Do deer eat tomato plants? Easy ways to keep them away

Ah, the joys of being a gardener. The fresh air, the sunshine, the…oh, wait, what’s that rustling sound? Oh no, not again. Yes, my fellow green thumbs, I am once again battling the ultimate foe in my garden: deer. We’ve all heard of their love for eating flowers and shrubs, but do deer eat tomato plants too? Because if I see one more nibbled-on veggie, I may just lose my compost. Let’s find out if deer eat tomato plants:

deer eat tomatoes

Table of Contents

Do deer eat tomato plants?

Deer can eat both the tomato fruit and the plant itself, meaning they might nibble your growing tomatoes right off the vine. They tend to come into your garden particularly during the summer months late at night while we are asleep. To prevent them from devouring your tomato plants, you can use natural repellents, install a physical barrier or plant the tomatoes in an area surrounded by deer-repelling plants. To safeguard your tomato plants from being eaten by deer, fortify your garden with preventive measures which I will go over below.

vegetable plants

The reason why deer seek out tomato plants

Deer are known to have a varied diet that includes grass, leaves, fruit, and nuts. While they may not seek out tomatoes specifically, they will eat them if they are available. There are several reasons why deer will eat tomatoes.

Firstly, tomatoes are part of the Solanaceae family, which also includes nightshade and tobacco plants. These plants contain alkaloids that can have a rewarding effect on deer, leading them to develop a taste for them. Additionally, ripe tomatoes are high in sugar content, making them a tempting treat for these animals.

Secondly, deer may also eat tomatoes and other plants as an alternative food source when their primary food sources are scarce. For example, a study conducted by G. Gipson and J. Singh found that deer in New Mexico consumed more agricultural crops during years of drought when natural food sources were low.

garden plants

Overview of ways to deter deer from tomato plants

So now you know the reasoning as to why deer may eat your tomato plants, I’m going to delve into different ways to deter them from doing so:

Implement physical barriers

Implementing physical barriers can be an effective way to prevent deer from accessing your garden and tomato plants. The most common type of barrier is a fence, which should be at least eight feet tall to keep deer out. The fence should have a tight mesh to prevent deer from squeezing through.

Another option is to use netting made from a sturdy material such as nylon or metal that can be draped over tomato plants or garden beds. Make sure to secure it tightly to the ground to prevent deer from tearing through it. Netting has the added benefit of allowing sunlight and rainwater to pass through freely.

Although the cost of building barriers may appear intimidating, they are a smart long-term investment if you live in an area known for deer activity. Investing in physical barriers will not only protect your tomato plants from harm but give you the opportunity to enjoy ornamental and fruiting plants around your garden as well.

vegetable garden protected by deer barrier

Use dawn dish soap dear repellent

Dawn dish soap is an inexpensive and effective way to repel deer. Its popularity is likely due to the fact that many people already have it in their homes, making it a convenient solution. The reason that it works is that deer are repelled by the smell of the soap. By using Dawn dish soap, you can start removing deer from your yard without having to purchase expensive or harmful chemicals.

It’s important to note that using dish soap to repel deer is safe as it will not harm the deer even if ingested. Instead, it will affect their sense of smell and taste, making them less likely to return to your yard. If deer have been a persistent problem for your tomato plants, adding a small amount of dish soap to a spray bottle with water and then applying it to the plants may help prevent further damage.

You can read the full article here if you want to make your own mixture of follow the instructions below:

To make the simple mixture you will need

  • 1-2 tbsp of Dawn
  • 1 gallon of water
  • Sprayer/ Sprayer Bottle
deer repellent sprays

Companion planting

Companion planting is a gardening technique that involves planting different types of plants together in order to benefit one another. In the case of preventing deer from eating tomato plants, using herbs or flowers that they dislike can serve as a natural deer deterrent.

Some examples of deer-repellent herbs and flowers include lavender, sage, marigolds, and thyme. These plants have strong smells that deer find unappealing, which can help protect your own tomatoes and tomato plants, from being eaten.

Companion planting has the added benefit of encouraging biodiversity and creating a more vibrant garden. Adding different types of plants to your garden can attract beneficial insects and pollinators, while also helping to create a more balanced ecosystem. Furthermore, planting herbs such as basil or oregano near your tomato plants can also enhance their flavor when eaten together.

deer resistant plants

Use of motion-activated sprinklers

Using motion-activated sprinklers is a newer approach for keeping deer from eating tomato plants. These sprinklers are designed to detect motion and release a sudden burst of water to scare off deer that come too close. This method has gained popularity because it’s humane and does not harm the deer or the plants. Additionally, motion-activated sprinklers are easy to use and inexpensive to install.

One of the main benefits of this approach is that it’s automated and requires little effort on the part of the gardener. After setting up the sprinkler, it will work on its own to repel deer and other unwanted animals in general from your garden. Furthermore, by not having to spray chemicals or other substances, motion-activated sprinklers are widely considered a safe and eco-friendly solution.

motion activated sprinkler for deer

Sound or light deterrents

Using sound or light deterrents can be an effective, chemical-free way to stop deer from eating your tomatoes. Sound deterrents are typically made up of chimes or other noise-producing devices that create a soundscape that is unappealing to deer. Light deterrents, on the other hand, are typically solar-powered LED lights that flash intermittently and can startle deer, causing them to run away.

One of the many advantages of using sound or light deer deterrents, is that they require very little setup or effort on the part of the gardener. You don’t need to spray chemicals or set up a physical barrier to use sound or light deterrents; instead, you simply hang or install the device in a location where deer are likely to wander. Many of these deterrents are automatic, meaning they will turn on and off on their own based on the ambient light and other conditions.

sound deterrent alarm image

Planting in containers on porches

Planting tomatoes in containers on porches is an effective way to keep deer from snacking on your plants. By raising the plants up off the ground, it becomes much more difficult for deer to reach them. Additionally, by keeping the tomato plants in a container, you can easily move them and protect them from any possible danger.

The benefits of this approach extend beyond just keeping the deer away from tomatoes though. Containers are incredibly versatile and convenient; they can be placed anywhere there’s room and don’t require any major installation process. Furthermore, if you purchase the right kind of potting soil, you can ensure that your tomato plants get all the nutrients they need without having to over-fertilize or use other chemical solutions.

Planting in containers on porches

Use chemical deer repellents

away from your garden. When properly applied, these repellents can be incredibly effective at warding off curious wildlife that might otherwise feast on your tomatoes. Such repellents come in a variety of forms ranging from sprays and granules.

When choosing a chemical repellent, be sure to do your research and select one that is appropriate for the environment you’re trying to protect. Different types of repellents work best in different scenarios, so it’s important to get the right product for the job at hand.

Example deer repellents include

  • Liquid Fence Deer Repellent Concentrate: This 100% natural formula contains egg solids, garlic, and other botanical oils to keep deer away from your garden.
  • Bonide All Natural Animal Repellent Granules: These granules are easy to apply and can help repel animals over an area of up to 4,000 square feet.
chemical repellents

Use spent coffee grounds

Spent coffee grounds are an excellent tool for keeping deer away from your garden and tomato plants. Coffee grounds contain natural repellents such as caffeine and oils, making them a safe and effective way to keep the animals at bay. Additionally, the smell of coffee can be overwhelming for deer, further discouraging them from coming near your plants.

When using spent coffee grounds as a deer repellent, it’s important to apply it correctly in order to get the best results. A good rule of thumb is to spread it around the perimeter of your garden or tomato plants in a 3-foot circle around each plant. Additionally, you should reapply the grounds every two weeks or after heavy rains.

coffee grounds for deer repellent


Protecting your tomato plants from deer doesn’t have to be a hassle. There are several effective methods you can use, such as sound and light deterrents, planting in containers on porches, using chemical repellents or even spent coffee grounds. Each of these strategies has its own advantages and disadvantages so it is important to research the best option for your particular situation before making any decisions.

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Oliver Wright
Oliver Wright

I hope you enjoy reading some of the content and ideas from this site, I tend to share articles and product reviews on a daily basis, so be rest assured… you won’t run out of things to read!

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