Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Keeping critters out of gardens with a crop cage

A few months ago, I was 9 months pregnant, had just planted a garden, and then had a garden disaster where all of the leaves of our cucumber plants were chewed by a critter. The plants subsequently died. My husband took pity on me and purchased a few more cucumber plants and quickly built a crop cage out of PVC piping and leftover (affiliate link) >> protective netting << from last year.

The rectangular prism is PVC pipes cut to our custom dimensions (4 equal lengths for length, 4 equal lengths for width, 4 equal lengths for height), with eight 3-way elbows (our piping and fittings were spray painted to blend in with the netting). I recommend using PVC pipe glue to secure your structure (ours was made relatively quickly and was not glued in place, causing occasional frustration).

Each side was covered in protective netting held in place with zip-ties.

Originally, we were going to have a door that we could swing open for us to water and harvest, but there was a miscalculation on the amount of PVC pipe needed and ended up with a half door, which turned out better than anticipated, as I'll explain later. The door is 4 more PVC pipes cut to our custom dimensions (2 equal lengths for length and 2 equal lengths for height), with four 90 degree elbows. It was planned to be secured semi-loosely with zip-ties on one side and a string/latch on the other which would be used to open/close it. However, it's firmly zipped on both sides.

We were considering placing sand in the bottom PVC pipes, but my husband forgot to buy sand when he was purchasing material for the cage. We played it by ear and would have purchased some later, but it stood by itself and held up to some stronger wind gusts, probably due to the larger size. The cage was too big to remove and replace for watering every day (plus the plants eventually grew into it). However, it was lightweight enough for us to lift the sides for harvesting the hard to reach larger crops in the far corners. Some crops like the smaller strawberries and green beans could be pulled through the netting. You can also water through the netting if needed.

With a half door, we ended up not using the door at all. Instead, we draped the top section with the netting, which we moved up when we needed to water. The plants grew into the door, leaving it non-functional. The door is about hip height for me, which makes it hard to reach the stuff on the ground or beyond arm reach, but that's how I found out about the lifting of the cage to get the hard to reach stuffs. This complicated door design/access also could have deterred neighbors/strangers (we have our garden in a shared area), who, along with critters, we think were stealing some of our crops in previous years.

We were concerned about the netting and pollination of the plants. The netting was big enough to allow bees entry for pollination.

We ended up with so many cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, and green beans that we were able to enjoy many for ourselves and share with neighbors!

Plate of fresh regular and apple cucumbers

I highly recommend a crop cage if your garden is suffering from critter problems.

Do you have any hobbies you do and improve upon based on trial and error?


  1. I need to make a crop cage like this next year!

    1. I highly recommend it, MaryAnne! It's taken away many of our gardening frustrations.