If you’ve been following my blog since last summer, then you know all about my never-ending battle with the squirrels. Last year, I did not get to harvest one single tomato because the squirrels stole every one before they were even ripe. This year I decided to build a raised bed, and build an enclosure with chicken wire to protect my precious tomatoes from a premature death. Little did I know when I made those plans that I was going to meet a man right at the start of gardening season who is an engineer!
Logan and I had plans to build something that would keep the squirrels out – but frankly we were winging it with our limited knowledge of cutting and screwing together lumber, and stapling on some chicken wire. One of the first things I told Michael about myself was my love for gardening. When I talked about making an enclosure for my tomato bed, he volunteered to design and build one for me, if I was willing to share my tomatoes. I wasn’t about to turn him down! I even added a fourth tomato plant to my bed just for him.
The tomato bed turned out to be pretty simple – I found a kit in exactly the size I wanted (4′ x 8′) on Amazon made completely of cedar, which means it’s virtually rot-proof, for $149.00. I put this together easily by myself, stapled landscape fabric to the sides, then filled it with garden soil. I bought my tomato plants – an early girl, a roma, a big boy, and my personal favorite; an heirloom brandywine – and got them in, then let everything grow while Michael designed the enclosure. I told him we would have until about mid-June before I started seeing tomatoes.
As it turns out, those tomatoes must have really loved my soil, because I discovered two green tomatoes on the early girl plant just a couple of days before the end of May! I sent Michael a text and told him we would have to get that enclosure built a little sooner than anticipated, so we got to work that next Saturday, June 8th. My mom was in town for a visit, so she brought Grandpa’s truck down and Michael, Logan and I took it to Menards to get our supplies.
We were racing the rain, but we made it to his friend’s house to cut the lumber (his friend does woodworking and has every tool we could possibly need for the project) and got the cut boards all unloaded in my carport ahead of the drizzle. Michael and Logan set to work assembling the lumber while my mom and I made a couple of store runs and put together some lunch. Then helped stretch the chicken wire onto the doors that, by that point, were assembled and waiting.
Myself and my boys, my mom, and Michael moved the enclosure to its place on the tomato bed, where Michael and Logan attached the last couple of boards and stapled on the last panel of chicken wire. What we ended up with is a 4′ x 8′ x 6′ enclosure with four doors – two on each of the long sides of the bed – to access the tomatoes. The enclosure sits down perfectly inside of the tomato bed, with no room for pesky squirrels to get inside!
Since we were in a time crunch – the first two tomatoes on the plant were already stolen by the time the enclosure was done – we put it up without any kind of sealer or stain. We wrapped the posts that go into the soil in plastic sacks to keep the soil off of them. Then at the end of the season we will take it back down and I will put polyurethane on it to protect it from the elements moving forward.
I can’t believe how well it turned out! There is no way Logan and I could have come up with anything even close to this, and I am super impressed by Michael’s skills. He put a lot of work into it, and in the hours spent working alongside my son he was incredibly patient. He taught Logan how to design a structure on the computer (I assume using CAD, but I honestly don’t even know what program he used), how to assemble it, and he set a wonderful example of a good attitude. We got to spend some time together, my son got to do something he loves, and my tomatoes are now squirrel-proof. I call this project a huge win!
Coming soon on the blog…tomatoes–because this year I’ll have some!