I wanted to share a project that we completed this weekend at "the farm." We built these these protective cages using a method that we found in Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardener; page 65 in the edition that I have, in the chapter entitled "Building Boxes and Structures."
- Wood for the frame: We used 1" x 2" x 8' strips and used the hardware store's saw to cut them to our 4' length.
- Chicken Wire Mesh: we bought a 50' roll, the best value since we plan on making several of these at varying heights.
- Screws: We bought 1 3/4" wood screws
- Plastic ties: I wasn't crazy about using plastic for the attachments, from an eco-standpoint, but they're pretty darn slick and super-easy to use.
- Drill: I already own this.
- Wire snippers: I already had these as well.
- Staple Gun: If you don't have a staple gun, you could use the plastic ties which is what the book recommends. But again, I think the less plastic we use the better. Plus, by using the staple gun we were able to make our attachment a bit more snag-free which is a consideration when working with this rascally wire-mesh.
I apologize for the skip in the photographic documentation that occurs here; but we learned that it takes two to wrangle the wire mesh into submission. I'll try to document these steps when we build the next ones and provide an update to this post. But I wanted to get these photos up that I have so far, because I was pretty impressed at how quickly it went together and optimistic that they're going to be super-useful to us. They're also quite economical to build. Even purchasing the materials, I estimate that we spent about $10 in materials for each frame. But these could be even less expensive if you happen to have scrap wood around that you could re-purpose for building the frame.
Here's the gist of what we did.
- Figure out what size you want your frame to be. For our beds we wanted them to be 4 foot square so that they would sit on the lip of our 4' x 8' raised beds and cover half of the bed.
- Build your four-sided frame. I recommend that you pre-drill your holes to limit the possibility of the 1" x 2" splitting. Make your attachment with one of your wood screws.
- Cut your wire mesh to appropriate size with wire snips. For the cage pictured below, the finished height is 6 inches, so we cut two lengths of wire mesh, that were 5 feet long each, off of the roll, which is 4 feet wide.
- Prepare the chicken wire mesh. Now here's the tricky part to visualize and also the reason that I don't have good photos of these steps. The wire mesh has a mind of its own and wants to fold back on itself, but once creased will hold its shape. So we creased the mesh at 6 inches from each of the ends.
- Attach the mesh to the frames. It will really help if you enlarge the pictures below (click on them and they should open up larger in a separate window) and look closely at them. The two mesh panels are stapled to the inside of the frame.
- Once you have attached the mesh and your frame looks like the one below, you can consider yourself done, or you can cut frost cloth to size and clip on the frame as we have done.
Their reason for being: our buddy Jack! He's a digger and wreaked major havoc with a lot of our plantings last year, so we really hope that these will deter him. We'll create some method of securing them more firmly to the beds.
And here's a little closer view. If you click on the image to enlarge this, it might help you understand the construction better. Perhaps you've already got it, but I have to say I had a terrible time visualizing how the mesh was connected to the frame when I was reading about these in the book. We've strayed from his method somewhat but I hope you get the gist.
And of course, this is what it's all about, right? We were able to plant our first cold-season greens with more confidence that Jack, or raccoons, or whatever other creatures we're bothered by, won't undo our hard work.
Ta da! Now that we've built one, making more will go a lot faster. We'll make these in varying heights for the most flexibility in terms of how we'll use them. We've got enough supplies so that we should be able to make four frames of varying heights. They can be covered, or uncovered, with cloth and easily moved from bed to bed, to wherever we need a bit of added protection, shade, or pest protection.
I'd love to hear from you if you've built something like this in your garden or if you take a shot at building these. Let us all know about your project by leaving a comment on this post.