Do Rabbits Eat Tomato Plants?(6 Ways To Stop Them)

Do Rabbits Eat Tomato Plants?(6 Ways To Stop Them)

Key Takeaways

  • Rabbits can devastate your tomato plants, especially young seedlings.
  • Rabbits love all parts of tomato plants, especially tender leaves and stems.
  • Seedlings are most vulnerable to rabbit damage, particularly in early spring.
  • Protect your tomato plants from rabbits by using fences, coverings, repellents, and scare tactics.
  • If rabbits damage your plants, prune and protect them for potential regrowth and continue using deterrents to prevent further losses

As a gardener, nothing is more heartbreaking than finding your freshly planted tomato seedlings chewed to the ground overnight. You may have heard that rabbits love vegetable gardens, but don’t lose hope! With a few simple precautions, you can keep these fuzzy pests from destroying your tomatoes.

Rabbits may look cute and innocent, but don’t let that fool you. These efficient foragers can wipe out a garden bed of seedlings faster than any insect.

While deer, groundhogs, mice, and other critters may also feed on tomatoes, rabbits are by far the most common garden pest. Their nimble size allows them to squeeze through small gaps in fencing with ease.

Rabbits particularly love young tomato plants. The tender, juicy leaves and stems are an irresistible snack. Tomatoes remain vulnerable to rabbits throughout the season, but damage is worse in early spring when plants are small.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to protect your tomatoes from hungry rabbits. You’ll learn which parts of the plant rabbits prefer when tomatoes are most vulnerable, and most importantly, proven techniques to deter rabbits from feasting in your garden.

Do Rabbits eat tomato plants?

Yes, rabbits can and will eat all parts of tomato plants, especially tender leaves, stems, and shoots on young seedlings. This can destroy small plants overnight, making tomatoes highly vulnerable to rabbit damage shortly after being transplanted outside.

Why Rabbits Love to Eat Tomato Plants

Before jumping into deterrents, let’s look at why rabbits target tomato plants in particular. Which parts of the tomato do rabbits like to eat?

Rabbits will happily eat all parts of tomato plants when given the chance – leaves, stems, buds, and even unripe green tomatoes. However, the worst damage happens to vulnerable young seedlings.

Using their sharp teeth, rabbits snip tender new growth on seedlings right to the ground. Just one rabbit can destroy dozens of undefended plants overnight!

Larger, established tomato plants are less vulnerable. But rabbits will still nibble leaves, tender stems, and small green tomatoes when hungry.

Which Parts of Tomato Plants Do Rabbits Eat?

Rabbits will munch on all parts of the tomato plant when given the chance. This includes leaves, stems, buds, and even ripe tomatoes resting on the ground. However, the most damaging feeding occurs in young seedlings.

Rabbits nibble the main stem and leaves of small plants right to the ground. A single night of rabbit browsing can destroy an entire garden! Larger, established plants are less vulnerable, but rabbits will still eat leaves, stems, and green tomatoes when hungry.

When Are Tomatoes Most Vulnerable to Rabbits?

By far, newly planted tomato seedlings in spring are at the greatest risk of rabbit damage. Rabbits are hungriest at the end of winter, seeking fresh greens as the weather warms.

Your garden is like an all-you-can-eat salad bar for rabbits during this lean time. While rabbits remain a threat all summer long, focus your protection efforts in early spring after transplanting seedlings outside.

6 Simple Ways to Protect Tomato Plants from Rabbits

Luckily gardeners can outsmart rabbits and protect tomatoes using clever techniques. Most rabbit deterrents involve:

  1. Repelling rabbits using smells, tastes, and scare tactics
  2. Creating physical barriers to prevent rabbits from accessing plants

For best results, use multiple deterrents together. Here are six of the top methods for safeguarding tomatoes from ravenous rabbits:

1. Install Fences Around Your Garden

Installing fencing is the most effective way to protect your entire garden from rabbit invasion. Rabbits can’t jump higher than 2-3 feet, so a short fence does the job.

For small gardens, use chicken wire or welded wire fencing about 3 feet tall attached to wooden stakes. Bury the bottom 6 inches to prevent rabbits from digging underneath.

Larger gardens can support permanent fencing materials like wood, chain link, or metal garden fencing. A fence with small holes prevents baby bunnies from sneaking through. Be diligent about checking for and patching holes.

2. Shield Seedlings with Protective Coverings

Young seedlings are most vulnerable to rabbit damage, so provide extra protection while plants are small. Drape fabric row covers or clear plastic tunnels over seedlings to create a nibble-proof barrier.

Floating fabric row covers allow air circulation while keeping pests off. For sturdier protection, build mini-plastic greenhouses using PVC hoops and plastic sheeting. Weigh down edges with rocks or landscape staples.

Individual wire mesh plant cages are another option. Use cone-shaped cages over each seedling, securing the bottom edges into the soil. Remove cages once plants bulk up.

3. Apply Smelly Repellents Around the Perimeter

Repellents use stinky smells, terrible tastes, and fear to convince rabbits to avoid your garden. Apply them around the outer garden perimeter to stop rabbits before they enter.

Liquid rabbit and deer repellents containing putrescent egg solids are very effective but have a strong rotten odor. Reapply every 2 weeks.

Powdered repellents like cayenne pepper, garlic, and predator urine can also be used. Sprinkle them dry around the garden edge or mix with water and spray. Avoid getting them directly on plant leaves.

4. Remove Hiding Places Where Rabbits Feel Safe

Rabbits feel safest eating where they have quick escape routes and hidden shelters. Discourage them by keeping your garden open and visibility high.

Space plants in organized rows with ample space between. Prune back overgrown foliage so rabbits have nowhere to hide. Trellis or stake tall tomatoes to prevent floppy stems rabbits can hiding under.

Mow around the garden perimeter and remove piles of brush or debris. The less cover, the less comfortable rabbits feel. A sparse, tidy garden is rabbit-unfriendly.

5. Use Scare Tactics to Frighten Away Bold Rabbits

Use active scare tactics to frighten away any bold rabbits that make it past your defenses. These will teach rabbits your garden is unsafe.

Motion-activated sprinklers surprise rabbits with a sudden spray when triggered. Noisemakers, banging pans, and dogs chasing rabbits away will reinforce the message. Be persistent!

Scarecrows placed by garden entrances may also help deter rabbits. Move them frequently so rabbits don’t become accustomed. Combine with other frighteners for best results.

6. Deploy Scent Deterrents Along the Garden Border

Rabbits find their food mostly through scent. Mask tomato smells by interplanting pungent herbs like onions, garlic, and chives along the garden border.

Other useful odor deterrents include lavender, sage, marigolds, and thyme. Underplant tomatoes with these companions so rabbits can’t catch their scent. The strong smells throw rabbits off the trail.

Refresh scent deterrents often, as rain diminishes their smells. Use them alongside other techniques for better protection.

What To Do If Rabbits Eat Your Tomato Plants?

If rabbits damage your plants before you can protect them, don’t lose hope! Tomato plants are resilient and can recover from minor to moderate rabbit damage.

Inspect chewed plants for intact nodes where new shoots can emerge. If the main stem is completely severed, the plant likely can’t be saved. But if nodes remain, regrowth is possible.

Prune back any damaged foliage to just above an intact node. Do this on all chewed stems to stimulate new growth. Shield plants with cages until regrowth occurs.

While rabbit damage is frustrating, don’t give up safeguarding the remaining plants. Healthy tomatoes can withstand minor grazing with proper care. Continue using deterrents to prevent further losses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some organic repellents to keep rabbits away from tomato plants?

Some effective organic rabbit repellents are garlic, cayenne pepper, predator urine, peppermint oil, and putrescent egg solids. Apply these smelly repellents around the garden perimeter.

Q: Should I use chicken wire or hardware cloth to keep rabbits out of my garden?

Hardware cloth is better than chicken wire for keeping rabbits out. It has smaller holes that won’t allow baby rabbits to squeeze through. Bury the bottom edge at least 6 inches deep to prevent rabbits from digging underneath your fence.

Are tomato cages effective for stopping rabbits?

Tomato cages alone won’t stop rabbits, as they can reach through the openings. Use tomato cages over young plants in combination with fencing around the whole garden. This provides thorough protection from all sides.

Wrapping up!

Once you know their tricks, you can outsmart the rabbits threatening your tomato crop. Using fencing, protective covers, repellents, and scare tactics, you can convince rabbits to dine elsewhere.

With a few simple precautions, your tomato plants will thrive safely out of floppy-eared reach. Let those bunnies munch on lawn weeds and enjoy your own garden goodies!

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By Mohsin

Hi, I’m Mohsin, creator of Tomato about website. I have over a two decade of gardening experience and I love helping others growing healthy tomatoes!

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