Squirrel Proof Raised Garden Bed Covers for Tomato Plants

Are squirrels, deer, or other animals eating your garden vegetables?  These garden bed covers are just what you need to protect your garden from squirrel damage. 

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 vegetable garden.DIY Squirrel Proof Raised Garden Bed Cover - fb

My Battle with the Squirrels

Last summer, I had problems with squirrels eating most tomatoes before they ripen.  I would go into my garden and see these beautiful green tomatoes growing on the vines.  

Then I noticed that they were not getting ripe.  After that, I realized there were fewer tomatoes on the vines!  The squirrels were stealing the fruits of our labor before they ripen.

I don't mind sharing extra tomatoes with the squirrels, but it's too much when they eat almost all of them! My neighbor even told me the squirrels were leaving the tomatoes on his picnic table.

So, how do you keep squirrels out of your garden?

Many suggestions or products are for sale, like motion-activated sprinklers, cayenne pepper spray, sprays made from hot peppers, Irish spring soap, and predator urine spray. I've considered these, but the sprays would need to be reapplied often and after every rain.  Since I have two 4-foot x 8-foot garden beds full of tomatoes, it would become expensive and time-consuming to keep spraying all summer long.  So, my solution was to build physical barriers with these raised bed garden covers.

Click the link below to watch the video on YouTube and see the features of these raised bed garden covers.

COMPLETE VIDEO TUTORIAL AVAILABLE! The video below is a preview with no audio, to watch the whole video tutorial, click the link Squirrel Proof Raised Garden Bed Covers for Tomato Plants to watch in Youtube.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. We make a small commission on sales through the affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your purchase and your support! Please see our full Affiliate Statement for more information.

The Search for an Ideal Solution

This winter, I began looking for ideas to protect my tomato plants and keep out those pesky squirrels 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 cages.
  • Needs to sit just inside the bed or securely on the raised garden bed.
  • Be durable so that the squirrels will not destroy it.
  • Allow pollinators to access the plants.
  • Have doors or some access from the long sides

I already have a few types of crop protection, including cages and fences to protect different plants from animals. However, these would not work for tomato plants planted in raised beds since tomatoes grow very tall.

I searched the internet for different types of solutions that could be purchased. Crop cages would have been a great solution, but these are precisely the size of my garden beds and lightweight.  They would need to sit on the edge of the raised bed and I didn't have a good way to secure them to the top of the raised bed. 

If not secured properly, the crop cages will tip over in stronger summer winds and rainstorms. The squirrels may be able to get under the bird netting on the crop cages or tear the plastic mesh to get in.  So, these did not seem like a good long-term solution.

Another simple solution I use for animals close to the ground (e.g., rabbits, groundhogs) is pet fences/playpens. These come in different heights, and I use ones approximately 2 feet and 4 feet high. These work nicely for protecting plants from small animals and ground dwellers. But they are not tall enough for 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 my requirements, I kept searching for effective methods that could be built.  YouTube has many great ideas for different types of garden covers.  Some are made to cover the entire garden area, and others 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 to their YouTube and website tutorials at the end of this article.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Finished 2

Their design is simple to build. They use 2" x 2" boards to build a frame covered by chicken wire. Two hinged doors are built on one side of the cover. These are built with 2" x 2" 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 for $4.99. The calculator is convenient for resizing the covers for your own raised garden beds.

I purchased the PDF book and calculator to resize the covers to fit my raised beds.

Design Changes

I liked their design, but my beds are 4' x 8' instead of 3' x 6'.  The calculator helped show how many boards to purchase and the sizes to cut them to fit my vegetable beds.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Finished

I want these covers to last, so I purchased treated boards for outdoor projects to build the raised garden bed covers.

The row covers were about 59-1/2" tall, perfect for tall plants like tomatoes.

I also decided to make several other changes to the design to fit my garden's needs.  These were:

  • I added two additional doors since my beds are not against a fence, and access is needed from both sides.
  • We added "feet" made from leftover wood to help keep the covers from shifting out of place as they are balanced on the edge of the raised beds.
  • Doors are built with 1” x 2” boards instead of 2” x 2”. This saved about $35 in wood costs for the two covers since the 1x2 boards are around ½ the price of the 2x2 boards. With four 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 using an additional 1”x 2” board. Additional corner braces helped stabilize it. It made 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.  I may not have needed the additional barrel bolts if I had used the larger wood. (OPTIONAL)

1-year later update - REPLacing the Barrel Bolts

These squirrel-proof covers were constructed in July 2022, and I used them for the first season.  They were an effective deterrent and kept the squirrels out of the garden beds, and we had a much better tomato harvest!

The height allowed the tomato plants to grow to their full size. Pollinators could get through the metal mesh wire and pollinate the tomatoes and other vegetable plants.

I saw one squirrel inside the covers. My raised garden beds have been used for many years and weren't squared up correctly in the center.  I couldn't 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, big enough for a squirrel to get in. This problem was fixed this year by squaring the beds before moving the covers to the new garden beds.

One thing I didn't like about the covers last year 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, making the barrel bolts difficult to use.Squirrel Proof Cover Update Toggle Installed

This year, we added a toggle closure to keep the doors closed. I've been using this toggle for about a week, and it works much better than the toggle bolts.  It's also much cheaper!

If you want to see our Squirrel Proof Covers - 1-year update video, click the link to watch it on YouTube.

Below, a description and photos of the newly updated toggle closure are included after the "Installing Barrel Bolts" section.

2-years later - Squirrel-Proof Enclosure Garden Bed Covers (2024 update)

After two years of experience with these garden covers, I LOVE THEM! These are the best way of keeping squirrels away from my vegetable plants and are well worth the money and time to build. They are still in good condition, and I only had to replace some of the staples on the chicken wire because they came off. I am planning to create some other covers for my remaining beds.Squirrel Proof Beds 2024

This year, in early spring, I moved them back to the garden beds they were covering the first year. I squared up those garden beds before moving the covers onto them, so there were no gaps this time.

In the photo, you can see tomatoes and lettuce inside the crop covers. The lettuce grew on its own. We have several bunnies in our yard, and usually, any volunteer lettuce gets eaten. But the covers protected the lettuce from those little guys and allowed it to grow.Squirrel Proof Beds 2024 Volunteer Lettuce

What You Need to Build the Garden Bed Covers

Look at the end of this article for links to the products needed. My local hardware stores had all of the necessary supplies for this project.

  • 2"x2" Outdoor Wood for the frame
  • 1"x2" Outdoor Wood for the doors - I used smaller wood 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 the width of your frames, less trimming will be needed.  
  • 1/2" Spade Bit
  • Cordless Drill
  • Wire Cutter, Needlenose pliers, and Hammer
  • Staple Gun 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 too hot to work outside.

I won't explain the entire process for building these garden covers since Hydrangea Treehouse's tutorial does that. For the rest of this article, I will discuss tips and 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. Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Cutting Wood

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 I used them for the corner brackets and feet.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Cutting Boards Marking scrap side with x

To cut the corner brackets quickly, put some tape on the miter saw and align the board with the tape instead of marking each cut. Then, flip the board over to continue making the cuts. The brackets don't need to be exact, so this worked well.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Cutting Corners

Assembling the Frames

Start by assembling the top and bottom frames. Then, 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.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Show Foot In Corner

This photo shows the corner bracket in place around the foot.Raised Garden Bed Covers Bracket over foot

After that, the upright poles were added to the corners and attached to the top and bottom frames.

If you are putting four doors on each cover, add corner brackets to all four corners on the short ends without the doors. The corner brackets are essential96 b for creating a stable frame.

After the frame was built, the additional center support was added to the longer side pieces.  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).Raised Garden Bed Covers Center support and brackets

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 a staple gun and hammer to get the staples in completely.

At this time, the frames were placed onto the raised garden beds to ensure they fit correctly.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Frames Complete Side View

The photos show the frames with the chicken wire on the top and short sides.  The two long sides are open for installing the doors.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Frames Completed

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 wouldn't poke anyone while opening and closing the doors.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Door Finished

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 making the frames since the wood was only 1" wide.  Pilot holes were drilled but we did not use a spade bit on the doors.

The chicken wire was stapled to the door and on the corner bracket. After trimming the wire, I used the needlenose pliers to bend the pointy ends towards the middle. The hammer was used to tap the staples into the wood fully and to tap down the bent chicken wire so it would be flatter.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Close Up Door

The doors were hung on the frames using the hinges.  Be sure to install the hinges so they will open entirely or fold in half. Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Hinges Door corner

The doors close and meet up with the center support.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Finished 3

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.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Show hinges

The doors will still be held closed, with the barrel bolts more towards the center of the doors.

If we leave off the corner brackets from the center support pole, the doors will close and be flush on the corners.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Show Top Barrel Bolts

I thought it was more important to have the corner brackets installed on the supports than the doors be flush on the inside corners.

I noticed a gap at the bottom when I installed the barrel bolts at the top of the doors. This could be because I used smaller wood for the doors and/or the center support.  

So, I decided to add a barrel bolt to the bottom of each door.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Finished 4

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 saves money because you don't need to purchase 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!Squirrel Proof Cover Update Wood Screws for Spacers

First, take pieces of leftover 1" x 2" wood and cut two equal 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.Squirrel Proof Cover Update Spacers and Toggles

We have four doors, so cut eight pieces of wood 6" long.Squirrel Proof Cover Update Screws for Toggles

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. Squirrel Proof Cover Update Toggles with Holes Drilled

The wood spacers were needed because the doors stuck out 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.Squirrel Proof Cover Update Spacer Installed

The screw will probably stick out of the back of the wood.  If you are concerned about this, purchase a shorter screw.

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.Squirrel Proof Cover Update Hole Drilled

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.Squirrel Proof Cover Update Toggle Installed

And that's it! I am enjoying the new toggle closure on the doors. It makes it a lot easier to open and close them.

Finished Squirrel Proof Raised Garden Bed Covers

The raised garden bed covers are finished.  The doors swing open entirely so the garden plants can be tended and the tomatoes harvested.Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Open Door

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.Raised Garden Bed Covers Hose Through Corner

So far, the squirrels have not been able to get in to steal my tomatoes, so I'm looking forward to having an excellent tomato harvest this year and enjoying the homegrown fruit!Squirrel Proof Garden Covers Open Door Between Beds

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 can fix the beds so they are square again.

I'm crossing my fingers that the hungry squirrels will not squeeze through those gaps this summer, but if they do, I'll put some of the extra poultry 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 Hydrangea Treehouse tutorial I followed to make my covers and other supplies you need for this project.
Chris's Signature


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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DIY Garden Bed Cover

This is the tutorial I followed to make my garden bed covers with the alterations described in this article. Hydrangea Treehouse

DIY Raised Garden Bed Cover VIDEO | How to protect your vegetable garden from small animals

This is a link to the Hydrangea Treehouse video on making these garden covers. Hydrangea Treehouse

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