Ways to Critter Proof Your Vegetable Beds: A Competition

Day and night superimposed: bird netting fail!

Day and night superimposed: bird netting fail!

Root Simple is proud to announce our equivalent of the X-Prize. No, we’re not asking you to figure out a low tech method to catapult rich silicon valley executives into the vacuum of space. What we’re looking for is a means to mammal proof vegetables beds that is:

  • Convenient
  • Effective
  • Attractive
  • Wildlife friendly
  • Easily disassembled in the off season

Note that we’re going to be particularly stringent in judging the aesthetics of the solution. Mrs. Homegrown has an M.F.A., and is a blistering in-house art and design critic around our little homestead.

Participants can leave a comment on this post linking to an image, or send us an email at [email protected] The winner will get a package of our newest publication–a series of booklets we wrote in collaboration with the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano.

I will also be participating in this competition which does seem unfair, but we’ll let Mrs. Homegrown be the judge.

Leave a comment


  1. I don’t have a solution yet, but I look forward to seeing the proposals! Next spring will be my first year planning a veggie garden in the ground (vs the balcony gardens I’ve had thus far) and our lot backs up to open space, so lots of rabbits and other wildlife. Add in an HOA and my own design training and I need something effective and attractive!

    • We used to have a Doberman. Funny thing is that he had no prey drive whatsoever. Except when it came to skunks, and that never went well!

  2. I’ve had good luck protecting seedlings and small things, mostly from squirrels, by making a forest of bamboo skewers around them. Not a wall like a stockade, just a lot of skewers spaces 1″ apart or so. Point up or down is optional.

  3. I am currently living in Vancouver with resident bears and raccoons who will lift and throw or chew through ANYTHING to get at the goodies inside. Seriously, we have been through every available trash container and are currently keeping our trash on our second story deck. Even then we have mornings where we wake up to the trash spread from one end of the deck to the other.

    If you want to keep out the raccoons that we have in suburban LA you’re going to have to build an enclosure with heavy wire mesh. And you probably want to dig the mesh (chicken wire won’t do!) about a foot down into the soil as well.

    Raccoons are strong and very agile. The LA-issue trash containers are too tall for them to open if the lid opening is up against a wall but they can unlatch all of the shorter “locking” containers we have up here. And they can chew through heavy plastic and bend chicken wire.

    Sorry but there’s no shortcut on this one if you’ve got hungry raccoons who are attracted by your fruit trees.

  4. When do you plan to pick the winner? I won’t be building my own critter-proof beds until November.

  5. Easy. Rural beekeepers solved that problem years ago by installing solar powered, critter proof, electric fences with small mesh netting. Go to Mann Lake’s website and type in “solar electric fence”. Esthetically pleasing, easy to setup/disassemble, and both domestic pet and wildlife friendly.

  6. FINALLY something I can talk about with a degree of certainty! We moved to Serendipity Farm as wide eyed city folk. We thought that possums were cute, wallabies were lovely little things and all birds sang and didn’t do much else. We were SO wrong! They are all ninjas of the dark arts, sent to steal everything of worth in your vegetable garden. I gardened. I cobbled together a sad and most pathetic selection of bird netting and logs and star pickets and anything that would stop the hoards…they attacked by night, I repaired by day. They broke my spirit. I regrouped to lick my wounds and think about how to beat them. I found a source of ex fish farm netting, strong enough to stop a seal chewing his way through to eat the delicious salmon it contained for free and we set about converting a tennis court sized patch of land into “Sanctuary”. Sanctuary is my one place where NOTHING can eat what I grow. We fortified it with plastic coated metal clothes line. We made it strong so the invading possum hoards could only bounce on the trampoline taut top of the mesh and gaze longingly at the delicious haul below…this year we GET SOME VEGETABLES!

    You can see Sanctuary in this blog post. Stevie-boy is making me a concrete ramp so that I can wheelbarrow things into Sanctuary, my new vegetable haven and you can meet our latest freeloader native animal who has decided to pinch whatever he can…


  7. Motion detector sprinklers can do wonders. Might need a few of them to really protect a bed though. They also protect against pesky neighbors!

    • Use 6′ prefab fence panels like the ones used for dog runs. You can put as many together as needed for your space. You can put in a gate and cover the top with any of the above mentioned meshes.

  8. Do you want a picture? Or, a description? I have the dog pen of chain link. The top is covered with 1/2 inch WBG, welded before galvanizing, mesh, also called hardware cloth. Put this on the sides of the chain link. Between the two, nothing can chew through or crawl through.

    Put dog/hog wire on the ground with walls of the pen sitting squarely on the 3′ wide dog wire. Place hardware pins into the ground to hold it down. This is so you will not trip on it, not to deter digging under. The raccoon will go to the upright fence to dig under and will not know to back up and dig under the fence lying on the ground. Besides, nothing that would dig or crawl under would make a tunnel that long. If you think there is a possibility, put rebar or bamboo stakes up against the fence, inside or out.

    Next, put an electric fence at least one foot high about one foot from the chain link fence. I want lights on the electric fence that will have to be attached to the door without electrifying the door! Solar would be good.

    Yes, it is extreme, but only a fortress will reduce the numbers and kinds of critters that will get to my hens or gardening efforts.

    The grass grows through the hog wire laid flat on the ground, so it is not unsightly in a few weeks, can be mown over immediately.

  9. I’m glad things haven’t gotten bad enough for me to have to resort to building a fortress. The critters do get a few things but I just try to factor that into my expectations so that I don’t have to do as much work. Putting my effort into planting more seems more worthwhile. I know that doesn’t always work. We have a virtually unprotectable avocado tree that the criters strip the fruit from when only a few inches in size. Managed to save the last two with strips of foil. Not sure if it scares or distracts them but managed to work. I would rather distract, scare and feed than put my yard in cages.

  10. It is depressive to see the failed attempts and now it’s is like a war between me and the raccoons in our backyard. I have some veggies grown in my backyard but it all end up waste because of few hungry raccoons. I love animals but these just make me change it. Finally, last week I tried the final way which I thought would be best is call for a humane raccoon control service in Toronto, Hawkeye Bird & Animal Control.
    They relocated these raccoons and I’m pretty confident that I can carry on with my veggies without the fear of those bandit coons.

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