Squirrel screens are one way to keep cats, squirrels, and other wild animals from digging in raised garden beds.
Also see, free plans for making raised garden beds.
One Garden Screen—Four Uses
Made from 2×2 wood pieces and hardware cloth (more details below), these garden screens have brought peace to my garden. No longer are the squirrels, chipmunks, and birds pulling up my freshly planted veggies. Plus there are some other uses for these simple screens as well.
1. Seed Guards
I place them over the raised beds after planting seeds or seedlings. This keeps the birds, squirrels, and other uninvited guests out.
If your beds are tall enough, you can keep the screens on throughout the growing cycle for any crops that do not rely on insects / bees for pollination. This includes legumes (beans, peas), carrots, peppers, and greens (lettuces, spinach). Also, if you use a fine hardware cloth (wire mesh) with a 1/8″ grid, the mice and flying insects don’t seem to be able to get in either. Bonus!
For plants that need bee pollination, I keep the screens on until they”re well established, and then remove them. I find the critters cause much more destruction when the plants are young and tender.
2. Climber Supports
Placed vertically (with two long screws holding the frame against the raised bed), the hardware cloth gives climbing vines like cucumbers and watermelons something to grab onto.
3. Sun Protection
A few of my raised beds are in very sunny locations and the young seedlings get too much heat. I attach the garden screens vertically on the sunny side and cover them with row covers (see them at Amazon.com) (held in place with binder clips-see them at Amazon.com). This shields enough sun to keep the seedlings from drying out. I didn’t get a photo of this so please close your eyes and imagine it. I know you can do it. And then come back and keep reading.
4. Frost & Snow Protection
In the colder months, I add hinges to the screens to secure them to the raised beds and place frost covers (tarps) on top to protect the winter greens (spinach, lettuces, mesclun mix, kale, broccoli, parsley…) from the cold and winds.
How To Make Garden Screens
For each raised bed, I make two frames that together will cover the entire surface. You could also make one big frame but they get awkward to handle when they’re bigger and harder to store.
- 2×2 wood (not pressure-treated: you don’t want those chemicals leaching into food crops). Measure the four sides needed for each of the two frames. My raised beds are 4×8′. To cover each bed, I used (4) 2″x2″x8′ spruce and the guy at the store cut them exactly in half. In other words, (8) 2″x2″x4′ are needed for the two frames covering one 4×8′ raised bed.
- Hardware cloth – preferably 1/8″ grid – in the same width as my screen so I don’t have to piece it together (my screens are 48″ wide). Wire mesh/hardware cloth comes in a roll and is sold at most Home Depot type stores. You can also order it online.
- (8) 2 1/2 ” deck screws for attaching the wood frame pieces (one per corner).
- (24) 1/4″ wood screws for holding the hardware cloth in place or a good staple gun with strong staples.
- Hinges (optional-if you want to attach the screen to the raised bed).
- drill bit, screwdriver bit, electric drill.
- Pre-drill holes in wood before inserting screws (this keeps the wood from splitting).
- Make sure you configure the wood the same way for each of the two frames (how the ends butt together) and that together they fit nicely on the raised bed. The 2×2 lumber can be a bit twisted.
- Measure (and think) three times so that you will only cut once. Or, as the saying goes, measure twice and take the average. (Kidding!)
- Ignore the clicking sound the squirrels will make when they realize they can’t get under the screens and dig up your new garden. They’ll get over it and raid the bird feeders instead.