Rabbits will eat your tomatoes.
They will eat your green tomatoes. They usually won’t eat your ripe tomatoes, because they will eat your green tomatoes first.
Rabbits will even eat young, tender tomato plants before your tomatoes put out blooms.
They only eat the woody stems of old tomato plants if they are really hungry.
Rabbits find young, tender tomato leaves especially appealing, making seedlings vulnerable just after transplanting outdoors. These small animals can cause a lot of damage to your tomato plants in just a single night.
In this article, we will tell you why rabbits eat tomatoes and what you can do about it. But first, here’s the answer to the question about rabbits and tomatoes that most home gardeners ask.
Aren’t Tomato Plants Poisonous to Rabbits?
Tomatoes are in the Nightshade Family.
Like other plants in the Nightshade Family, such as potatoes, tobacco, most garden peppers, belladonna, and nightshade itself, tomatoes contain a chemical called solanine.
Solanine is a kind of toxin known as a glycoside alkaloid. It’s a toxic sugar molecule.
It makes calcium rush out of cells into the bloodstream. This results in a rash, then vomiting, stomach cramps, dizziness, dehydration, thyroid problems, and, in humans, nightmares and hallucinations.
We don’t know whether solanine causes nightmares in rabbits.
Solanine can also cause birth defects in both rabbits and people.
But eating solanine has very different effects than injecting the pure toxin into the bloodstream.
A rabbit’s digestive tract absorbs very little solanine during the first pass of its food through its gut.
As you probably know, rabbits eat their soft poops. The second pass through the rabbit’s digestive tract releases more solanine, but some also break down while the soft poop is on the ground.
As long as a rabbit just nibbles a tomato leaf or a tomato flower here and there, no real harm comes to it. Eating large amounts of tomato leaves and stems (which have lots of solanine) can make a rabbit very sick.
Green and ripe tomatoes aren’t especially toxic. After all, humans eat them, too.
A wild rabbit passing through your garden is not likely to eat enough of your tomato plants to get very sick. A flock of wild rabbits, however, may mow them down to the ground.
Even more annoyingly, rabbits will focus on the relatively non-toxic green and ripe tomatoes you are hoping to pick.
Also read: Are Succulents Poisonous To Rabbits?
How You Can Tell If Rabbits Are Eating Your Tomatoes
I took a big city job in California, but I continued gardening even though I did not grow up in California.
Where I lived, there weren’t very many frosts. One year I grew a tomato plant that I nicknamed Tomatozilla.
Tomatozilla was 21 feet (nearly 7 meters) across, but only 4 feet (125 cm) tall. I once counted 288 tomatoes ripening at the same time.
A few days later, I had only 10.
A combination of neighbors and rabbits decimated my tomato crop. About half of the damage was done by rabbits.
Here is how I could detect rabbits eating my tomatoes:
- There were signs of digging underneath my tomato plant. A human trying to steal the whole plant would have dug around the base, but the rabbits poked around for a few weeds sprouting up under my tomato.
- There weren’t any half-eaten tomatoes. Birds will peck at tomatoes. Squirrels will just take a bite. But rabbits will eat cherry-sized tomatoes whole.
- There weren’t any signs of half-eaten leaves or stems, either. Unlike caterpillars, rabbits are very neat eaters.
- Most telling of all, there was rabbit poop under my tomato plant . Rabbit pellets are round, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (6 to 12 mm) across. Fresh poops are soft and would be squishy if you picked them up.
Human tomato thieves, of course, leave footprints. I also found footprints at one end of my tomato patch. Most of the damage, however, came from rabbits that lived in the national forest behind my property.
Also read: 15 Garden Flowers That Rabbits Won’t Eat
Make Sure Your Tomatoes Are Out of Reach of Rabbits
A few days after the tomato incident, I brought my neighbor some tomatoes. I told him that if he wanted more, just ask. He confessed to taking a dozen or so of my prized crop.
With rabbits, however, you need to make sure tomatoes are kept out of reach.
The solution to the theft of your tomatoes by rabbits (neighbors may require other techniques) is to make the fruit harder to reach.
- Grow your tomato plants in cages. Rabbits can hop as high as 3 or 4 feet (90 to 120 cm), but a cage lifts the plant to 6 to 8 feet, twice as high.
- Grow your tomato plants on raised beds. The rabbit has to hop up on the raised bed and then up to your tomatoes. Many rabbits will choose to nibble on something else.
- Wrap young tomato plants in plastic. Placing plastic over the tomato cage early in your growing season protects the plant from both frost and predators.
Also read: Can You Hunt Rabbits without a License?
How to Protect Tomato Plants from Rabbits?
Let’s now look at some ways to protect your tomato plants from rabbits.
Use Companion Plants with Tomato Plants
Companion plants are different plants that grow better together.
There used to be a popular gardening guide called Carrots Love Tomatoes. Carrots release chemicals that repel tomato worms, and the solanine in tomatoes discourages animals that eat carrots.
A better companion plant for protecting tomatoes from rabbits is garlic.
Rabbits don’t like the pungent smell of garlic. The sulfur compounds in garlic are also toxic for rabbits, so they naturally avoid it.
You can plant garlic in your tomato bed in winter or early spring, leaving extra room for the tomato plants that come later. That way, the garlic protects your tomatoes just as soon as you put them in the ground.
Rabbits also dislike lavender, spearmint, and Corsican mint. These are perennials, so just keep them trimmed to leave room for your tomatoes.
Employ Predators and Predator Scents
I have also employed a watchdog for my garden.
If you have a dog that needs a job to do, let them chase rabbits, squirrels, and birds out of your garden space.
I have even tried a watch-goose for my garden. Geese chase strangers away. They eat bugs. Unfortunately, they also eat vegetable and flower seedlings. That experiment did not work out.
Allowing your dog or cat to roam through your garden can keep it rabbit-free. Your pets will mark your garden as their territory with their urine and scat.
You will need to wash your vegetables before you eat them just to make sure they did not mark them, too, but you should do that anyway.
The downside of allowing your dog or cat to patrol your tomato plants is that you also have to make sure your pets are safe.
You can get around this problem by remembering a simple principle of animal behavior:
For animals, smelling is believing.
You can buy mountain lion urine to place around your plants. It’s best to spray the urine on the tomato stake or the tomato cage, not on the plant itself.
There is one situation in which you should not use mountain lion urine to protect your plants.
Mountain lion urine is not a good idea if you live in an area that has actual mountain lions. The urine of female mountain lions can draw the attention of mountain lion males.
But you definitely would not have a problem with rabbits in your tomato patch.
Use Rabbit Repellents
There are other natural substances that drive rabbits away without harming them.
One is ghost pepper dust.
Sprinkle ground-up dried ghost peppers on your tomato plants, and rabbits will flee.
The downside of this method is, you can get severe burns of your skin, eyes, and nasal passages if you come in contact with the dust.
That is also the downside of using Sriracha, cayenne, and other hot pepper products as rabbit repellent, although they are not as likely to cause you harm.
Rabbits are also repelled by the scent of blood meal.
Blood meal is exactly what it sounds like. It is dried beef, pork, chicken, or turkey blood turned into a coarse meal. It is a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer.
To a rabbit, blood meal smells as if a rabbit could have encountered a predator at your tomato plant. The rabbit will scamper away.
You have to apply blood meal frequently for it to remain effective.
Some gardeners place rotten eggs around their tomato plants to keep rabbits away. Rotten egg smell keeps gardeners away, too.
Farmers use electric fences to keep grazing animals in and nuisance animals out. They actually work.
But you need to know what you are doing.
To protect your garden with an electric fence, you will need at least two wires, held in place with insulators, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) and 4 inches (10 cm) above the ground.
You need to keep weeds and debris off the wires to make sure they do not short out. You need a step-down transformer so the jolt the live wire gives is painful, not fatal.
You can buy a safe, solar-powered charger unit online or in any farm supply store.
Then you will need to keep pets and children away from your electric fence. Or you can train your children, the way my parents trained me on the farm, to step very, very carefully over live wires. Accidental shock is inevitable.
The potential problem with using an electric fence to keep rabbits out of your garden is that they can also trap rabbits in your garden. Electric fences may be prohibited in some urban locations.
Motion Activated Sprinklers
Another effective method for detecting and deterring rabbits is installing motion-activated sprinklers around your garden.
These sprinklers can sense movement, and when a rabbit comes into the detection range, the sprinkler will shoot out a burst of water, scaring the rabbit away from your tomato plants.
By combining the use of trail cameras and motion-activated sprinklers, you can significantly reduce the threat of rabbits damaging your tomato plants and ensure a healthy harvest.
Creating a decoy garden is another effective method for keeping rabbits away from your valuable plants.
In this strategy, you set up a separate garden area specifically designed to attract rabbits.
Planting appealing plants for rabbits, like lettuce, clover, and alfalfa, can help divert their attention from your main vegetable garden.
By providing rabbits with a more attractive place to snack on, they’ll be less likely to invade your tomato plants and shrubs.
What About Rabbit Traps?
Snap traps are an inhuman method of rabbit control.
These traps always maim the rabbit. They can also maim pets and children.
Have-a-heart cage traps are a better way to catch a single pesky rabbit that has been ravaging your garden. The rabbit hops in, but you have to let it out.
If you use a no-kill rabbit trap, keep in mind that the rabbit inside will not be happy with you.
The rabbit may scratch, bite, and fight you even as you are setting it free. It may not be lawful to release the rabbit just anywhere. You may need to take it to public lands some distance from your garden.
And, if you do, you are separating it from its family, possibly from its babies.
Rabbit traps are an effective way to protect your tomato plants, but they aren’t a good way to protect your tomato plants. Use barriers to protect your plants, but let rabbits roam free.
Also read: Are Rabbit Harnesses Cruel? Safe or Not?
Some Rabbit-Resistant Flowers for Your Garden
When planning your garden, you might be concerned about rabbits eating your plants.
While it’s true that rabbits can and will eat tomato plants, you can keep your garden safe by planting rabbit-resistant flowers.
Here are some flowers you can consider including in your garden that are less likely to be eaten by rabbits:
- Asters: These beautiful flowers come in a variety of colors and can add a charming touch to your garden without attracting rabbits.
- Baby’s Breath: Known for its delicate, wispy appearance, baby’s breath is a great filler in flower arrangements and is not a favorite of rabbits.
- Balloon Flower: This unique flower, which resembles a balloon before it blooms, can be a great addition to your garden while keeping rabbits away.
- Bachelor’s Button: Bright and cheery, these flowers add a pop of color without inviting rabbits to dine on them.
- Cockscomb: The unusual shape of cockscomb flowers makes for an interesting and rabbit-resistant addition to your garden.
- Cosmos: Tall and feathery, cosmos are a lovely floral choice that’s not on a rabbit’s menu.
- Gazania: Striking and vibrant, gazanias can bring a tropical feel to your garden without the worry of rabbits munching on them.
- Impatiens: These popular flowers are useful for adding color to shady spots in your garden, and they’re not attractive to rabbits.
- Pansy: With their cheerful faces, pansies are a favorite garden addition for many people, and luckily, they’re not favored by rabbits either.
- Rose Moss: This low-growing flowering plant is ideal for borders and rock gardens and is not of interest to rabbits.
- Sunflower: Though the seeds of sunflowers are a favorite of many birds, the flowers themselves aren’t typically attractive to rabbits.
- Sweet Pea: Fragrant and colorful, sweet peas can add charm to your garden while remaining safe from rabbits.
- Verbena: These versatile flowers can fill various roles in a garden, from ground cover to container plantings, without catching a rabbit’s attention.
- Wishbone Flower: With its unique flower shape and vibrant colors, the wishbone flower is a beautiful, rabbit-resistant addition to your garden.
Remember that while these flowers are less appealing to rabbits, there’s no guarantee that rabbits will stay away completely.
Create a more robust rabbit defense strategy by combining plants they don’t favor with other preventative measures, such as fencing or repellents.
By finding the right balance of rabbit-resistant flowers and protection methods, you can enjoy a thriving, beautiful garden without fear of rabbits eating your precious plants.
Also read: Can Rabbits Eat Broccoli?
Frequently Asked Questions
Do rabbits consume tomato leaves?
Yes, rabbits can and will consume tomato leaves, especially when the plants are young and tender. It is important to take measures to protect your tomato plants from rabbits if you notice them in your garden area.
Can rabbits safely eat tomato seeds?
While rabbits can safely eat the fruit of tomato plants, it is not ideal for them to consume the tomato seeds. The seeds contain trace amounts of substances that can be toxic to rabbits, so it’s best to keep these parts of the tomato away from your furry friends.
Are rabbits known to eat tomato plants in gardens?
Yes, rabbits are known to eat tomato plants in gardens, and they can easily cut down the entire vine if left unchecked. Keep an eye out for rabbits in and around your garden and take measures to protect your tomato plants from these unwanted visitors.
Which garden vegetables are safe from rabbit grazing?
Very few garden vegetables are completely safe from rabbit grazing, but some plants are less likely to be targeted by rabbits. These include onions, garlic, and some varieties of peppers. However, no plant is completely immune to rabbit grazing, so it’s important to have a plan in place to protect your garden as a whole.
Do rabbits have a preference for specific types of tomatoes?
Rabbits do not seem to have a preference for specific types of tomatoes. They will eat the leaves and fruit of any tomato variety, making it essential for you to protect all your tomato plants from these small but potentially damaging animals.
What tomato plant parts should be kept away from rabbits?
To ensure the safety of your tomato plants and the health of rabbits, you should keep the entire tomato plant, including leaves, stems, and fruit away from rabbits. Make sure to use fences, nets, or other barriers around your garden to prevent rabbits from accessing your precious tomato plants.
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