Identify and Prevent Against Animals that Eat Zucchini Plants
It can be disappointing when you discover a pest has been using your zucchini crops as a salad bar. Leaves torn and eaten, zucchini flowers strewn across the ground, and zucchini fruits spoiled or missing! Who could’ve done so much damage? Or more to the point – what animals eat zucchini plants?
The list of suspects in the case of your eaten zucchini plants is long. However, we do have a few prime suspects sitting at the top of the list. The main animals that eat zucchini plants include:
- squirrels and chipmunks,
- groundhogs (aka woodchucks), and
- rodents like rats and mice.
Even though there are more pests that could be eating your zucchini plants, the ones we have listed above are our prime suspects.
But how do you know which pest is causing trouble in your zucchini patch? For occasions like this, we like to let the evidence tell a story. We’ll help you analyze the evidence left at the crime scene to confidently identify the perpetrator. From there, we can then plan ahead to put solutions in place to prevent further attacks on your prized zucchinis.
So if you’re ready, go grab your trusty magnifying glass, because we have a case to solve…the case of WHO ATE YOUR ZUCCHINI PLANTS?
What Animals Eat Zucchini Plants?
Do Raccoons Eat Zucchini?
Raccoons can be one of the most persistent and stubborn garden pests to keep away from your vegetable garden. They are clever, conniving animals that will do anything they can to reach food.
What makes them so difficult to defend against is their agility and capacity to scale structures. As a result, fences are no obstacle for these determined pests unless you decide to build a cage around your entire garden.
Raccoons are surprisingly dexterous, which means they can manipulate objects with their paws and open containers. A raccoon’s favorite pastime is dumpster diving in your trash cans, because slightly ajar rubbish can lids are an easy target for some scraps.
We now know how much of a nuisance raccoons can be for homeowners. But will they eat your zucchini plants?
Yes – raccoons will happily indulge in your zucchini plants. They eat any fruit or vegetable in your garden that they can get their grubby little paws on. You can tell when a raccoon has raided your zucchini plant, because the fruits will be missing. Raccoons generally like to grab and run, preferring to enjoy the fruits of their labor (pun intended) in safer environments. They may nibble on the leaves and zucchini flowers, but their main prize are the zucchini fruits.
The only defense your zucchini plants have against raccoons are the prickly little hairs on the stems of the plant. Raccoons abhor the feeling of prickles, and will do all that they can to avoid them, like cucumber plants and fruits.
How to Prevent Raccoons from Eating Your Zucchini?
We’ve already established that fences are no obstacle for raccoons. Even enclosed cages can be limited defense, because raccoons will test it and find any weakness and scramble their way in.
The best method of keeping pesky raccoons away is by smelling them out. Sprinkle blood meal around your zucchini plants, or even around the perimeter of your garden. Raccoons hate the smell and will choose a less smelly garden to forage in.
Another method of deterring raccoons is to try companion planting your zucchini with cucumber plants. Raccoons detest the smell, taste and feel of cucumbers, which may just be enough to keep your zucchini safe from their grubby little claws.
Do Deer Eat Zucchini Plants?
Deer is another one of those garden pests that can cause headaches for home gardeners. They can devastate an entire back garden in a single night – especially if you are unfortunate enough to have a herd of deer pay you a visit.
Deer prefer to eat the leaves of your plants, but they will not turn their noses up at some juicy zucchini fruits. Believe us when we say they are by no means orderly or neat when they indulge in your garden. They will pull, tear and strip the plants leaves from your trees and bushes and zucchini plants. Often leaving damaged branches and uprooted plants.
You can tell if a deer was the culprit for your eaten zucchini plants, because deer damage will look like a tornado went through your garden. Not only will your entire plant be mauled, but there will also be a trail of destruction on other plants, with torn plant leaves and broken branches.
Other evidence that will give a deer away are deer hoof prints on the grass or soft soil, as well as deer droppings.
How to Prevent Deer from Eating Your Zucchini Plants
If all signs point to deer eating your zucchini plants, there are a few solutions you can implement to deter them.
Commercial products are available on Amazon that will help to form a perimeter around your garden, such as deer repellent sprays or granules you spread around.
However, for those that want a more organic solution, we recommend trying to hang bars of Irish Spring Soap at strategic points around your garden. This particular brand of soap has an extremely potent smell that is helpful in deterring pests from entering your garden. Plus, it has the added benefit of being non-toxic to your plants, meaning you can hang as much as you want without worrying about contamination.
An alternate option is to spread human hair clippings around your garden. The scent of humans scares the deer, and they will hopefully move on to feed in safer pastures.
That being said, the battle to keep deer out of home gardens is real. Unless you want to erect an eight-foot fence around your garden, if a deer wants to get into your garden, they will generally find a way.
Do Rabbits Eat Zucchini Plants?
Rabbits will eat just about any leafy green they can reach – and this includes zucchini plants. While they do prefer the green parts of the plant, they will also indulge in the zucchini blossoms, and even the fruits.
It is easy to spot damage caused by rabbits, because their eating habits are often characterized by lower parts of the plant being eaten away. You can usually spot where a rabbit has gnawed away at your zucchini plant, because you can see defined sharp incisions made at an angle on the zucchini leaves, fruit and stems of the plant.
Like deer, you will also be able to identify the presence of rabbits by their droppings that will be scattered on the ground around your zucchini.
How to Prevent Rabbits from Eating your Zucchini Plants
Fortunately, rabbits are one of the easier pests to keep away from your zucchini plants due to their height limitations. Simply erecting a barrier around your prized plants will be effectively in protecting your prized plants.
Rabbits do have good burrowing abilities, so make sure your fence line extends below the surface of the soil. It will be all too easy for a rabbit to burrow a hole underneath a standard fence.
Another effective method of deterring rabbits is to spray unpleasant smells onto your zucchini plants. Spicy scents like chili and hot pepper flakes will keep rabbits well away from your plants. Just remember to wash your zucchini well before consuming them, otherwise you’ll be in for a hot surprise!
Do Squirrels & Chipmunks Eat Zucchini Plants?
Another troublesome garden pest that enjoys tormenting home gardeners are squirrels and chipmunks.
These cute little critters are generally difficult to keep out of your garden due to their extremely proficient acrobatic skills. They are able to jump over large distances, such as from tree to tree. Which allows them to easily overcome fence lines and other boundaries that usually keep other pests out.
Both squirrels and chipmunks can also scale a lot of structures. This, combined with their small size, makes them the perfect garden thief. Since they can often avoid being seen and run up and down buildings with ease.
When it comes to zucchini plants, squirrels and chipmunks will eat every part of the plant as a salad bar – including the roots. They receive a lot of their required water intake from their food. And since zucchini are 90% water, they provide the perfect opportunity to satiate their hunger and thirst.
You will be able to recognize a chipmunk or squirrel’s handiwork because they tend to leave a lot of evidence behind. Zucchini plant leaves and blooms will be chewed, zucchini fruits will have small chunks gnawed out and then left on the ground to spoil. They may even uproot the plants to get to the roots and leave it to die, like an act of defiance saying ‘you can’t stop me!’
How to Prevent Squirrels & Chipmunks from Eating Your Zucchini Plants
Squirrels and Chipmunks may be arrogant with the way they treat our zucchini, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to prevent them from future raids.
Squirrels and chipmunks are as sensitive to smells as deer, so spraying unpleasant smells on and around your zucchini plants should keep them at bay. You can use spices from your kitchen cupboard, like hot cayenne pepper or chili powder. Or you can even try crushing up fresh garlic and pepper seeds into water and spraying it on the leaves and fruit of the plant.
Another alternative method of scaring off squirrels and chipmunks is to install owl statues high above your vegetable patch. Owls are natural predators of these furry little creatures, so they will think twice before raiding your vegetables. The only problem is, you will have to move the statue every few weeks, otherwise they become wise to the fact that the owl is not a threat.
Do Groundhogs Eat Zucchini Plants?
Another suspect in the case of your eaten zucchini plants live out of sight and are very hard to catch in the act. Groundhogs (aka woodchucks) live underground and only come up for feeds under the cover of darkness.
They are particularly tenacious because they can dig their way to your zucchini plants, easily by-passing any fences or protective measures you have put in place. Not only that, woodchucks have teeth that are sharp enough to bite through wire fencing!
Unfortunately zucchini are high on the woodchucks’ list of favorite foods. They will eat any part of the plant, including leaves, stems, and flowers. But, they are particularly partial towards the delicious fruit. They will devour them while they are still immature, almost ripe and ripe.
How to Prevent Groundhogs from Eating Your Zucchini Plants
Groundhogs are tricky creatures to keep out of your garden. They are terrific burrowers, which means fences are next to useless.
They also have strong climbing capabilities, so raising your plants off the ground will not hold them back. They will simply climb up and drag them down and eat them at their leisure, and probably breaking your pots in the process!).
Like the other garden pests, smell is your greatest defense. Try sprinkling Epsom salts at the entrance of their burrows to prevent them from using it as a thoroughfare. Some other home gardeners say castor oil has worked for them too.
In a similar vein to deterring deer and squirrels, try spreading clippings of human hair around your plants to discourage them from approaching your crops. Again, the smell of human hair will trick them into thinking a threat is around, and they should retreat to safer grounds.
Do Rats Eat Zucchini Plants?
Rats are also likely suspects in the case of the missing zucchini plants.
Like rabbits, they like to snack on anything young, fresh and juicy. Particularly tender new shoots of any plant, including zucchini.
You’ll be able to tell a rat is enjoying your garden delights because they will eat anything tender and juicy in your garden, not just your zucchini plants. Rodents are a real problem, and can be devastating to a home garden.
How to Stop Rats and Mice From Eating Your Plants
Rats are much harder to control when it comes to keeping them away from your plants. Unlike rabbits, they are built to scavenge. They are adaptable creatures that can climb up walls, jump over gaps, and can even chew through things to get to their food. We’ve even had firsthand experience with rats chewing through the lids of our worm farms to get to the scraps inside. They are complete and utter nuisance animals.
Many home gardeners have had success repelling rats and mice using natural solutions such as planting mint and herbs, like basil, garlic and thyme.
Keeping a tidy garden also helps to deter rats. They require hiding places to move about and breed. By maintaining a tidy garden, without much clutter and debris on the ground, it will make it harder for them to move about. Picking up any fallen food and seeds also helps to reduce the food sources for the rats, and they will soon move on to more lucrative places to feed.
Conclusion: Case Closed?
So who is the likely suspect in your mystery of “Who Ate Your Zucchini Plants?”
Understandably, each case is unique and dependent on the evidence present.
If your zucchini fruits are missing with no evidence of them being eaten at the scene of the crime, Mr Raccoon is your likely suspect because he usually carries it off.
If you find destroyed zucchini plants, with stems that have been stripped bare, we would wager a guess that Mrs Deer is stealing a midnight snack.
If you find zucchini fruits nibbled on and left on the plant or scattered around the ground, the dastardly Master Squirrel, Sir Rat or Master Rabbit have been at it again.
But if your zucchini have been devastated, with the fruits eaten from the plant and broken stems, then it may be prime suspect number one – Mrs Groundhog who is doing the deed!