How To: Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

Every summer my husband and I plant a tomato plant.  We do this to enjoy the plump red tomatoes right off of the vine.

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

This summer we have had a problem, which is that SOMETHING IS EATING OUR TOMATOES AND IT IS NOT US!

The Beginning

Let me start from the beginning. 

Step 1 Purchase tomato plant

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot We went to the garden center and purchased a nice healthy tomato plant.  

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

Step 2 Plant tomato plant

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And RotWe planted the tomato plant the proper way. We mixed some organic fertilizer in the soil.  We sprinkled a little lime stone which we mixed in with the soil and fertilizer. We separated the soil and put the plant into the hole. We filled in with dirt up to the first leaves and gently pressed down. We made a slight indentation around the plant so the water would go to the roots.  

Step 3  Wait for tomatoes

During the waiting time for the first yellow blossoms to appear, we watched carefully for any type of insects or diseases. 

  •  The most common insects are the hornworms, aphids, psyllids and flea beetle.

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

A safe insecticide can be purchased or you can home make an insecticide to rid your tomato plants of these culprits.

The most common diseases a tomato plant can get are Early Blight, Gray Leave Spot, Late Blight, Southern Blight and Verticillium Wilt.  These are diseases that attack the foliage of the plant.  Diseases that attack the fruit of the plant are Anthracnose, Bacterial Speck, Blossom End Rot, Buckeye Rot and Gray Wall.  

These diseases can be controlled by removing affected areas.  Unfortunately there is no treatment for any type of Wilt.  For the Blights, it is suggested to put organic mulch under the plants to keep the disease from spreading.  For the Rot, water the plants regularly through the dry periods and use a balanced organic tomato fertilizer with a 5-10-10 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And RotHow to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

  • It is very important to stake or cage your tomato plant to keep it under control.  If using a cage, it should be at least 48 inches tall.  Place the cage over the tomato plant.  We chose to use a cage.

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

  • Small green tomatoes should appear in approximately 45 to 90 days depending on the area and the weather.  Tomatoes need lots of sunshine.  First there will be a little yellow flower and the tomato forms out of the center of the flower.

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

Step 4 Tomatoes Ripen But Disaster Strikes

Within the 45-90 days our tomatoes started to ripen.  At last there was one we could pick but on the side of the tomato was a terrible large space.  As I checked the rest of the plant I found practically all of the tomatoes had similar markings.  

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

I went straight to the garden center and they informed me it was probably the big black crows which hover around the area.  They recommended building a net tent to protect them.  I left the garden nursery with a net, 6 bamboo poles, hooks to hold the net close to the ground and wire ties to attach the net.

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot


  • Put the four bamboo poles into the ground.
  • Lay two bamboo poles across the the top and fasten with ties to the poles in the ground.
  • Lay the bird net over the poles. (like a tent).
  • Use the hooks to secure the net to the ground.

We picked off all of the bad fruit so we could see if our problem was solved.  Guess what, it wasn't. We had even more tomatoes eaten the next two days.  

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And RotHow to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And RotThe right side (as you look at the plant) was totally eaten. This could not be birds.  Back to the garden center I went and took a tomato and told them we had done everything they had told us to do.  One of the men who worked at the nursery said he had the same problem.  He asked if we had fruit and palm trees around us and I told him yes. He said he knew what it was...the culprit is rats!  He sold me some poison blocks and assured me that the rats loved them.  He said they die within three days after eating the poison.  Well, it was either the tomatoes or the rats.  We chose the tomatoes.

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

We placed seven blocks of poison around the plant.  In the morning we could hardly wait to see if the pests had eaten their treat.  We could not believe our eyes, they had eaten all nine blocks and no tomatoes were touched. We put seven more blocks out the next day and only 4 were eaten.  I don't think it was just one rat, I think it was a pack of rats. We have not had anymore tomatoes destroyed nor have we found any dead rats.  Hopefully they wondered off and died in the river bed.

The poison is called Tomcat Ultra Block Bait.

All Is Well

The rats are gone, the tomatoes are getting more blossoms and the green tomatoes are getting bigger and bigger.  Hopefully this article will help someone with the same problem so you can enjoy big, ripe, red tomatoes. 

How to Save Your Tomatoes From Rats And Rot

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What was the exact name of the poison blocks? I had this same problem this summer, too! Thanks so much for the info!

The wonderful miracle is Tomcat Ultra Block Bait. You can get it at garden centers or Ace Hardware, maybe even Home Depot or Lowes. Glad to help!

Can't use poisons. Have too many animals that might get into it. We built wire cages over ours.

Thank you so much for this information! I've been bringing my plants inside because our building has a rat problem and a landlord who does little about it. I filled a container with poisoned rat food yet my jalapenos were still a target. Green leaves and all! Even my strawberry plant was torn apart. I didn't know rats loved plants so much!

The poison hasn't been touched and my plants have not been happy inside. I'm going to try the same blocks that helped you. I'm an amateur gardener and it felt great to have beautiful, blossoming food growing! And it was so heartbreaking to find them stripped away of all that beauty overnight!

Poison is a quick and easy solution, but in our area we are highly discouraged from using poison on rats. When the owls eat rats who have been poisoned, the owls die - as do other wildlife who feed on rats. It takes more energy and time, but building wire cages supports our healthy ecosystem, which benefits all of us. I had the same problem with my tomatoes last summer, so I'll be building wire cages this year!

I made home made rat balls this year. they worked a treat. the ingredients will kill rats but will not kill a bird of prey or a loved pet dog or cat that eats the dead rat. found the recipe on youtube. did try to post the ingredients, method etc but I think my post was too long to be allowed

suffice to say you need to wear gloves when mixing/making and placing the rat balls so that no human scent is on the balls.

the ingredients I use for the 3 cups of things that make up the rat balls are as follows.

the first cup comprises of some: all purpose flour with a dessertspoon or rolled oats, dessertspoon of mash potato flakes from instant mash potato, a dessertspoon of baking soda

the second cup comprises of : moist soft brown sugar and two dessertspoons of dark cocoa powder.
the third cup comprises solely of Plaster of Paris.

the method to make rat balls:
place all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
with plastic gloved hands mix all the dry ingredients very thoroughly until you can detect NO lumps at all.
now add in a dessertspoon of peanut butter.

keep working the peanut butter into the dry ingredients until it is thoroughly mixed just as you would when mixing pastry.

Then add half cup ice water and keep work working the mixture and you will be surprised at how soon it feels moist. try making the mixture into a ball. at this point you will probably need to add a quarter of a cup of iced water. no more water. form the balls into the size of a small lemon. place on the tray until ready to put outside for the rats

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