It’s bad enough that you spend all summer fighting against the ravages of insect pests and unreliable weather to keep your vegetable garden thriving, but then still end up losing your plants to roaming deer. Why are they eating your tomatoes and other vegetables anyway?
Most deer will come into your garden when food is scarce, which is usually in the winter months or during a dry summer. Seeing all of your tender plants can be irresistible, especially once the deer realize that almost all of them are edible and tasty. While deer are browsers, eating twigs, bark and woodier brush, they do prefer softer plants when they can get them.
They may also be drawn to your yard for water, both in winter as well as summer. If you have a pond, pool or birdbath, that can be what brings them in to start with. Once they discover your garden, they choose to stay. Getting rid of or moving the water source can help. That’s just a start. There are a few other things you can do to keep out the pesky deer and save your tomatoes.
If your first thought was to build a fence, don’t bother. Deer are unbelievable jumpers and won’t even pause at your fence unless it is more than 8 feet high. A fence with a line or two of electric wire might work better if getting shocked is enough to deter them. It’s still very easily jumpable.
A better option is to use a scent-based repellent that will make them want to turn away when they get a sniff. Home-made options can be effective, such as strongly scented soaps or garlic-based sprays. Or you can get a little more serious with a product that has the scent of a predator. Granular repellent packs can be hung around the garden, and can fool the deer into thinking that a coyote is in the neighborhood.
You can take a slightly different approach and focus on taste rather than smell. A bitter spray, like garlic or chili pepper formulas that can be made at home, can be applied directly to the plants. Once the deer get a taste, they will decide your plants aren’t that edible after all. Just remember to reapply after any rain.
One last option is to use a sprinkler and a motion sensor control to give the deer a surprising spritz of water when they pass into your garden. This can be an excellent deterrent if you have access to a hose and don’t have to worry about accidentally spraying people walking by. Bans on using the hose during the summer may make this unworkable in some situations though.
Hopefully, with a little work, you can protect your vegetable garden and keep your tomato plants from becoming treats for the deer.