Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Please Don't Eat The Tomatoes

It's almost July 15th, and I've yet to taste a tomato from my garden.

It's not from a lack of trying. The plants (slicing, roma, grape, and cherry varieties) are booming, despite a rocky spring that brought unseasonably cold weather right after I planted them on Mother's Day. There's plenty of green fruit, but every morning when I go outside to check on them I see that some critter's been there before me. At first it was half-eaten cherry or plum tomato laying on the ground, but the past two days it's been a good-sized green tomato torn off the vine with one set of bite marks on it.

I don't know how it's happening. I have chicken wire around the whole garden securely tied to uprights. I've checked multiple times, and there aren't any openings that something could squeeze through. Theoretically, squirrels could jump down from the deck steps into the garden, but I don't know how they'd get out. I bought an environmentally-friendly product that claimed to repel rabbits, groundhogs, chipmunks, and squirrels. The active ingredients are putrefied egg solids, castor oil, and garlic oil. It stinks to high heaven, but it isn't working. (I wonder if my critters could have clogged sinuses?)

I've grabbed a few green cherry tomatoes off the ground that somehow escaped and brought them inside, where a different type of danger lurks. Last week I put the small fruits in a custard cup and set the cup on the counter. The next morning I came downstairs to find a small green tomato laying on the kitchen floor with a bite mark in it. The only things living in the house are me, Tony, and the two cats-and I know Tony prefers his tomatoes red. Of course, neither one of the cats would confess.

I tried again. This time Tony found the little tomatoes in the dining room and by the front door. Green tomatoes are supposed to be toxic to cats. Didn't they get the memo?

This morning I went downstairs to throw some scraps in the compost pile and see what was going on in the garden. Once again, something had helped themselves to a nice large green tomato and left it on the patio with an inch-long bite mark in the side. However, on the ground in the garden I saw another fruit. I picked it up and noticed it was unblemished. What a miracle! I brought the tomato inside and washed it, set it in a custard cup, then slipped the cup into a large plastic produce bag. I loosely gathered the top of the bag with a twist tie. The cats don't like the sound of rustling plastic, so I hope that's enough to deter them.

I hope the fruit will ripen on the counter. I'm determined to get some results before the season's over!


  1. My squirrels are well fed in my yard with the nuts and berries I put out in the pear tree so I am hopeful they are not bothering the huge garden in the yard behind us. The lady who lives there owns a small grocery store, and I swear she raises the produce for the store. She has quite the selection and works out there every morning. Except for the corn, most of it is Asian type veggies.

  2. We had the same problem for several years--tomatoes and peppers with a bite out of them, an entire 40-foot bed of hostas mowed to the ground. I know there were rabbits and skunks and possibly other small furry animals in the neighborhood, but never caught any red-furry-footed at the all-you-can-eat-salad-bar in my yard.

    For about two years now, our garden has gone unmolested. The local stray cat population has also boomed.

    Before the feline enforcers arrived, we had some limited success by sprinkling the hosta leaves with chili powder (the regular grocery-store variety).

    As for your indoor kitties, I totally sympathize with them playing with the little green ball toys that you so nicely left out for them. Just check under furniture (hutches, couches, etc) to make sure they haven't lost any that will eventually make a mess. Every time I move furniture lately, I find a cache of small foam balls, scrunchies, styrofoam bits, and assorted small plastic toys that have obviously gotten beyond paw's reach.

  3. Try sprinkling cayenne pepper on everything and see if that works.

  4. Wow, you're not having much success with getting any of those tomatoes ripened. I'm not neither with mine out at the farm, the weather has been horrid this year, it's raining again tonight. That makes it at least 5, if not more, straight days of rain! All the best to you with getting some of your tomatoes ripe enough to eat.

  5. I'm going to have to watch for this in my garden. So far we've only seen a few green bugs chomping on the leaves..Hornworm. I've heard these turn into hummingbird moths. Now I rather like the hummingbird moths...but not the Hornworm...
    Hope your little critters keep away for a least til harvest time.