Texas Living

Protecting Tomatoes

By Kolby Paxton 6.19.17

Crisp, juicy, vibrant tomatoes straight off the vine and warm weather go hand in hand — but, from seedling to robust and red, the tomato can be a fickle fruit.

Unwanted critters seem to be waiting in the wings, with appetites that would be impressive were the remnants of their feast not so frustrating. Not to fear, however. These suggestions will help preserve your crop until the fruits of your labor are ripe enough to become fruits on your plate.

For the Birds …

Birds are beautiful and oftentimes charming additions to our backyards — but, not so much when they’re in our gardens. It can be challenging to keep our winged neighbors off of our fruits and veggies; particularly when it comes to tomatoes.

Often, a bird is simply in search of tomato juice. For starters, try installing a birdbath to quench their thirst. You can also try adding a bird feeder — and maybe even a sacrificial plant, such as sunflowers — in hopes of further distracting them from the off-limits plants.

Keep Out

Of course, in the event that your distraction tactics are unsuccessful, chicken wire or netting of any sort is typically effective in eliminating your bird problem. Just make sure to completely cover your plants and avoid tomato cages and other protection with large holes as small animals can get stuck in it and potentially injure themselves. Reflective tape, tinfoil, and old DVDs are also great bird deterrents, thanks to a general fear of light and reflection.

That said, a net that will keep birds away won’t necessarily do the trick in the battle against insects. For that, you’ll need to really take your approach to the next level with …

Soap or an Upside-Down Laundry Hamper

That’s right. An inexpensive mesh laundry hamper is often perfect for allowing the sunlight in, while holding the pests at bay. Just make sure to anchor each corner of the basket, or risk having a garden full of empty laundry baskets and a bunch of half-eaten tomatoes.

You can also mix up a homemade bug repellant for your tomatoes using just water, soap, and vegetable oil.

From raccoons to the family dog, the animals on your land may also be in hot pursuit of a tomato — and the aforementioned solutions may not be much of a deterrent. In that case …

Raise Your Beds

… or simply grow your tomatoes in pots. Beds over a foot from the ground become increasingly difficult for rabbits and other small animals to break into. Meanwhile, growing tomatoes in pots poses a similar line of defense, while also allowing you to move the plant virtually anywhere you’d like.

Finally, should the rabbits, raccoons, dogs, birds, and insects all conspire against your pursuit of endless BLTs, we have one final suggestion.

The Upside-Down Planter

For a great defense against critters, consider making a DIY upside-down tomato planter. All you need is a five-gallon bucket, a drill to make a hole with, and some way to hang it (hook, etc.). Check out the full instructions here.

For even more summer gardening tips, check out our guide to heat-resistant blooms that will keep your garden vibrant — no matter the temperature.

© 2017 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance