Will Deer Eat Tomato Plants?

They most certainly will! 

If you have a cherished home vegetable garden, this can be dreadful news. We understand the pain and dread of waking up to a deer-stomped vegetable garden and discovering that your precious tomato bushes have been deprived of all their fruits. 

To find out why deer do this and what you can do about it, keep on reading.

Deer and Tomato Plants

Deer are hungry creatures, and they will eat anything that offers a tasty flavor and rich aroma. Research reveals that deer eat over 500 different kinds of plants, and tomato plants, classified as Solanum Lycopersicum, are definitely one of their favorite vegetations to devour. 

Their nocturnal tomato-eating episodes can wreak havoc on your home vegetable garden. You see, deer don’t just pluck away the fruits, they also damage the entire plant, from the stems and leaves down to the roots. As they walk around freely in your garden, they’ll destroy all your other vegetables and sprouts. 

Why Will Deer Eat Tomato Plants? 

As mentioned above, deer always hungry and looking to feed, and agricultural crops account for 75% of their feeding habitat. Their native habitat often lacks the dense vegetation and variety they seek for a satiating feed. Hence, deers will devour any and every foliage whenever they venture out for their nocturnal food hunts. 

Aside from tomato plants, deer also devour other plants and vegetation, such as sweet corn, strawberries, raspberries, Swiss chard, and beans. Most homeowners believe that deers only attack countryside gardens, but research reveals that deer also thrive in urban developments. 

Is the Tomato Plant Poisonous to Deer? 

Many home vegetable gardeners believe that tomatoes are poisonous to deer, and this is primarily why they neglect deer-proofing their tomato crops. This is mostly a myth because deer enjoy feasting on juicy tomatoes amongst other vegetables.

Tomato plants boost a rich concentration of tomatine, a mildly toxic alkaloid that serves to ward off insects. All plants have compounds and components that protect them from insects, pests, and other creatures. Clearly, tomatine does not cause any harm to deer. 

In 1996, a controlled study was conducted in Israel to examine the impact of tomato vine consumption on cattle. After 42 days, there were no signs of harm or illnesses. In fact, tomatoes can reduce LDL or bad cholesterol and ward off illnesses amongst animals, just as they do in humans. 

Deer are also careful about consuming the tomatoes and avoiding the leaves. However, they can cause a lot of damage to the plant and its roots. 

How to Protect Tomato Plants from Deer

Protecting your tomato plants and other vegetables from these nocturnal feasting raids is the ideal solution. 

Here are some tips to deer-proof your home vegetable garden: 

1. Erecting Barriers 

A hungry deer is not likely to respect the boundaries of your property, and they jump over 6-feet tall fences with great ease. It is simply not convenient to install a fence that is higher than 6-feet unless you can create a higher boundary to protect your home garden. But if that is not an option, you can always fortify each vegetable crop’s boundaries with mesh or chicken wires. Create an elaborate cage with a top cover and surrounding boundaries to ward off all animals. 

2. Deer Resistant Vegetables 

There are many herbs and vegetables to keep the starving Bambi away from your precious tomatoes and plants. For instance, hot peppers, foxgloves, chives, sage, iris, yucca, bee balm, garlic, and rosemary. 

Plants that have a strong odor and taste tend to deter deer from invading a garden. These include fennel, chives, mint, onions, leeks, garlic, and dill. Spices and herbs are an excellent idea to deter deer; however, keep in mind that they adore devouring parsley and basil. 

Deer are also less attractive towards fuzzy and prickly vegetation, such as squash, melon, pumpkin, and cucumbers. Planting root vegetables is another smart trick because deer will never bother with digging to devour the tubers. While deer like to consume beet tops, radish tops, and sweet potatoes, they are less attracted to potatoes. However, it is important to avoid planting carrots without fortifications because deer are attracted to their flavor. 

Nightshade plants, such as Jimsonweed, eggplant, and peppers, are poisonous for deer and will do an effective job at deterring deer. Rhubarb and cucumber leaves are also toxic and will help protect your more vulnerable plants. 

3. Using Repellents 

Deer repellents are highly effective as deer rely on their sense of smell to hunt down their favorite veggies. You can explore a variety of foul odors that ward off these hungry creatures. For instance, hot sauce, rotten eggs, the urine of a predator animal, or even dried blood. 

These repellents will not harm your shrubs and vegetables, and the smell will not be as foul for humans. However, the deer will not be able to stand it, and it will deter them from entering your garden. Applying hot sauce to your tomatoes is an excellent trick to ward off deer herds. 

You can apply these repellents once or twice a month, and they will prove useful at warding off other harmful pests and insects as well. However, there is a downside to using these repellents: with time, deer will become accustomed to the smell, and the repellent will prove ineffective. 

So, be sure to keep rotating the smells and using different techniques to surprise their sense of smell. 

You can also use motion sensor lights to scare off deer herds because they typically hunt for food late at night when humans are sound asleep in bed. They are quite sensitive to sounds, and you can also use an alarm or sound to scare them away. Fences and scarecrows are also helpful in scaring away deer because they have weak eyesight. 


We hope that this guide proved helpful in offering insight into protecting your precious homegrown vegetables. It is wise to try various techniques and keep rotating your deterrents to maintain the element of surprise.


Charlie loves to garden with his family and friends. His favorite vegetables to grow are cucumbers, string beans and lettuce.

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