If you need to keep animals out of your raised garden beds or want to slow down pests like cabbage moths, these multi-purpose protective screens are a good addition to the garden.
Before you build, The Best Wood For Raised Garden Beds shares sustainable and long-lasting wood options.
DIY Protective Garden Screens
I have approximately 25 squirrels that frequent my garden on a daily basis. That’s a lot of birdseed-stealing, nut-hiding, and veggie garden digging going on!
In addition to their slowing down their antics, I wanted a way to prevent the cabbage moths and butterflies from getting to my broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, and prevent various other animals from destroying the vegetables. I find the most critical time is when the plants are still seedlings and one rowdy squirrel can stomp everything in an instant.
What we often call “cabbage moths” are actually butterflies (Pieris rapae)—they are the white, fluttery ones you’ll see scoping out your brassicas.
There are also (brown-ish) moth species we call “cabbage moths.”
This includes the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) and
the cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni) which you’ll also see around cruciferous vegetables.
I call the solution ‘squirrel screens’ but it’s not a new invention. The are simple wood structures covered in hardware cloth set over raised beds to keep uninvited animals out.
If you have shallow raised beds, they are useful during the seedling and young plant stage until the plants need more head room. Since writing this, I have tripled the height of my raised bed walls (without raising the soil level) and the screens are handy all the way through the growing season.
When any crops requiring insect pollination are flowering, the screens come off. Once pollinated, they can go back on again.
There are also several other uses as you’ll see below.
If you’d like more tips on what can planted in early spring before last frost, see Spring Gardening: Is It Safe To Plant Outdoors Yet?
One Screen—Four Uses
1Protect Seeds and Seedlings
Placed over freshly sown beds, the screens prevent birds and other nibblers from taking the seedlings.
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 or birds for pollination. This includes any crops we eat prior to flowering like broccoli, kale, salad greens, and so on.
2Support Climbing Plants
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.
Related: Simple Indoor Seed Sowing Plan
A few of my raised beds are in very sunny locations and the plants get too much heat.
This offers enough shade to prevent seedlings from drying out and non-fruiting plants from bolting.
4Frost & Snow Protection
In the colder months, I add hinges to the screens to secure them to the raised beds and place frost covers or tarps on top to protect the winter greens (spinach, lettuces, mesclun mix, kale, broccoli, parsley…) from the cold and winds. You can see one of my winter veggie beds here.
How to Build Raised Bed Screens
Materials & Tools
For each raised bed, I make two frames that, together, will cover the entire surface.
It’s helpful to also add handles to make them easier to pick up and move.
- For 6×3 raised bed (2 units):
- (4) 2x2x36 (long sides)
- (4) 2x2x33 (shorter sides)
- (8) 2x2x17 (cross supports)
- For 8×4 raised bed (2 units):
- (4) 2x2x48 (long sides)
- (4) 2x2x45 (shorter sides)
- (8) 2x2x17 (cross supports)
Hardware cloth – preferably 1/8″ grid – look for a size to match your screen widths (36 or 48-inches). Calculate amount needed based on final size of your screens.
(24) 2 1/2 ” deck screws for attaching the wood frame pieces (one per corner).
#8 screws require a 7/64″ drill bit for the pilot holes and a 3/8″ countersink bit.
(48) 1/4″ wood screws and washers for holding the hardware cloth in place or a good stapler with heavy duty staples.
Wood glue to reinforce joins.
Hinges (optional-if you want to attach the screen to the raised bed).
Electric drill with bits or electric screwdriver.
Exterior primer/paint or wood stain (optional)
- If you want to paint or stain the wood, do that first.
- Pre-drill holes in wood before inserting screws (this keeps the wood from splitting). Use wood glue at all joins. Be sure your joins are square before fixing things in place.
- 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 so accept imperfection.
- Cut hardware cloth to same size as surface of each screen. Attach with small screws and washers and or heavy-duty staples.
- Add handles if desired.
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.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
A Weekly Indoor & Outdoor Seed Sowing Plan for Beginners
by Melissa J. Will
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