Those Pesky Critters Part 1 – Birds!

I recently shared on Facebook how I keep birds from ruining the tomatoes ripening in my garden. That post really hit a nerve with fellow gardeners, as the number of shares is closing in on 100,000 as of this date.

Birds will choose tomatoes that are beginning to ripen then peck, peck, peck away, eating half the tomato right on the vine.  It is very frustrating to nurture tomato plants through the spring, watch those beautiful green orbs get bigger and bigger, see one or two begin to turn from green to pink to red, then go out one morning and find some of those almost-ripe tomatoes pecked into a mushy, ruined mess.  And once the culprits enjoy the taste of tomatoes they come back for more.  By that time I must pick the tomatoes at the very first sign of ripening or almost all of them will fall prey to those pesky birds.  No vine-ripened tomatoes for me!

My solution:  I put decoys out well before my tomatoes begin to ripen.  Decoys? Yes!  Big, red Christmas ornaments hanging here and there among my tomato plants.  Birds will see those pretty red balls and think they are about to get a tasty meal.  But all the peck, peck, pecking gets them nowhere.  They might try several of them over a period of days until they figure out that there is nothing worth eating in THIS garden!  Then, when the tomatoes start to ripen the birds think nothing about it because they’ve been decoyed.

ornament on tomato plant

The key to this trick working is to set out the ornaments well in advance of tomatoes beginning to ripen, because once the birds get a taste of the real deal they won’t be fooled.

Here in Texas tomatoes need to be maturing and ripening in early to mid May in order to have a decent crop before triple-digit heat sets in, normally in June.  Of course this time frame will be different depending on what part of the country (or world) you are in.   If you’re like me you won’t have red Christmas ornaments handy at the time your tomatoes are maturing in the garden, nor will they be available in stores at that time.  But lucky for us we can get just about anything year ’round on Internet retailers such as Amazon and Ebay, and at a reasonable cost.

I’ve also had questions as to whether these ornament decoys will work on other plants such as maturing figs.  I don’t see why not.  With figs I recommend using smaller ornaments as to better mimic the size of figs.

In the next post I’ll discuss my solution for keeping pesky squirrels out of the garden.