DIY garden cage meant to keep squirrels out, tomatoes in

We planted a large garden this year, hoping to be almost drowning in tomatoes by about this time.

 

We got a few nice ripe ones – and then I started finding the almost-ripe tomatoes on the ground in the yard, with huge squirrel bites out of them.

 

And then I started finding green ones torn off the vines and pretty soon, there were no more tomatoes or even any almost-tomatoes. Here, I will tell you I exclaimed “darn squirrels” but let me assure you, my actual response was much more emphatic.

 

Rob's first proposed solution – to buy a pellet gun and shoot those suckers before they could steal any more tomatoes.

 

I figured the neighbors – all dog owners – wouldn't be too fond of that, and besides, nothing would keep the squirrels away when Rob and I aren't around, which is a large percentage of the time.

 

Rob found himself with an unexpected day off a few weeks ago and set to protecting our garden from squirrels with his second-choice solution: chicken wire.

 

I missed the beginning of this one, because I was at work. But he bought big green stakes and a huge roll of chicken wire. He used scrap lumber from our basement to make a frame for one wall so he could put in a door on hinges. (You can see the door in the photo he took.)

 

By the time I first witnessed it, it looked like a large fence around our garden. That would've been sufficient if we were just battling rabbits, but he and I both realized we'd actually just made a fun little squirrel jungle gym. I can just imagine them chattering away: “Wheee, a fun obstacle course AND dinner at the Dickinsons' garden.” Ugh.

 

So, the next day, Rob and I bought more chicken wire and these big, long pieces of steel that Rob called straps. I called them heavy. They also made my hands black.

 

Using clamps, Rob bent them into a sort of swooping bracket shape and attached them to each fence stake with bolts. He's pretty smart about these things.

 

We added a chicken wire roof (not as easy as it sounds, and it was hot that weekend) and did lots of stitching with wire to close up the gaps. Otherwise, it

would just be an enclosed jungle gym for the squirrels, which was not what I wanted after spending a bunch of time and money on the project.

We were pretty successful at this – meaning we only trapped one squirrel, and were able to watch him exit and close that gap soon after.

 

The resulting cage - we affectionately call it the tomato prison - is huge. Rob comes from the school of thought that "anything worth doing is worth overdoing." I''m not kidding. He came up with the motto.

 

The bad news is, the squirrels did so much damage to our crop that there's almost no tomatoes even close to harvest. The good news: our peppers are thriving, and at least we'll have this shelter for next year's garden. And my mom has plenty of fresh tomatoes for me.

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Christine des Garennes wrote on August 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Ha, ha, that's great: "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing."
Btw, your cage looks very similar to our garden fence, except we didn't go over the top to enclose it. And as a result we've lost many tomatoes to the squirrels. Those creatures are unavoidable in old town areas.

Meg Dickinson wrote on August 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm
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I despise them. Before this, they camped out in our soffits and have eaten lots of pumpkins and squashes.

John Beck wrote on August 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm
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Ha, that's quite a contraption. I've been battling them for years. But I think the only real way to solve this problem is to grow enough for you and the critters.