Are squirrels, deer or other animals eating your garden vegetables? These garden bed covers are just what you need to protect your garden.
These raised garden bed covers are tall enough to protect tomato plants but could be built shorter for lower plants. The doors provide access to harvest crops or maintain the plants. They work with raised beds and can be customized for any size raised bed garden.
How to keep squirrels out of your garden
I have been having problems with squirrels eating most of my tomatoes before they are even ripe. I would go out into my garden and see all of these beautiful green tomatoes growing on the vines.
Then I noticed that they were not getting ripe. After that, I realized that there were many fewer tomatoes on the vines! The squirrels were getting to them before they ripen.
I don't mind sharing with the squirrels, but when they eat almost all of them, it's too much! My neighbor even told me that the squirrels were leaving the tomatoes on his picnic table.
So, how do you keep squirrels out of your garden? My solution was to build a barrier with these raised bed garden covers.
Click the link to watch the video in YouTube and see the features of these raised bed garden covers.
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The Search for a Solution
This winter, I began looking for ideas on how to protect my tomato plants for the next season.
The requirements for my raised garden bed covers were:
- Sized to fit 4' x 8' raised garden beds.
- At least 40" tall to accommodate the size of the tomato plant supports.
- Needs to sit just inside the bed or securely on top of the raised garden bed.
- Be durable so that the squirrels will not destroy it.
- Allow pollinators to access the plants
- Have doors or some sort of access from the long sides
I already have a few different types of crop protection including crop cages and fences to protect different plants from animals. But, these would not work for tomato plants planted in raised beds and since the tomatoes grow very tall.
I searched on the internet for different types of solutions that could be purchased. Crop cages (see at end of this article for links to the crop cages) would have been a great solution available for purchase, but these are exactly the size of my garden beds and they are lightweight. They would need to sit on the edge of the raised bed and would need to be secured to the top of the bed.
The crop cages also would tend to tip over in stronger summer wind and rainstorms. Also, the squirrels may be able to get under the netting on the crop cages or tear the netting to get in. So, these did not seem like a good long-term solution.
Another solution I use for animals that are close to the ground (ie rabbits, groundhogs), are pet fences/playpens. These come in different heights and I use ones that are approximately 2 foot and 4 foot high. These work nicely for protecting plants from ground dwellers. But, these are not tall enough for the tomato plants and do not provide a top cover.
If you use these pet fences/playpens for garden protection, this Raised Garden Bed Cover tutorial may help you keep the squirrels and birds out.
Since these purchased solutions did not fit all of my requirements, I kept searching for something that could be built. There are many great ideas on YouTube for different types of garden covers. Some are made to cover the entire garden area, others are made to cover traditional gardens instead of raised bed gardens.
The Squirrel Proof Raised Bed Garden Cover
I finally came across a YouTube tutorial by Hydrangea Treehouse. I will include a link at the end of this article to their YouTube and website tutorials.
Their design is simple to build and uses 2"x2" boards to build a frame covered by chicken wire. There are two hinged doors built on one side of the cover. These are built with 2"x2" boards, covered by chicken wire, hung on hinges, and held closed with barrel bolts.
Hydrangea Treehouse includes a free full written step-by-step tutorial and supplies list for their raised bed garden cover (find links below). They also have a PDF tutorial and calculator available to purchase for $4.99. The calculator is very handy to resize the covers for your own raised garden beds.
I purchased the PDF book and calculator so that I could resize the covers to fit my raised beds.
I liked their design, but my beds are 4' x 8' instead of 3' x 6'. The calculator helped showed how many boards to purchase and the sizes to cut them to fit my garden beds.
I want these covers to last so I purchased treated boards for outdoor projects to build the raised garden bed covers.
I also decided to make several other changes to the design to fit my garden's needs. These were:
- Added two additional doors since my beds are not against a fence and access is needed from both sides.
- Added "feet" to help keep the covers from shifting out of place as they are balanced on the edge of the raised beds. These were made from leftover wood.
- Doors are built with 1” x 2” boards instead of 2”x2”. This saved about $35 in wood costs for the two covers since the 1x2 boards are around ½ the price of the 2x2 boards and with 4 doors on each, that’s 14 less expensive boards to purchase.
- Since the beds are 2’ longer than theirs, a board was added in the center with an additional 1”x2” board along with the corner braces to help stabilize it. It did seem to make the frame less wobbly.
- (1-year Update in 2023 - SEE BELOW for replacement instead of using barrel bolts) Two barrel bolts per door. I found that the doors needed to be secured at the top and bottom or they would gap open. If I had used the larger wood, I may not have needed the additional barrel bolts. (OPTIONAL)
1-year later update on Squirrel Proof Garden Bed Covers and Changes made to the closures
These squirrel-proof covers were constructed in July 2023 and I used them for the season. They worked wonderfully to keep the squirrels out of the garden beds and we had a much better harvest!
The height allowed the tomato plants to grow to their full size. Pollinators were able to get through the chicken wire and pollinate the tomatoes.
I saw one squirrel inside the covers. The garden beds have been used for many years and weren't squared up correctly in the center. I wasn't able to square up the beds since the tomatoes were planted before the squirrel-proof covers were constructed.
When the squirrel-proof covers were placed over the beds, there was a larger gap between the bed and the cover and it was big enough to allow a squirrel to get in. This problem was fixed this year by squaring up the beds before moving the covers to the new locations.
One thing I didn't like about the covers was how the doors opened/closed using the barrel bolts. Since there were extra supports on the sides of the center support, the doors didn't close flush with the sides. This made the barrel bolts hard to use.
For this year, we added a toggle closure to keep the doors closed. I've been using this toggle for about a week now and it works so much better than the toggle bolts. It's also much cheaper!
If you would like to see our Squirrel Proof Covers - 1-year update video, click the link to watch on YouTube.
A description and photos of the newly updated toggle closure are included below after the "Installing Barrel Bolts" section.
What You Need to Build the Garden Bed Covers
Look at the end of this article for links to the products needed.
- 2"x2" Outdoor Wood for the frame
- 1"x2" Outdoor Wood for the doors - I used smaller wood for the doors to save money.
- Deck Screws - #8 - 2" screws for the frames and #8 - 1-3/4" screws for the doors.
- 4' wide Chicken Wire - Be sure to purchase wire with smaller holes! There are different sizes of chicken wire. If you purchase wire that is the width of your frames, less trimming will be needed.
- 1/2" Spade Bit
- Cordless Drill
- Wire Cutter, Needlenose pliers, and Hammer
- Stapler and Exterior Staples (stainless steel)
- Exterior Hinges
- (OPTIONAL) Barrel Bolts - I used two barrel bolts per door.
Building the Raised Garden Bed Covers
These garden covers took a couple of weeks to build. It was VERY HOT here so I could only work on them in the morning before it was way too hot to work outside.
I won't be explaining the entire process for building these garden covers since Hydrangea Treehouse's tutorial does that. For the rest of this article, I will talk about tips and also the changes made to the original design only.
Cutting the Wood
The Hydrangea Treehouse tutorial and calculator list the lengths of each board to cut. Using a miter saw makes cutting the wood for this project pretty quick.
As we marked the cutting line on the boards, an 'X' was marked on the side of the board that was wasted. The waste boards were set aside and used to cut the corner brackets and feet.
To cut the corner brackets quickly, put some tape on the miter saw and then align the board with the tape instead of marking each cut. Flip the board over to continue to make the cuts. The brackets don't need to be exact so this worked well.
Assembling the Frames
Start by putting the top and bottom frames together. Add the brackets to each corner of the top frame.
If adding the feet, cut an approximately 6" length from the 2x2" board and screw that into each corner of the bottom frame before adding the corner bracket. The photo below shows the foot without a corner bracket. Adding the corner bracket will keep the foot in place.
This photo shows the corner bracket in place around the foot.
After that, the upright poles were added to the corners and attached to the top and the bottom frames.
If you are putting four doors on each cover, add the corner brackets to all four corners on the short ends without the doors. The corner brackets are important to create a stable frame.
After the frame was built, the additional center support was added to the long sides. A 1x2" board was used for the support and four 1x2" corner brackets were added to stabilize the center support board.
When installing this center support and brackets, set the board as far toward the back of the 2x2" board as possible. This gives room for the doors to close (see photo below).
Chicken wire was added to the short sides and top of the frame in one long piece. Since the frames and chicken wire were 4' wide, it fits perfectly without trimming. The chicken wire was attached with the stapler and a hammer was used to get the staples in completely.
At this time, the frames were placed onto the raised garden beds to make sure they fit properly.
The photos show the frames with the chicken wire on the top and short sides. The two long sides are open to install the doors.
Assembling the Doors
Next, assemble the eight doors and cover them with chicken wire. This process took longer as the chicken wire needed to be cut to size and then the pointy ends bent in so they won't poke anyone while opening and closing the doors.
1x2" wood boards were used for the doors. The frame was assembled and corner brackets were added to each corner. 1-3/4" screws were used for assembling the frames since the wood was only 1" wide. Pilot holes were drilled but we did not use a spade bit for the doors.
The chicken wire was stapled to the door all around an on the corner bracket. After trimming the wire, I used the needlenose pliers to bend the pointy ends up towards the middle. The hammer was used to get the staples into the wood completely and also to tap down the bent chicken wire so it would be flatter.
The doors were hung on the frames using the hinges. Be sure to install the hinges so they will open completely or fold in half.
The doors close and meet up with the center support.
Installing the Barrel Bolts (OPTIONAL: See new option below)
The last step was to install the barrel bolts. The center supports cause our doors to not be flush with the frame at the center. So, the barrel bolts were installed somewhere along the door where the door and frame were flush with each other.
The doors will still be held closed as well with the barrel bolts more towards the center of the doors.
If we left off the corner brackets from the center support pole, then the doors will close and be flush on the corners.
I thought it was more important to have the corner brackets installed on the supports than the doors be flush on the inside corners.
When I installed the barrel bolts at the top of the door, I noticed the doors had a gap at the bottom. This could be because I used the smaller wood for the doors and/or the center support.
So, I decided to add a barrel bolt to the bottom of each door also.
1-year - Change to Toggle Closure
Since I didn't like how the toggle bolts worked to keep the doors closed, we decided to replace them with a wooden toggle closure. After using this new toggle closure for a week, I like it much better than the original toggle bolts.
This new wooden toggle closure also saves money because you don't need to purchase all of the toggle bolts. Use some scrap 1" x 2" wood and a few leftover screws to make these wooden toggle closures.
Depending on what type of screws you have been using to build your squirrel-proof covers, you may be able to use something you already have.
We used 1-5/8" long wood screws to attach the spacer and 2-1/2" deck screws with a flat section to attach the toggle closure. Use what you already have on hand if you can!
First, take pieces of leftover 1" x 2" wood and cut two pieces 6" long for each door. The width between the doors including the width of the door wood was 6". Check before cutting to make sure this length works for your doors.
We have four doors, so cut eight pieces of wood 6" long.
Drill a hole in the center of half of the wood pieces. These will be used for the toggle closure. This hole should be slightly larger than the 2 1/2" wood screw with the flat section to make it easier to turn.
The wood spacers were needed because the doors stick out a bit from the center support. A spacer of one width of the center support was enough for our doors.
Install the wood spacers (the wood without holes) onto the center support between the doors. Install it in the center by putting wood screws near the top and bottom of the spacer. Drill a hole before putting in the wood screws.
The screw will probably stick out of the back of the wood. If you are concerned about this, purchase a screw that is shorter.
Next, drill a hole for the deck screw (with the flat section) in the center of the spacer. This hole should be the correct side for the deck screw.
Install the toggle closure using the 2-1/2" deck screw. Leave it loose enough that the wooden toggle can be turned to open the doors.
And that's it! I am enjoying the new toggle closure to the doors. It makes it a lot easier to get the doors open and closed.
Finished Squirrel Proof Raised Garden Bed Covers
The raised garden bed covers are finished. The doors swing open completely so that the garden plants can be tended and the tomatoes harvested.
I have watering hoses throughout my garden beds. The hoses conveniently fit through a small hole made in the chicken wire and through the corner brackets.
So far, the squirrels have not been able to get in to steal my tomatoes so I'm looking forward to having a nice tomato harvest this year!
You may notice from the photos that there are some gaps between my garden beds and the bottom boards of the new covers. This is because the beds have shifted in the center over the years.
Before the season next year, I will move these covers to other beds and make sure the beds are square and have not shifted out of place in the middle. If they have, I will be able to fix the beds so they are square again.
I'm crossing my fingers that the squirrels will not squeeze through those gaps this summer, but if they do, I'll put some of the extra chicken wire there to block the gaps for now.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and learning about the squirrel-proof raised garden bed covers. Look below for links to the original tutorial I followed to make my covers and other supplies you need for this project.
If you have any questions about this project, contact us through the YouTube Video
comments or our Contact Us page. We respond to questions in e-mails and YouTube comments regularly.
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