Last Updated: April 7, 2023
To the untrained gardener, rabbits are just cute, fuzzy visitors from the natural world. Give them an invite to your garden sanctuary however, and they’ll happily feast on a wide variety of your plants.
In today’s article, we’ll talk about whether rabbits eat tomato plants and leaves. I’ll also share some tips on how to deter these animals from the garden.
Can rabbits eat tomato leaves?
Aren’t insect pests and diseases enough to deal with? Do we really have to think about rabbits, deer, and chipmunks eating our tomato plants, too?
In short, rabbits can and will eat tomato leaves, especially when plants are young and tender. This makes tomato seedlings vulnerable in the early spring, just after transplanting outdoors.
To make matters worse, rabbits can also eat tomato fruits, meaning they remain a threat to the garden all season long.
However, the most important time to protect your tomato plants is just after moving them outside. Just a few bites and your plants are toast!
Which other animals eat tomato plants?
Depending on your location, there may be other herbivores that can cause damage. In addition to rabbits, mice, chipmunks, groundhogs, rats, and deer can feast on your tomatoes in the garden.
Thankfully, there are several techniques we can use to deter these garden pests. I like to take as many precautions as possible, so let’s discuss the best methods.
How to STOP rabbits from eating tomatoes
Like I said, it sometimes takes more than one approach to keep rabbits from eating your tomato leaves. The two main categories we use are repelling and creating physical barriers.
1. Use fencing
Fencing is an excellent method for keeping animal pests out of the garden. Believe it or not, rabbits cannot jump very high. This means a 2-3′ fence is all you need.
Of course, if you want to keep larger animals out, such as deer, you’ll want a taller fence. A protective garden fence can be as simple as using chicken wire and T posts, or building a full-sized wood fence if the budget permits.
Tip: Dig a trench and bury your fencing at least 6-8″ deep to protect against gophers, moles, and groundhogs.
2. Use netting
Normally used for insect protection, netting can also prevent rabbits from accessing your tomatoes. Early in the spring, cover your tomatoes with insect netting over a basic low tunnel.
There are also individual plant protectors that can be used to protect a single, larger plant from rabbits, deer, and even birds.
3. Plant companion plants
Companion planting can help confuse and even deter rabbits from the garden. Garlic, rosemary, chives, and sweet alyssum are all plants that rabbits don’t like.
By intercropping these companions on the edge of your garden beds, rabbits may be less likely to enter your garden space. Learn more about the best companion plants for tomatoes.
4. Trap and release
If you have a fenced-in garden with a pest that got inside, your best bet is to trap it. Use a basic animal trap and lure the rabbit in with its favorite food.
With the rabbit caged, take it to a location far from your garden and release it back into the wild. Again, this is ideal only for gardens that are surrounded by a fence, where the animal somehow got inside.
5. Use (or make your own) rabbit repellent
There are a number of natural yet potent rabbit repellents. Liquid fence is a highly-effective product that makes use of putrescent whole egg solids. It is harmless to plants and animals, though it does have an odor.
If you have hot pepper flakes or cayenne powder, this can also deter rabbits from eating tomato plants. Sprinkle the flakes on the leaves, and around the base of each plant. Note that this must be re-applied after rainfall.
A few other natural deterrents are peppermint and rosemary oils, garlic, and citronella oil. Any combination of these can be used to deter rodents and other animals from the garden.
6. Use predator repellents
In a similar vein, predator repellents can deter rabbits from eating your garden plants. Products such as wolf or dog urine can be sprayed around the perimeter of your garden to ward off any incoming animals.
Tip: If you have a dog, you can encourage them to use the bathroom near the garden where rabbits are most likely to enter.
7. Reduce hiding places
Lastly, it can be very effective to reduce places where rabbits can hide. Rabbits don’t like to be exposed, and will typically spend less time in open areas.
To accomplish this, you can arrange your garden in a simple, open format with good visibility throughout. Also, keep things tidy by bottom pruning and trellising any climbing plants to reduce hiding spots.
Can a tomato plant regrow after being eaten?
We have had rabbits (and even our cat) eat our tomato and pepper seedlings down to the stem. This is traumatic to the plant, no doubt.
However, if the plant still has any nodes, there is a good chance it will survive and grow back. So long as the plant isn’t uprooted, or all nodes are gone, the plant should rebound.
Rabbits and other herbivores can be a problem for tomato growers. However, if you take a few simple steps to protect them, your plants will be safe and high yielding!