This time I’ll be Critter-proof…

Or my series of bad ideas.

Making garden fences from scratch

Last Wednesday, I saw three rabbits eyeing my garden like they owned it. “Nuh uh. Not my crops.” I thought while scaring them away. I had (already) purchased PVC and plastic caging to deter the pests, but since I didn’t have the time during the week to assemble a structure, I thought I would at least bar the entrance into the backyard with some plastic caging.

That night I barely slept. I had terrible dreams of black rabbits terrorizing the backyard and eating the garden in it’s entirety. Then the f*ers pooped 48 giant piles right in the middle of each square foot, just so they could show me who was boss. Why the rabbits were black I don’t know, but the dream was terrifying. I woke up in a cold sweat, got out of the bed, went to the kitchen to pour a glass of water and looked out of the window. Everything appeared safe so I went back to bed and I was able to finally drift off to sleep. My next dream — rabbits. This time they dug a ginormous den/lair under my neighbor's porch, so they could build a tunnel under my beautiful lettuce. I woke up before anything terrible happened. I was slightly relieved knowing that my raised beds are lined with metal caging to keep out burrowing pests.

The next morning before any of my normal morning routine, I went straight outside, afraid that all of the hard work I’ve put in the last few weeks would be in vain. Phew. Everything was intact— for the most part. Peter (or Petra) Rabbit chewed right through the makeshift barrier I put up. Luckily, no vegetation was harmed. Bad idea #1. Rabbits can chew through plastic caging.

Over the weekend, my partner and I assembled, disassembled, and re-assembled a guard to keep out rabbits and squirrels. It felt like an Ikea furniture project, without the illustrated instructions, beautifully flat-packed boxes, screws and hex-keys.

Since the plastic caging obviously was not going to work — the barrier was chewed clean through — we thought to build a cubed cage that fits on top of each of the beds. I measured all of the beds, cut the PVC accordingly (or so I thought) and we were off to re-assembling. What I didn’t take into account was the extra quarter inch each of the fittings took up and therefore had to cut the PVC. Bad idea #2. Having a teetering cage sitting atop a raised bed screams “free vegetables” to all of the rabbits.

L: Bad Idea #1 Plastic Caging is a no-go. M: Bad Idea #2 Poorly measured frames. R: Bad Idea #3 Mixed medium caging.

Next plan: Replace the plastic on the bottom with chicken wire. Bad Idea #3. Using mixed mediums when dealing with chicken wire, it doesn’t remain taut. So, the PVC had to be cut the AGAIN — to eliminate the plastic on top.

I took a note from the trellises we built a few weeks ago and decided to implement a similar strategy. It was a much better option to make individual fences per side, to allow for adjustments that could be made easily in order to tend to or harvest the crops. Voila! Finally a good idea! The chicken wire was taut, everything stayed nice and neat, and it was modular.

Ultimately, I saved a LOT of money building the structures myself, instead of purchasing pre-fabbed ones. They may not be as pretty, but they are sturdy, will last for multiple seasons, and I learned a lot doing it.

Lessons learned:

  1. Chicken wire is a bitch to deal with. Holy smokes. WEAR GLOVES. Prepare for your arms, hands, legs, and other body parts to be scratched. It’s also very flimsy.
  2. Measure Twice, cut once. You hear it all of the time, but seriously, do it. We would have saved a lot of time cutting PVC again and again, if we had measured right the first time.
  3. Use one type of material — mixed media only works well for art projects.
  4. Find someone to help you. It helps to have someone who can share in your misery/laugh at your mistakes. My partner and I make a good team. (I already knew this). We got some sun over the weekend, and didn’t tear each other’s heads off with all of the assembly and re-assembly. That would be the end of most relationships ;)
  5. If at first you don’t succeed… Keep trying.