Got critters destroying the veggies in your raised beds? Or moths chewing your crops? These homemade squirrel screens stop four-legged critters from causing trouble and help prevent insects from invading.
Also see these ideas for designing and building raised garden beds.
One Garden Screen—Four Uses
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!
I also wanted a way to prevent the moths from getting to my broccoli, cauliflower, and kale and a way to slow down the squirrels and other mammals from destroying the vegetables.
I call the solution ‘squirrel screens’ but it’s not a new invention.
The construction is fast and easy and they keep a variety of pests out of the beds.
If you are growing things that do not depend on insect pollination, you can keep the screens on for the entire growing season.
If your crops require pollination, remove the screens when the flowers are ready for the insects to do their thing, and put them back when that stage is over. Even that will reduce a good deal of destruction.
Made from 2×2 wood pieces and hardware cloth (look for lead-free or stainless steel-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.
Depending on the critters you are trying to outsmart and the type of crops you are growing, you may want to do a variation of this.
One option is to build a box that sits on top of the raised bed with hardware cloth sides and top: this will allow more height for crops while keeping everything protected.
If voles are coming up from below, lining the bottom of the bed with hardware cloth will definitely slow them down.
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.
Crops to Grow Under Squirrel Screens
- Brassicas: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kohlrabi
- Leafy greens: lettuces, mesclun mix, spinach, rocket, endive, mustard
- Legumes: peas and beans
- Onions and leeks
- Root Vegetables: beets, carrots, horseradish, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas
Here’s a basic rule for knowing which crops do not rely on pollinators: non-flowering prior to food production. I made that rule up but I think it works!
Also, if you use a fine hardware cloth (wire mesh) with a 1/8″ grid, the mice don’t come in the top. Bonus!
If you have burrowing pests (mice, voles, trolls), a layer of 1/8″ grid hardware cloth in the base of the raised bed may deter them.
I keep the screens on until the plants are well-established, and then remove them. The critters cause much more destruction when the plants are young and tender.
Next, I use the screens as growing supports (see below).
Related: Top Garden Tip Sheets
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.
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 older 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 Squirrel Screens
For each raised bed, I make two frames that together will cover the entire surface.
You could also make one big frame with some cross-pieces for extra stability.
- 2×2 wood. 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 stapler 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 so accept imperfection.
- 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.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛