How To Protect Tomatoes From Birds

Garden Protector

Believe it or not, the first tomatoes are ripening. Not mine, of course, but some of my neighbors at the community garden are already harvesting Supice tomatoes. I’ve got green tomatoes on all of my plants except the Isis Candy cherry tomato (see my Spring planting list here), so it is time to think about protection!

Since I began vegetable gardening I’ve always ended up putting bird netting around the tomatoes, along with a few other deterrents, such as fake predators (more on that later) and shiny whirligigs. Alas, over the years I have unintentionally killed 2 large snakes, and last year two large (mating?) lizards when they have became entangled in the bird netting. Not only is accidentally killing these reptiles contrary to my principles of being a good steward of our environment, it’s really gross! I always find them caught in the netting after they’ve started to decompose.

Bird netting is also really hard to work around when harvesting and I have tripped myself innumerable times. I weigh it down with bricks and then have to move each of the bricks to get in under the netting for harvesting, and somehow the birds still manage to peck any ripe tomato that they can get at through the netting.

So this season I’m trying something different. I’m going to avoid the physical barrier and use scare tape instead. I bought this brand of tape here.  I thought about doing this after a really dumb male cardinal kept flying into our dining room windows attacking his own reflection. While googling on solutions to that problem I saw lots of suggestions for hanging scare tape in front of your windows and also for using it in your garden. Apparently birds hate shiny reflective things that move in the wind. I bought the tape and tied lengths of it to my tomato cages and to a pole. I sure hope this works!

Additionally, I’ve got my fake predators – an owl and a fake snake, and I’ll get some new shiny whirligigs from the dollar store (these don’t last too long because high winds rip them up).

Additional ideas I haven’t tried yet:

  • hanging red Christmas tree ornaments on the outside of your tomato cages so that the birds come to expect hard, inedible tomatoes
  • suspending noise-making and/or shiny objects such as old CD’s

And finally, I follow the most important rule – always pick your tomatoes before they fully ripen and put them on a windowsill to finish up. That nice big juicy fully-vine-ripened tomato you were waiting one more day to pick?  It’s going to have bird pecks in it!

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