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What’s eating my tomatoes?!

 
pollinator
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Location: Zone 8B Blackland Prairie, Tx
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My tomatoes have taken a long time to grow this year; they’re lovely fist-sized fruits, but most haven’t started to turn red yet.

My first big guy started turning a lovely orange a few days ago, and I was thrilled! I went out Thurs morning to harvest, and Half the tomato was gone!! I looked all over for signs of bugs but couldn’t find any. The tomato has a cage around it since I know we have bunnies, but there’s no way the bunny could have gotten to it. We don’t have squirrels or raccoons that brave our suburban neighborhood yet (not enough trees for them I think) so that left me thinking birds must have done it. Made a trip to the hardware store and picked up bird netting, which is now covering all my vulnerable veggies.

This morning I came outside to three more damaged tomatoes. They’re completely covered by bird netting AND a wire cage and I’m at a loss!! What is eating my tomatoes?!

EBED866D-526E-42F0-ABEE-8154EA40D28F.jpeg
So sad
So sad
72011E7C-9319-4F08-B8AF-6208D55789E4.jpeg
Pecked?
Pecked?
6641B770-8C81-477C-8341-C97076C99CB3.jpeg
Bugs?
Bugs?
CD52E559-F00C-4EB5-A1E7-5C028AD4901D.jpeg
Wire cage
Wire cage
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Bird netting
Bird netting
 
pollinator
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Check the ground for holes I would guess at voles or mice. You can pick them as soon as they start to change colour, the stem seals over at that point and the tomato takes nothing more from the plant, so picking early will not lose you any flavour.
 
Carolyne Castner
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Check the ground for holes I would guess at voles or mice. You can pick them as soon as they start to change colour, the stem seals over at that point and the tomato takes nothing more from the plant, so picking early will not lose you any flavour.



I don't think we have voles in my area, but we definitely have mice. I'll start pulling the tomatoes in as soon as the color change starts. I didn't know they'd continue to ripen off the vine!
 
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I love vine ripe tomatoes! So do my birds so we pick the tomatoes just as they start to turn from green to yellow.

I always have a brown paper bag sitting on my counter.  It is full of tomatoes waiting to ripen.

And they are much more tasty than those grocery store tomatoes.

Picture #2 and #3 look like birds to me. The tomatoes in #4 and #5 would already have been picked if they were mine.
 
Carolyne Castner
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Anne Miller wrote:I love vine ripe tomatoes! So do my birds so we pick the tomatoes just as they start to turn from green to yellow.

I always have a brown paper bag sitting on my counter.  It is full of tomatoes waiting to ripen.

And they are much more tasty than those grocery store tomatoes.

Picture #2 and #3 look like birds to me. The tomatoes in #4 and #5 would already have been picked if they were mine.



I really do think birds are the most likely culprit; I've inspected all around my garden beds and can't find any evidence of digging, nor any type of rodent or mammal poop. The cage around the tomatoes goes down about two inches into the dirt (since we live in a very windy area it needed to be braced by burying it a bit) and the bird netting has been secured at the edges to try and prevent critters from crawling under it. Despire all the precautions and adjustments I found two more tomatoes in similar states if "eaten" this morning.

I guess I'm going to have to start pulling the tomatoes earlier; what exactly am I looking for? Small color change, texture change/softness? And is the brown bag the best way to help them ripen inside?

 
Anne Miller
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The tomatoes can be picked when they are a lighter green.  For the best flavor before a bird has lunch is just as it starts to turn yellow.  The color is sort of light green to light yellow.

Even green tomatoes will ripen in the paper bags.

At the end of the season when a frost is suggested, we pick all the tomatoes that are on the vines.  Almost all of them will eventually ripen.
 
Carolyne Castner
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Wanted to update everyone who was helping me brainstorm this: I finally laid eyes on the culprit this morning. A very chubby little rat! She scurried off as soon as I came out (making great use of the fence boards as a little mini-highway) and seems to be living in the brush pile.
This also explains why the netting wasn't working (I affixed it to the fence, so she was just running along behind it and jumping into the tomato bed.)

Now that I know what it is I find I'm actually okay with her nibbling in the garden. Kind of funny how that works out...

I've been pulling the tomatoes off the vine early, and while they're a bit smaller, they're ripening up perfectly on the counter inside.
Also got our first squash today!

 
moose poop looks like football shaped elk poop. About the size of this tiny ad:
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