Gardening can be an enjoyable hobby, except when your dogs decide to traipse through your garden. A mud-covered dog, especially an 83-pound German Shepherd terrified of the bathtub, is not fun. Large paw prints where I want to plant a seedling, or seed, are a pain.
Besides Luna causing problems with my garden, there is the other pest of rabbits. I like seeing rabbits outside, I think they are cute, but only when they are in my neighbors’ yards. When a rabbit is in my yard, they are a pest.
Between Luna and the rabbits, I had to do something to protect my garden this year. Last year I just used those green fence posts used for snow fencing and chicken wire. But I didn’t like it.
Chicken wire attached to fence posts worked great, but it’s a pain. I have to bend over it or step over it to get to my garden. And since I have raised beds I’d rather not step into them. I worked hard to get the soil loose, I don’t want to compact it by standing on it.
Another problem with this type of fencing is the grass that grows up into it. I can’t hit it with a trimmer because of the chicken wire. I’m stuck either pulling the grass by hand or leaving it. After a few weeks I end up just leaving it and it looks ugly the rest of the summer.
A third problem I have with this type of fence is particular to the colder areas. I left the chicken wire fence up around my strawberry bed for the winter. Once the snow melted the fencing looked terrible. There are spots that have bent down quite a bit.
I decided this spring to take the time to make something that would work better than just fence posts with chicken wire. It had to be sturdy, but relatively inexpensive as well.
And it has to keep both dogs and rabbits out. And maybe the birds as well. I don’t mind feeding the birds, but I’d like to be able to eat the strawberries I grow.
My solution? A removable garden cover made out of PVC pipe and chicken wire.
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- ¾ inch PVC pipe
- ¾ inch side outlet elbow
- ¾ inch tee
- 3 ft chicken wire
- Zip ties (a lot)
The quantity of each will depend on the size bed you are making the cover for and how many beds you need to cover. I used 8 side outlet elbows per bed and 4 tees per bed for a 3 ½ ft by 7 ft raised bed.
I also purchased the PVC pipe in 10 ft sections because they were cheaper by the foot, and easier to find in store, than the shorter pipes.
If cost is a big concern you can reduce it by using 90° elbows and more tees. It would require more cutting, but the savings is significant. I made covers like this with the 90° elbows for my raised beds at my old house and they worked just fine. Just took more cutting and measuring.
Also, if you want a taller cover you can use 4 ft chicken wire instead of the 3 ft wire. I don’t recommend using any of the plastic garden fencing, or the larger square garden fencing. At least two of my neighbors had rabbits chew through the plastic fencing. And one neighbor had some small rabbits squeeze through the large square fencing.
The smaller square fencing, with holes smaller than chicken wire, would probably work. I believe it is more expensive than chicken wire, but if you don’t like the look of chicken wire it would be my next choice.
How to make your garden cover
First, start with measuring your raised bed before buying the PVC. I like to give myself at least two or three inches extra on each end to make the cover easier to lift on and off.
If your bed is 5 feet or less on a side, you can get by without using the tees for those sides. Over 5 feet, I recommend using a tee in the middle.
You also need to decide how tall to make your cover. I made mine 2 ft tall. I chose this height because it was the extra left on the pipe after cutting two pieces for my base.
My original plan had been to make it 3 feet tall, but I had forgotten to factor in the extra space I wanted to make it easier to lift the cover off and put it back on. Factoring that in, I had to make my cover shorter or go buy more pipes.
Once the bed is measured and you have all your supplies you can start cutting. For my 3 ½ by 7 ft beds, I cut (well actually hubby cut, and I helped) the PVC to 4 ft so that I had 12 pieces for each cover.
PVC can be cut with either a hacksaw or a PVC ratchet cutter. We used a hacksaw, but the ratchet cutter may be easier for this size pipe.
Since I shortened the height, this also gave us our 6 uprights. Hubby was able to get 2 side pieces and 1 upright from each 10 ft piece of PVC.
Now that all the pieces are cut, lay them out into a rectangle (or square if that’s the kind of bed you have). Put the corners and tees on where needed for the base.
Then put your uprights into the side outlet of the corners and the third spot on the tee.
Next put your connectors on the uprights and put the remaining pieces in to form a rectangle (or square) on top of the uprights.
Now you have the frame for your garden cover.
The final step is to put the chicken wire around the cover. Hubby likes to start at the corner. Roll the chicken wire out enough so that it is out of the way while someone attaches it to the corner upright with zip ties.
I found it easiest to have one person unroll the chicken wire while another attaches it with zip ties. I even got CJ to help by giving zip ties to hubby to make his job a little easier.
Hubby zip tied the chicken wire every 4 to 6 inches on all the top and bottom and all the uprights. If you are leaving the top open, make sure to fold over the extra height so that the chicken wire is out of the way.
Once that is done you can stop, or you can put a top on it. For most of my raised beds I stopped with the top open. That will allow me to have these removable covers on the beds with taller crops, like tomatoes.
For my strawberry bed I will be making one with a top, similar to the one pictured below. This one we made for our raised beds at our previous house.
To put a cover on it you just lay chicken wire across the top and zip tie it to the PVC pipe or the folded over chicken wire. Putting the top on isn’t necessary unless you have birds you want to keep out. Or daring rabbits that will jump into the bed.
Once the cover is made just carry it to your raised bed and set it down over the bed. Now your dogs, and pesky rabbits, should stay out of your garden.