Raccoons are easily-recognizable animals that plague our gardens, fruit trees, and trash bins. These masked bandits may be cute, but they’re pretty destructive, especially to gardens. While they aren’t that picky about what they eat, there are some garden plants that raccoons eat over others!
Raccoons will sneak into our yards and raid gardens for potatoes, peas, melons, strawberries, and beans. They will also target sweet corn, grain crops, tree fruits, grapes, and berries. Scare tactics, exclusion, and habitat modification are the best ways to keep raccoons out of your garden.
Below, we’ll go over all the fruits and vegetables that raccoons are likely to target in your garden and yard. We’ll also talk about how to keep these rascally raccoons away for good!
Do Raccoons Even Eat Plants?
Before we go over what plants raccoons eat, let’s answer the big question – do raccoons eat plants?
Yes, raccoons eat plants. In fact, raccoons will eat just about anything! They don’t call em’ trash pandas for nothing!
Raccoons are considered omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. A lot of the food that raccoons eat will depend on where they live.
They Live Near Sources Of Water
Most masked bandits don’t stray too far from water, so you can expect them to be more abundant near streams, lakes, and rivers.
Raccoons that are near water sources will have a higher amount of crayfish, waterfowl eggs, and even turtles in their diet compared to a raccoon that lives closer to agricultural fields or urban environments.
It’s all about what’s available and what is easy for the raccoon to get their paws on.
What About Fruit?
Did we mention raccoons will eat just about anything? This includes fruits!
Raccoons will eat fruit that has fallen off the tree. They will also climb up a fruit tree and snag fresh fruit right from the branch.
Raccoons have an appetite for berries and grapes as well. In the fall, raccoons are especially prone to eating apples, peaches, and pears.
Since raccoons occupy nearly every state in the United States, there’s no place that raccoons won’t venture for a meal. If you live in the dry parts of Arizona, the Rocky Mountains, Utah, or Nevada, you may be lucky enough to grow a garden without nighttime visits from these rascally raccoons.
10 Plants That Raccoons Eat
Raccoons are nocturnal, so most of the damage they do to your garden, yard, and fruit trees will be at night. Let’s take a look at some of a raccoon’s favorite plants.
Later, we’ll talk about how to keep them out of your garden and yard.
1. Sweet Corn
If raccoons could write down their favorite foods, sweet corn would be at the top of the list. Raccoons LOVE sweet corn and are often loathed by farmers for this very reason.
Raccoons tend to chow down on sweet corn right before harvest, called the milk stage.
According to a 2007 study from the Journal of Human-Wildlife Conflicts, sweet corn fields located directly next to forest patches tend to see the most damage from raccoons.
If you’re wondering whether it is raccoons or some other critter eating your sweet corn, check out how the stalk looks – raccoons will pull down the stalks in all different directions and peel the husks, leaving them muddy. Damage will usually start at the center of the field and work its way outward toward forest cover.
Raccoons possess very dextrous paws that they use to peel up the soil in search of grubs. These deft hands are also talented at digging up potatoes in your garden.
Depending on what kind of potato you have planted, they may be ready to harvest as early as mid-summer. Other potato varieties need three to four months to ripen.
Raccoons will normally wait until potatoes are ripe to eat them.
Raccoons do not normally go after very immature potatoes, so it is best to be most vigilant from mid-summer to early fall when raccoons are likely to target your precious taters.
Like walking through a grocery store and grabbing something from the shelf, raccoons can easily walk through your garden and snatch low-hanging peas right from the plant. They use their dextrous fingers to pull the peas from the plant for a late-night snack.
Some varieties of pea plants will grow exceptionally tall – up to 6 feet. These varieties may be a little high for raccoons to reach, but most dwarf varieties are right at raccoon height.
Peas take around three months to ripen, so it’s important to be on the watch for raccoon damage in mid to late summer.
Melons and corn may be tied for a raccoon’s favorite food. Melons grow on vines similar to pumpkins, zucchini, and cucumber.
Melons are a bit more cold-sensitive than other plants on our list and require lots of suns to fully develop.
Raccoons are equipped to break into melons with their teeth or paws. Raccoon damage to melons will look like a small hole in the side of the melon with all the inside scraped out.
One thing that melons have going for them is their prickly vines. Raccoons have extremely sensitive paws. If they happen to step on a vine, it may be enough to deter them from your melon crops.
Strawberries are probably the most cold-sensitive of our plants so far. They will only thrive in hardiness zones 5-10. However, they are easily grown indoors in many places until the temperatures are warm enough to transplant them outside.
Raccoons love the sweet taste of strawberries. These fruits grow close to the ground, making it easy for raccoons to grab and devour them.
The entire fruit may be missing or there may be a few bites taken out of several different berries. To help avoid losing your precious strawberries, it’s best to harvest them as soon as they are ripe.
Just as a heads up, not all strawberry cages will work with raccoons as they are very deft at opening doors and locks! They have those little paws that look like hands, making it easy to open things up! You can head over to our article to read more about how raccoons open doors, windows, and locks!
For how rotund raccoons are, they love eating healthy stuff! Beans look similar to peas on plants – nestled nice and cozy within their pods. This makes them easy for raccoons to grab right from the plant.
There are two types of beans; those that grow on a low bush and those that grow on vines.
Raccoons aren’t picky with their beans and will happily eat any kind that you decide to plant.
Beans usually take around 2 ½ – 3 months to ripen after planting. Raccoons are more likely to go after mature beans than immature ones, so be especially vigilant when the ripening date comes close!
We already went over strawberries, but here we’re talking blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. This trifecta of delicious round fruit is a beacon to wild raccoons looking for a meal.
June through October is prime berry harvesting time. This is when raccoons are most likely to forage for berries in your yard and garden.
Unlike melons, berries are small enough that a raccoon will either eat the entire berry right there or carry them off to eat somewhere else.
Raccoons can be very destructive to berry bushes and in some cases can strip the bush bare in a single night.
Grapes are another common plant that raccoons will target in your yard. Grapes may not be as popular as tomatoes or peppers, but many canners love growing grapes to make jelly and preserves.
Raccoons leave little breadcrumbs behind to indicate that they have been at your grape vines.
According to the University of Kentucky, raccoons will discard the skin of the grape as they eat, leaving them right under the grape plant. Talk about a messy thief!
There are plenty of other critters that love eating grapes, so make sure it is a raccoon before implementing any deterrents by looking for the grape skins. If you’re interested, you can read more about how to stop raccoons from eating your grapes, in our article!
9. Tree Fruit
Tree fruit is an umbrella term for any tree which produces fruit that can be consumed by animals or people.
There are too many fruit trees to list, but a few of the most common ones that raccoons target include:
Raccoons might be satisfied with fruit that has already fallen to the ground, however, these swift climbers may decide fallen fruit isn’t fresh enough and climb right up the tree to pick fresh fruit to eat.
Unlike berries, raccoons do not typically eat the entire fruit. Instead, they take a few bites and then move on to the next fruit, which can be incredibly frustrating to homeowners!
10. Grain Crops
Wheat, oats, rice, rye, cornmeal, and barley are all grain crops that raccoons will eat.
Like corn, raccoons will typically wait until right before harvest to go in and devour these types of crops.
Raccoons will go after more than just grain crops. Once the grain is stored in bags, raccoons will go after that too. It’s important to keep grain storage bags in a safe place where raccoons cannot gain access.
Are There Plants That Raccoons Won’t Eat?
We know that raccoons eat plants, but are there some garden vegetables that will be safe from raccoons?
The answer is – yes! There are a few plants out there that raccoons will leave alone. These plants typically have a few things in common, they are either spicy, give off a powerful odor, or have natural defenses like thorns, prickly stalks, or chemical defenses.
Some of the plants that raccoons won’t eat include:
- Pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini: All of these plants have one thing in common – they grow on prickly vines. Raccoons will avoid these types of plants when possible.
- Hot peppers: chili peppers, red peppers, jalapeno peppers, and any other pepper that makes your eyes water are unappetizing to a raccoon. They will typically leave these plants alone.
- Tomatoes and eggplant: It’s not unheard of for a raccoon to eat a tomato, but they usually avoid plants from the nightshade family which includes eggplant as well.
- Garlic: garlic contains a natural defense called allicin that gives it its pungent odor. Raccoons have a sensitive sense of smell that will get overwhelmed by the smell of garlic, so they tend to stay away from it.
If you have a serious raccoon problem and would rather plant something they don’t like, try one or more of the plants above. It’s not a full-proof plan, and a hungry raccoon is likely to eat whatever it can get its little paws on, but, we do recommend contacting a professional for assistance.
How To Protect Your Garden From Raccoons
Raccoons are crafty little bandits and tend to be more difficult to keep out than other pests like rabbits or opossums.
That being said, there are a few ways to keep raccoons out of your garden and even out of your yard completely.
Build A Fence
Fences are usually the most effective way to keep unwanted critters out of your yard.
Raccoons are a little different and tend to be quite difficult to keep out with a simple fence. They are skilled climbers and don’t mind digging in the dirt to squeeze under a fence if it means a prized meal is at hand.
Fences should be at least 4 feet high and buried 18 inches under the ground.
Bend the last 6 inches of the underground fence outward to form an ‘L’ shape. This will prevent raccoons from digging. You can also bend the top of the fence outward at a 45° angle to prevent them from climbing over.
Don’t Feed Raccoons
If there are other food sources in your yard, it may attract raccoons that will then find their way into your garden. Most folks don’t do this on purpose and don’t realize that some common household practices are attracting raccoons.
Keep a few things in mind as you look around your yard for sources of raccoon food:
- Bird feeders: Raccoons are notorious for getting into bird feeders. Try installing a squirrel-proof (also raccoon-proof) bird feeder such as Perky-Pet Squirrel-Be-Gone II Home Style Bird Feeder. When there is too much weight on the perch, the bird feeder closes itself!
- Pet Food: Dog and cat food that is left outside is like a buffet for your little masked bandit. Pick up all pet food and water dishes at night, or better yet, feed your pets indoors!
- Garbage cans: Make sure there is no way for your garbage cans to spill open if they are knocked over. You can use a lid lock such as Blazer Brand’s Strong Strap Stretch Latch. It is easy to unlock for your sanitary worker and requires no tools to install.
- Fruit trees: Pick up fruit as soon as it falls from the tree. Try to harvest fruits as soon as they are ripe to avoid giving raccoons a free meal.
If you notice your neighbors are inadvertently feeding raccoons, it might be a good idea to talk to them about it. Even if you stop feeding raccoons in your yard, if your neighbor still does it, raccoons will be back in your yard night after night.
Anything listed above can be attractive to a raccoon, so, if you’re trying to keep them away, make sure to head over to our article about the things that attract raccoons to your yard, so you can be sure to get rid of them!
Like most wild animals, raccoons are easily startled by new things, sudden lights, or sudden noises. Raccoons that are used to living near humans may not be affected as much by scare tactics, but for those living in rural areas, this is a great option!
- Novel items: Placing something new inside your garden can be enough to scare raccoons away for a short while. Things like pinwheels, streamers, ribbons, windchimes, and reflective pie cans are temporary fixes.
This option is helpful when you are trying to figure out what else is attracting raccoons to your yard so you can eliminate the attractant. This will not work long-term as raccoons are super smart and will eventually become habituated to the item.
- Motion-activated sprinklers: Sprinklers are a great way to scare raccoons without causing any permanent harm to the animal. The Orbit Yard Enforcer is our favorite choice and comes with plenty of different options to keep pesky raccoons away.
- Fill jars with water: Raccoons are solitary animals that travel by their lonesome when seeking out food. Placing clear jars of water in your garden can fool raccoons into thinking another raccoon is nearby, potentially scaring them away. This is another option that will not work long-term but can be useful as a temporary fix.
You can use certain scents and smells that raccoons dislike to keep them away from your garden or yard.
It’s important to reapply the scent often, at least once a week, for this option to work. Scents will also need to be reapplied after heavy rain.
It may sound like a chore, but the positive aspect is that scent deterrents are cost-effective, easy to use, and do not have any harsh chemicals like other pesticides.
Some of the best scents to use to keep raccoons away include:
- Raccoon Eviction Fluid
- Epsom Salts
- Hot Peppers
- Predator Scents (available online)
Try spreading one or more of these scents around your garden to deter raccoons. Scent deterrents work by being so strong that they overpower the smell of other food sources like a tasty melon or ripe strawberry.
When a raccoon enters the area and can only smell hot peppers, they aren’t likely to stick around very long, in fact, we have a whole article about how to use hot peppers to deter raccoons! A must-read, if you ask me!
That’s A Wrap!
Raccoons may get a reputation for eating garbage, but they love eating our vegetables and fruits even more. This can cause problems when they eat the plants in our gardens and the fruit from our yard trees.
To recap, the 10 plants that raccoons eat include:
- Sweet corn
- Berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)
- Tree fruits
- Grain crops
There are a few plants that raccoons will leave alone, but for the most part, they will tear into anything you plant in your garden!
You can use a few different tactics to protect your garden from raccoons.
Motion-activated sprinklers are an effective scare tactic, but removing food sources is the best way to deter raccoons from your yard.
Since your garden and fruit trees are a food source, it’s recommended to build a fence to keep raccoons out in addition to removing other food sources.
With a little patience and dedication, you can repel raccoons from your yard and protect your garden from these nighttime vegetable bandits!
Beasley, J. C., & Rhodes, O. E. (2008). Relationship between raccoon abundance and crop damage. Human-Wildlife Conflicts, 2(2), 248–259.
DeVault, T. L., Beasley, J. C., Humberg, L. A., MacGowan, B. J., Retamosa, M. I., & Rhodes, O. E. (2007). Intrafield patterns of wildlife damage to corn and soybeans in northern Indiana. Human-Wildlife Conflicts, 1(2), 205–213.
Humberg, L. A., MacGowan, B. J., DeVault, T. L., Beasley, J. C., & Rhodes, JR., O. E. (2007). Crop Depredation by Wildlife in Northcentral Indiana [Proceedings of the National Wild Turkey Symposium]. Allen Press.
Kelsey Demeny, Meredith McLoon, Benjamin Winesett, Jenna Fastner, Eric Hammerer, and Jonathan N. Pauli. Food subsidies of raccoons (Procyon lotor) in anthropogenic landscapes. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 97(7): 654-657.