Garden Fortress to Stop Deer and Other Vegetable Predators





Introduction: Garden Fortress to Stop Deer and Other Vegetable Predators

About: I love to create and build things with my kids. The instructables website has been a great source of inspiration for finding new and fun projects. I hope return the favor and share a few of our families or...

Despite a nice fence, we have a lot of deer, rabbits and other animals that wander through our yard grazing on all vegetation - including any attempt I make at a vegetable garden. I thought about putting up 6-8 foot fences to keep the animals out. Setting aside the eyesore this would create, I thought this would be more time and money than I was willing to take on. Instead I decided to construct a closed-in structure that allowed in rain and sun, but not animals. I also wanted to make sure this small garden would be easy to weed and maintain.

Overall, I was able to complete this project in a weekend and I am very satisfied with the results.

Motivation for the design came from community garden just down the road. They used an old plexiglass door to make a small greenhouse of similar shape. Instead of a plexiglass door, I purchased a screen door from a the local Habitat Re-sale store for about $20. The following is a list of materials you would need to build your own:

1 - 6' Reused screen door (preferably with the hinge still attached).

2 - 10' 6x6" wood posts**

2 - 7' 2x4" wood studs

3 - 7' 2x6" wood panels**. I had leftover wood from a previous garden box that failed to keep out anything.

1 - 4x8' decorative lattice panel for the back.

1 - box of carpentry screws (I used 2" drywall screws, but I would recommend the better stainless steel kind).

1 - Roll of chicken wire

** NOTE: In earlier versions of this instructable I recommended treated wood (to avoid rot) even though my garden fortress was built with untreated wood. However, a user comment (see below) from defwheezer suggested that treated wood may be a problem in contaminating the soil. I think defweezer presented a resonable argument against treated wood and it is better to air on the side of caution and use untreated wood.

Step 1: Tools Needed

Tools you need include the following:

  • Post hole digger
  • Drill
  • Drill bit set
  • Saw
  • Measuring Tape
  • Level
  • Tin snips (for cutting chicken wire)
  • Staples and staple gun.

Step 2: Cut, Dig and Set Posts

The measurements used in this project are intended more as a guideline. More important is to keep the pairs of posts (front and back) at the same height and level.

  1. I cut the 2 10' posts at 66 inches. The shorter sections (54") are set aside for the front posts and the longer ones (66") for the back posts.
  2. With the help of my kids, I dug one of the back post holes first. Once I had one post in the hole at the desired height (38" sticking out of the ground), I filled in the dirt while using my level to ensure the post was straight upright.
  3. I carefully dug the second hole so that the post would be the same height as the first. I used one of the 2x4"s placed across the poles to make sure everything was level and straight. It took adding a little dirt back in the hole but finally I was able to fill in around the post and everything was level vertically as well as horizontally.
  4. I used the same procedure in steps 2 and 3 to place the front posts. The outside distance between the front posts ended up to be 40 inches and the height of the front posts ended up being 26 inches sticking out of the ground. These heights allows the screen door to be at a nice angle facing the south (sun).

Step 3: Build Frame and Add Door.

Next, I centered and drilled the 2x4s to the top of the posts and cut a frame around the base of the garden using the 2x6 plank. Since the garden is on a hill, I mostly just cut the frame to fit and look nice. I did make sure that the plank on the back was square with the rest of the frame so it would be easier to fit the lattice later on.

I then attached the door to the top 2x4" so that it would lay flat on the front 2x4" and open nicely.

I finished this step by filling in the base of the garden with some extra soil I had from a different part of the yard. Make sure that you use appropriate soil for the your garden.

Step 4: Enclose the Frame.

The final step is to enclose the frame to keep out the pests.

  1. First, I cut the decorative lattice to fit the back opening of the structure. Instead of attaching this directly to the frame, I just placed screws in key locations to allow me to hang the lattice. This makes it really easy to take it off and on in order to weed and harvest the garden.
  2. Second, I cut out the chicken wire to cover the remaining structure not covered by the door and the lattice. I attached the chicken wire using the staple gun. If you have never worked with chicken wire it can be a little tricky. It is fairly easy to cut, but it tends to poke. Bend and shape the chicken wire into the form you need and you can wrap it around itself to make the shape hold.

Step 5: Plant, Grow and Eat

I am pleased with how my garden fortress has turned out. I was hoping to include pictures of the deer near my garden but so far they have been uncooperative. Access to the garden is really easy given the door on the top and the removeable lattice on the back.

This has been my first instructable. Please post a comment, I would love to hear if you found this useful. Feel free to see my blog for other projects I work on:

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One thing to keep in mind is that, depending on where you live, CCA is only used for treating wood for specific applications (like hydro poles). For about the last 10 years, most treated lumber (at least in Canada) is treated with alkaline copper quat (ACQ), so it no longer contains arsenic. I wouldn't use it to build a wooden storage box for animal feed or a water trough or something where it comes into direct contact with food, but doesn't have the same toxicity concerns with applications such as this where it is simply forming a frame around it. However, because it contains copper, you do need to be more aware of the fasteners and any other metal that comes into contact with it, as it's easy to create a galvanic cell and have significant corrosion issues (like aluminum flashing for instance).

I looked into this a few years ago when trying to decide what to build some raised gardens with and had come across a few studies that showed no detectable harmful leaching into the soil from ACQ treated lumber in a raised bed type scenario, but if you are really concerned you can either use a rot resistant wood like cedar, or stick with untreated SPF (spruce pine fir). The cost of the actual lumber is pretty negligible in this application and it's not something that would be difficult to repair if needed. You can always put the frame on brick footings or something similar to help keep it dry and prevent/slow the rot.

Um, you are going to a lot of trouble to solve what seems to me to be a simple problem. Get a dog. Clearly you have a yard, so that is not an issue, and a good Rottweiler, Blue Heeler, or other breed will keep out the stray herbavores. I used to have a wolf that kept out stray pit bulls in my North Tulsa neighborhood. Made life MUCH safer for me and my family. Rabbits are also tasty as are deer, unless you are a vegetarian. You might also consider non-lethal rubber rounds for a shotgun to run the deer and rodents off. Nothing like a round of rubber pellets in the backside to convince someone/thing that they are not where they are supposed to be. (We used rock salt when I was a kid.) Good luck!

2 replies

A dog is great to keep the deer off unless it is the dog that is eating the garden

I knew a CSA farmer who kept a Great Pyrenees to handle the deer. He didn't have to buy much kibble. My problem is raccoons and possums... not as tasty as deer and rabbit, I understand.

Chicken wire is only strong enough for chickens (ask anyone who keeps chickens how well it keeps out foxes and raccoons). Hardware cloth and some additional posts might handle more persistent and stronger pests.

I've seen cows push their heads under wire fences to eat the grass on the other side.

nice! I like the dual access (lid + lattice that lifts out).

This is a very good idea and I like the use of untreated lumber. One problem with untreated lumber is that it will rot much quicker. You might want to suggest something like cedar for the posts.

Also, as having built a garden similar to this, you may want to consider a side door that opens on hinges instead of the lattice at the back of the garden. My wife is in our garden at least every day and having to unscrew the lattice would be quite inconvenient. It will also make it easier when you need to till the garden for next season or load mulch and compost.

2 replies

Thanks for the comment jerzman94.

Cedar posts or the Trex style decking wood may be an interesting alternative. I used mostly what I had on hand.

I am using the screws as hooks and not actually screwing anything in (maybe it is hard to see in the pictures). I just lift the lattice off the screws and set it to the side so it is not in my way.

I didn't realize that's what you were doing. Maybe a quick note in the picture would help.

nice idea! now how do i keep the dog from lifting his leg on anything i try to grow!!

1 reply

Although it is sort of expensive, you could use Trex style decking wood in place of the "treated" wood.

Overall, great instructable!

Very nice !

Love this! My husband & I did something similar, except instead of chickenwire we used summer weight row cover fabric. We have the worst problem with vine borers and trying to grow zucchini is horrid around here! So far, so good!

Nicely done. Seems well thought out. Looks like it would be easy to convert to a cold frame with some plastic and tarps. That would allow you to extend the growing season a bit

1 reply

I like the cold frame idea. The door frame that I used has a removable screen. I was thinking of going back to the Habitat for Humanity Re-store and seeing if I could find the interchangeable plexiglas insert. Then all we would need is some plastic around the edge held up by the chicken wire.

You did such a great job on this..I could really use it. I'm worried about the critters getting into my strawberry plants...this would help a lot.