoons take bites like that out of my tomatoes. We have a fence, too. Sometimes I think we have to fence the top as well. :)

  4. It's squirrels. The only thing I know to do is trap and move them.

  5. Ahhh! So frustrating. At first I thought it was tomato hornworms, but you'd see their droppings and holes would be on the top as well. You're right to think a critter.
    My experience with birds eating fruits, though is that they can't ever make bites that big. The just peck and peck, leaving a large ragged looking hole or many little holes. Most likely a rat/chipmunk/squirrel animal, in my opinion. Good luck catching the culprit!

  6. Hi!
    All kinds of critters could be eating them. Good luck with catching them. Have a great day!

    Food for Thought

  7. Birds and horned tomato worms eat our tomatoes on occasion. Mostly the birds.

  8. Before I had to move to the "burbs" with a yard full of pine trees, I would grow a tomato or two. If I found a picked tomato sitting in the grass with the top eaten off and the inards cleaned out so that it just looked like a bowl, it was a racoon. They wouldn't eat the part that touched the ground. Then, I had some tomatoes that looked like yours with the bottom eaten off while they still hung on the vine. I had no idea what was doing that, until one day I spotted a terrapin with his head arched upward devouring the bottom half of a tomato. And sure enough, all those I'd lost before were at turtle-height. So maybe....

    Good luck.


  9. I found the exact same thing last night on my second ripe tomato of the season! I was not a happy camper. My husband thought it was a groundhog but my suspicion was rabbit. I also think some of my sweet pea plants had been trimmed down so something is lurking out there.....

  10. Birds were our biggest problem this year with tomoatoes. They just sit and eat chunks like that right out of the biggest, prettiest ones! I just got to where I picked them early and let them rippen on my windowsill.

  11. Squirrels are doing that to our tomatoes. My husband has caught them in the act. My elderly neighbor says they do it for the juice when it's hot.

  12. I lost four, lovely, ripe tomatoes to this type of thing and I figured out it was snails/slugs. So I sprinkled some non-toxic snail bait (we have dogs) and I haven't had a reoccurance.


  13. I have no idea what it is, but I hope you can get it stopped. We have a lot of squirrels that live in our neighborhood, so I threw a net over some of my tomatoes. So far, I think it is working. Good luck!

  14. In my opinion, investing in a good fence is really the only way to prevent critters from bothering your garden. There is nothing as disappointing as working so hard, waiting patiently for fruit to ripen and then find that "someone" has beaten you to it...
    Our fence is 8 feet high and is actually imbedded about 6 inches into the soil...(We live in the country and deer are a problem as well as bunnies, mice,etc.)
    Good Luck!

  15. So I tightened up the the fence around the box and hopefully that will keep the critters out. The fence was loose where the two sides come together.

  16. The birds eat some of our tomatoes. They'll laser on a nice red ripe one and peck out a portion of it. The best way I've found to deal with this is to pick the tomatoes as soon as they start showing *any* color. They'll ripen just fine indoors inside a brown paper bag, and won't taste any different than vine-ripened.
    I'll leave a red tomato or two on the vine for the birds, just to share and to have them around to also eat insect pests.

  17. Fence around and over top. You can also try spraying a hot pepper spray on them= 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped jalepeno, and 1 tbs cayenne pepper boiled in 2 quarts of water for 20 mins, then strain through cheesecloth. Trapping won't fix your problem because as you remove one animal it's only a matter of time before the next one finds the buffet. It's also a terrible idea to relocate wildlife because most either will die because they don't know their surroundings or will be killed by the established animals.

  18. Caught my culprits. Mice come out at night and climb the vines. They munch all night and make it look like a larger animal did it. This is not a catch and release program for me.

    1. "This is not a catch & release program" made me chuckle!

  19. something is also eating my tomatos! im going to try cayenne or jalapeno pepper to deter them.

  20. thanks for the info .I live in the country and this gives me an idea we have all the critters out here.whatever it is likes the ripe tomatoes and the big ones .I am picking as soon as they start to turn color


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