Are There Critters Eating Tomatoes? Or Is It Something Else?

If your tomatoes keep disappearing, there's a chance you've got critters eating tomatoes. But as this story shows, it could be something – or someone! – else.

We all know how wonderful sun-ripened tomatoes are when we enjoy them right from the vine. Biting into a homegrown tomato is, without doubt, one of the most exquisite experiences a person can have. But as most gardeners know, the local wildlife is also fond of these treats, and it’s not unusual to find critters eating tomatoes in your garden.

I get it. These critters aren’t dumb. They know a good thing when they see it! Of course, we gardeners do what we can to keep the tomatoes for ourselves. We put decoys in the garden. We plant less tasty plants around our tomatoes as guards. We try motion-activated noise machines, bars of Irish Spring soap, and just about anything we can think of to keep the Crown Jewels of our gardens safe. Sometimes we get lucky and our efforts pay off.

Try as we might, though, there’s not much that can keep a determined, tomato-loving 3-year-old away from a vine bursting with juicy, sweet cherry tomatoes. At least, that’s the experience of Linda I. Kinyon.

In Our Little Tomato Snitch, Linda shares the story of her small garden on the deck of her upstairs apartment. She grew cherry tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers, and she and her family enjoyed these garden treats as often as they could. As it turns out, her 3-year-old son especially enjoyed the cherry tomatoes. Here’s the story.

Enjoy More Stories About Critters Eating Tomatoes and What To Do About Them

This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. I love pieces like these that remind us that we often harvest much more than just fruits and vegetables in the garden. I hope you enjoy this story as well.

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Our Little Tomato Snitch

By Linda I. Kinyon of Chewalah, WA.

Several years ago, my family lived in an upstairs apartment. I love gardening, so I planted cherry tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers in pots on a table on the apartment’s deck.

Kyle, my 3-year-old son, was particularly eager for the cherry tomatoes to grow and ripen. When they did, we all enjoyed them alone, in salads, and in other dishes.

One day Jason, 13, went to pick tomatoes for supper. He came back and said, “Mom, all the tomatoes lower than two feet are gone.”

This was baffling. Jason and I both started keeping a close eye on the plant, but never found ripe tomatoes on its bottom part. Sara, my 11-year-old, volunteered to do a “stakeout” in some bushes below our deck. For days, she and a girlfriend hid, whispered, and giggled—but never found any culprit. What was going on?

One afternoon, I heard little Kyle open the door to the deck. I tiptoed into the kitchen and peeked out the window. My eyes grew huge: my 3-year-old grabbed a little stepstool we kept on the deck and took it over to the tomato plant. Then he climbed up the stool, grabbed all the tomatoes he could reach, and shoved them in his mouth.

I waited until he came back inside. “What were you doing?” I asked.

“Just checking to see if anyone’s taken the tomatoes again,” he said. He grinned wide, displaying all those mashed-up tomatoes.

“I think you are the one who’s been stealing all the tomatoes,” I said.

“Really?” he asked.

“Yes, really.” At that, we both grinned and started laughing.

That was 20 years ago. We all still tell the story—and laugh every time.

By Linda I. Kinyon of Chewalah, WA., published originally in 2021, in GreenPrints Issue #126. Illustrated by Linda Cook Devona

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Have you had run ins with “critters” eating tomatoes in your garden? I’d love to read them in the comments below!


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