It’s the age-old battle between bird and gardener: the birds want your delicious, ripe tomatoes, and you want to keep them for yourself (or sell them at the farmer’s market).
If you’re trying to protect your tomato crop and are looking for ways to stop birds from eating your tomatoes, you’re in luck. This blog post will give you ten practical and effective ways to keep birds away from your tomatoes, so you can enjoy a bountiful harvest.
1. Use bird netting
The most obvious tip comes first to get it out of the way! This is perhaps the most effective way to keep birds out of your tomato patch. You can buy pre-made bird netting at garden supply stores or online.
Just ensure that the netting is tight enough that the birds can’t get through and that it extends to the ground so they can’t slip underneath. Bird netting is larger than insect netting, so be aware that it won’t do much to prevent insect pests, but it’s excellent at keeping birds off your plants.
There are other options available, though, so let’s explore them.
2. Learn about intercropping
Intercropping is exactly what it sounds like – the practice of planting two or more crops together in the same space. This is an excellent way to deter birds and other pests by surrounding your tomatoes with plants they don’t particularly care for.
Try planting taller crops around the perimeter of your tomato patches, such as corn, sunflowers, or beans. The birds will feel hemmed in and less likely to venture into the area where your tomatoes are. Try planting some mint near your tomatoes since birds reportedly dislike the smell. Other inter cropping techniques to explore are trap cropping and push-pull cropping.
3. Try row covers
Row covers are a dual-purpose garden product and a great way to protect your crops from birds. There are a few types of row covers available, and you can use them at different times throughout the season to protect your crops effectively.
Row covers are most commonly used to protect crops from frost damage but can also prevent bird damage. Row covers are typically made from polypropylene or polyester and come in various weights and sizes. You can purchase row covers at most garden supply stores or make your own.
Consider your local weather conditions when using row covers to protect your crops from birds. If you live in a very warm climate, avoid any row covers that mention freeze protection because they will likely fry up your plants in the heat. Go for a thinner and lighter material.
You should also secure the edges of the row cover to the ground with rocks or landscaping stakes to prevent it from blowing away.
Row covers are an effective way to protect your crops from bird damage, and they can be used at different times throughout the season to provide the best protection for your plants.
4. Use a hoop house
A hoop house is a greenhouse made by attaching plastic sheeting to a metal or PVC frame. Farmers often use hoop houses to extend the growing season for crops like tomatoes. It’s essentially a larger, more professional version of a row cover!
The added protection from the elements can result in a higher yield of healthier fruits, which is helpful, especially if you are trying to grow a large volume of tomatoes. Hoop houses can protect your tomatoes from birds and other animals that might try to eat them. By blocking the view of the tomatoes, the hoop houses hide them from most of the birds that wander into your garden.
5. Put up a scarecrow
A well-placed scarecrow can be an effective way to deter birds from eating your tomatoes. You can make a scarecrow out of old clothes and stuff it with straw. Some farmers say brightly coloured clothing (like yellow, red, and blue) is the best for scaring birds away from crops.
Place the scarecrow in your garden near the tomato plants. The reason why this works is that birds are afraid of predators. When they see the scarecrow, they think it is a predator and fly away. This will give your tomatoes a chance to ripen so you can enjoy them.
Check the scarecrow regularly and replace the straw if it starts to fall out. And move it around regularly, so the birds don’t get used to being in one spot!
6. Plant a wildlife garden
When you’re pulling out all the stops and creatures are still snatching your produce right off the plants, explore the option of letting them have their own garden area to forage. For gardeners with a bit of extra space, one way to deter pests (including birds) is to plant some “sacrificial” plants that you will allow birds and other species to feed.
Cages, netting, and other pest control techniques are more likely to work as intended if unprotected plants are nearby. The birds won’t spend extra time trying to break through wire and netting if they can forage from the plants without protection.
It’s likely that you already use this strategy if you’re involved in permaculture, food foresting, or other regenerative agriculture techniques. Remember that we share this planet with wildlife, and it’s possible to grow enough for ourselves and some local birds and critters.
7. Install a water sprayer system
Motion-activated sprayers will startle birds when they come near, deterring them from eating your tomatoes. Just be warned that this method will also startle you (and your guests) from time to time!
Depending on your local water regulations, this idea might not be relevant to you. And regardless of the regulations, always keep the planet in mind when using water in your garden.
You’re already doing a great job by growing plants (most people won’t get that far) but if there’s an alternate anti-bird strategy on this list that works for you, do your best to use that one!
8. Add a bird feeder and/or a birdbath
More along the lines of working with the birds rather than against them – adding a bird feeder or a bath where birds can cool off will draw them away from the plants you’d like to keep protected.
Bird feeders, bird baths, and bird seed are all relatively inexpensive and require less effort to set up than many of the other options on this list, which is excellent if you don’t have a lot of time to invest in your garden pest control strategy right now. You can even make a birdbath inexpensively out of a tomato cage and a plant pot saucer.
I’d recommend adding the bird feeder and bird bath to a space close to your sacrificial plants or wildlife garden if you plan to have one. Putting them here will increase the likelihood that the birds will linger in the area of your garden where you don’t mind them being.
9. Try a wind chime or two
Hang up a wind chime or something else that makes noise in your garden. The constant tinkling of the chime will scare away birds, and since it’s only making noise, it won’t harm them in any way.
If you’re on a budget, you’d be surprised at how many wind chimes and other noisy patio and garden decor a thrift store will have. You could also ask friends and family if they have any that they don’t want anymore – I’m sure they’d be happy to get rid of them!
10. Hang shiny things around your garden
The reflective surfaces of shiny objects can help scare away birds, especially if you hang them in a sunny spot that will be agitated by the wind. The objects will dance around in the wind and reflect light around your garden, which will be unsettling to birds and encourage them to move along.
Here are some examples of what you can use:
- Reflective tape;
- Aluminum foil;
- Mylar ribbons.
11. Make a homemade bird-repellent spray
Bird repellant sprays are designed to deter birds from entering certain areas. Various sprays are available on the market, each claiming to be effective. But do they really work? And more importantly, are they safe?
There are many recipes for homemade bird repellent sprays online, but most involve mixing water with vinegar and adding oils like peppermint or garlic oil.
There is no clear answer regarding the effectiveness of bird repellent sprays. Some bird species seem more susceptible to the spray than others; even then, it is not always 100% effective. The spray can sometimes have harmful effects on other wildlife and plants. For example, if the spray is wind-borne, it can drift into areas where it is not intended and harm other creatures and pollinators.
Overall, there are both pros and cons to using bird repellent spray. If used correctly, it can be an effective way to keep birds away from specific areas. Before using any kind of repellent spray, it’s a good idea to weigh the risks and benefits carefully.
12. Build homemade cages
Gardeners with a more permanent setup sometimes opt for sturdier pest-control solutions like these. Constructing wood and metal cages around your garden beds is a common way for serious home growers to avoid losses due to bird activity.
This option may not be feasible to scale up if you’re growing for markets or stocking grocery stores. But for a serious home gardener with several large garden beds, this is an excellent option to consider. You can find plans for cages like these online, in videos, or you can develop your version.
FAQ about Birds Eating your Tomatoes
Do birds damage tomato plants?
Yes, birds often damage tomato plants by trying to feed on them. Birds can spot tomatoes from far away and swoop in to claim a fruit or two for themselves.
How do I keep birds from eating my tomato plants?
Some of the ways to avoid birds eating your tomatoes are to use bird netting, put up a scarecrow, hang shiny objects like CDs in your garden, and to provide birds with their own tomato plants in a wildlife garden that will distract them from your main tomato crop.
Why do birds eat tomatoes?
Fruit and seeds are a core part of many bird species’ diets. For that reason, many birds enjoy eating ripe and unripe tomatoes, along with other parts of the tomato plant, like leaves, seeds, and seedlings.
Do birds peck holes in tomatoes?
Birds often peck holes in tomato fruits right before they are fully ripe. This can be frustrating, but there are several measures you can take to protect your tomato plants from bird damage.
What home remedy keeps birds away?
Homemade bird repellant sprays can be an effective way to repel birds from your garden. Adding chilli pepper, garlic oil, peppermint oil, or cayenne to an apple cider vinegar and water solution can make a good home remedy for birds in your garden. These sprays can sometimes work as insect repellents, adding to their usefulness.
Is it safe to eat tomatoes that birds have pecked?
It’s usually safe to eat tomatoes that birds have pecked at if no mold is present. Cut off the affected portion of the fruit and use the rest in your cooking.
Birds can be pesky creatures, but there are many ways to deter them from eating your tomatoes (or other crops) without harming them. From investing in bird netting to putting up a scarecrow, plenty of options are available to fit any gardener’s needs and preferences.
It’s important to remember that birds play a pivotal role in our ecosystems, even if they’re annoying sometimes. So while it’s essential to protect your crops, try to do so in a safe way for the birds. After all, we need them just as much as they need us!