Do Deer Eat Tomato Plants? [Plus 4 Tips to Deter Them!]

do deer eat tomato plants

If you are lucky enough to live in an area that is rich in wildlife like deer, you’ll know the thrill of seeing these graceful creatures paying a visit to your garden.

However, if you are a vegetable gardener, this sight may strike fear into your heart at the thought of them munching their way through your precious crops, especially your tomato plants. But do you need to worry? Do deer eat tomato plants?

Unfortunately, yes, deer will eat your tomato plant. They feed on many forms of leafy plants, and tomatoes are no exception.

Deer are beautiful, and we don’t want to harm them, but we need to figure out a way to keep them away from our delicate tomatoes. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

This article will get into the diet of the deer to figure out whether your tomato plants are at risk. We will also give you some tips for keeping deer away from your veggies in a safe manner.

Grow Your Yard Fact
Deer eat 6-8% of their body weight every day! Since they travel in herds, this can quickly cause a lot of damage to a garden.

What Do Deer Eat?

In order to figure out whether your tomato plants are at risk, we need to look at what deer actually eat.

Deer have an extensive diet that includes up to 140 species of plants. They are not fussy when it comes to foliage, eating just about any leafy plant that is available to them. In the forest, they will feed on bushes, nuts, acorns, and even mushrooms and lichen.

However, if they get into your vegetable garden, it’s not just your tomatoes that are at risk. Deer will feed on any leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, and broccoli, as well as squash, peppers, cucumbers, and beans. It’s probably easier to list the vegetables that deer don’t eat!

Naturally, deer do their foraging in fields and woodlands, but as their habitat gets taken over by humans, it’s no wonder deer are making their way into your veggie garden.

Grow Your Yard Fact
Deer are known to travel between ½ mile to a mile for food every day, which is why deer might be getting in your garden even though you don’t live near a wooded area.

Do Deer Eat Tomato Plants?

Yes, unfortunately, deer will eat your tomato plants if they get into your veggie garden.

The worst part about this is that tomato plants can be tricky to grow, and it takes some fine-tuning to get them to the point of fruiting. Having that taken away from you by a cheeky deer can be devastating.

As you can see from looking at their diet, deer are not fussy when it comes to delicious leaves and fruits, so it’s not surprising that tomatoes are on their menu.

Luckily, there are a few techniques you can use to keep the deer far away from your carefully tended crops. These methods will protect most of your crops, as well as your tomato plants, so they are well worth trying!

Grow Your Yard Tip
Deer have an enzyme in their stomachs that allow them to eat a large number of acorns in one sitting. The amounts they can eat would be enough to kill a cow!

How to Keep Deer Away From Your Tomatoes

So, now that you know that your poor tomatoes are on the deer’s radar, what can you do to prevent this?

The number one goal of repelling deer is doing it in a way that will not harm them.

Luckily, we have several ways you can do this that will protect your plants and leave the deer unharmed.

Deer Netting

Making a physical barrier against deer can be a hassle, but it is an effective long-term solution, especially if you have a large vegetable garden.

Start by hammering stakes into the ground at regular intervals around your vegetable garden; these will need to be approximately 8 ft tall to prevent the deer from jumping over. Conversely, you can add a roof to your netting and build it slightly shorter.

Then tight wrap your mesh around the stakes, securely tightly at each one. If maintained well, this should be a very effective way of keeping deer off your tomato plants.

Hot Sauce Spray

Yet again, hot sauce comes to save the day in your garden!

To create this homemade deer repellent spray, dilute one part hot sauce in 16 parts water and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray your tomato plants liberally until they are dripping. The spicy smell will be enough to keep the deer far away.

This is a very handy trick but don’t forget to wash your tomatoes thoroughly once you harvest them to get rid of any lingering hot sauce.

Hang Up Bar Soap

This may sound silly, but we promise it works!

Deer have a very keen sense of smell, so introducing a smell they dislike into the area can keep them away. Choose a strong-smelling bar of soap and place it in an old nylon stocking. Hang the stocking on a fence (or put up an electric fence!) or stake within 3 ft of the tomato plants.

You will have to periodically change out the soap as it gets washed away by rain, but this is still a very cheap and easy option.

Companion Planting

As we discovered above, deer are very sensitive to scents, and there is a natural way to take advantage of this.

Companion planting is a tried and true method of keeping pests away from your crops, whether that be insects or animals like deer. It involves planting certain plants beside one another so they can benefit from some of their properties.

In this case, the companion plants to your tomatoes will be those with a smell that deer particularly dislike. This will stop them from coming anywhere near your tomato plants with their sensitive noses.

We recommend planting flowers like marigolds, tansy, and lavender, or herbs like mint and thyme with your tomatoes. Garlic is also a powerful way to deter deer, which is also a delicious option.

The best part of companion planting is that not only will it repel pests, but it will also add beauty or yet another crop, in the case of herbs and garlic, to your already bountiful veggie garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do coffee grounds keep deer away?

Although coffee grounds are known to repel insects like mosquitos, fruit flies, and beetles, they may not be as effective with deer.

Some may say that deer will be repelled by the bitter smell of the coffee grounds, but there is no sufficient proof to back this up.

Will squirrels eat tomato plants?

Unfortunately, it’s not just deer that you have to worry about eating your tomatoes!

Squirrels are notorious for getting into veggie patches and stealing your crops. They really enjoy tomatoes and are known to, infuriatingly, leave significant bite marks in your growing tomatoes. The deer netting with a roof that we introduced today should be effective against squirrels too.


So, at the end of the day, yes, deer will, unfortunately, eat your tomato plants.

When it comes to dealing with wildlife, it is important to know what parts of our gardens are at risk so we can put some protections in place. However, it is also crucial to do this in a gentle and humane way so we and these lovely creatures can live together harmoniously.

We hope this has cleared up your deer woes and given you some great humane ways to keep them away from your treasured tomatoes.

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