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Birds (sparrows) are eating both ripe and green tomatoes

by John
(Southern California)

Q. Birds are eating my tomatoes. They start with the ripe ones and then go to the green ones. The plant in one area was completely eaten of all fruit in less than a week - 50 tomatoes or more.
My second plant has just started to get eaten. It is in a different location. The first plant was a "Big Boy" and the current one is a "Better Boy." Please help me to save my crop. I have at least 100 tomatoes on my remaining plant. What can I do to prevent bird damage on tomatoes?

A. Sorry that birds are eating your tomatoes!

Birds often start feasting on tomatoes just as the fruit starts ripening (as you've discovered). Unfortunately, by the time you notice, they've munched their way through part of your crop. Check out these options to protect your crop.

  • One of the best solutions is to drape your plants with bird netting.
    iconSpread netting on plants after fruit forms but before tomatoes begin to ripen. Each year you can re-use bird netting.
  • Protect a small number of plants with homemade "socks." Cut an old pair of nylon pantyhose into 10-12 inch lengths. Slip these "nylon socks" over a cluster of tomatoes. Tie the ends. The fruit will continue to ripen but the socks can thwart birds.
  • You can also string fishing line (mono filament string) horizontally above plants in rows 12 inches apart. The birds can't see the clear lines. Their wings hit the line, discourages them from getting to tomatoes, and they give up.
  • Find a few old CDs, hang them on light string or fishing line near plants, and let them spin in the breeze. Birds do not like the flashing reflection.
  • Some gardeners pick their tomatoes just as they begin to show the first blush of color. They let them finish ripening inside on the kitchen counter - which keeps them away from birds.

Hope these ideas keep our feathered friends at bay so you can enjoy your tomatoes.

Good Luck and Happy Gardening!
Your friends at Tomato Dirt

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