We water, fertilize, trim, weed and protect our crops from insects. They are our silent dependents that bring us food. We put labor, sweat, and love into our gardens. Then you spot it, “the” tomato of your gardening life. Everything is perfect and it will be ready to pick tomorrow morning. But the alarm clock malfunctions and you forget about the mother of all tomatoes as you rush to work. The journey home is slow and you have time to think about the tomato that will get you inducted into the tomato hall of fame. You park the car and run to the garden to find the king of tomatoes has been assassinated. Two, maybe three holes about an inch long have pierced the king to the heart. You look around to see a mockingbird sitting on the fence and squawking in utter contempt at your effort. Thoughts of vengeance rush into your mind. But then you think, good thing the shotgun is in the safe! Dejected, you pluck what’s left of the mighty tomato from the plant. You think about starting a compost pile as you open the lid of the trash can and send the regal fruit to Valhalla. Ok, that might be a little bit dramatic (Orson Wells would be so proud) but if you are growing tomatoes this will happen to you.
Birds won’t bother tomatoes until they start turning red. Then they feast. Most birds will go after tomatoes with mockingbirds being the main culprit. When I see the mockingbirds sitting on my fence and watching my tomatoes I know they are close to turning. So how do you stop this activity without the use of firearms?
Start with an old fashion scarecrow. Wells Brothers has a very nice scarecrow kit for $10.00. Keeping with the scare tactic, there are owls and inflatable snakes. Both will give the birds, rabbits, and squirrels a fright. I have found all of these to be very effective but they need to be moved every week. This brings us to the second best deterrent, scare tape. Scare tape is a reflective mylar type ribbon. When I first saw this product it was explained to me that it reflects sunlight and birds think the place is on fire and will stay away. The number one way to keep the birds out is with bird netting. You will need a structure large enough to keep the nylon net off of the plants. Drape the netting over the structure and you are done. This physical barrier is as close to perfect as a gardener can get. There is one drawback to this product, it’s also good at keeping you out. It can be frustrating to deal with the net(s) during peak harvest season. Wells Brothers has nets that are 14’x14’ and 28’x28’.