Grit Blogs > Of Mice and Mountain Men

Building Garden Fence Boxes

In this second part of my discussion on garden fence boxes, we’ll look at how I built the boxes for my garden. First a quick review.


Why boxes?  Because my property is on a mountain side and our yard is sloping, I chose to use raised beds to keep my garden from washing down the slope every time we get a hard rain.

Why fencing?  To keep rabbits and dogs out of my crops.  If coon, possum or deer were a problem for us I’d need to modify the design to suit the pest: at least cover the top with mesh too, and lock the boxes down.

Why not a perimeter fence?  My garden cuts a swath up the center of my main “yard”: the area with fewest trees and the most sunshine.  To perform routine maintenance I must traverse this area frequently with my lil tractor and wagon.  Having to get off the tractor to open and close gates is a hassle, and I have yet to be able to build a rabbit-proof gate.

Variations on a Theme

01 Hoop houses 

I am converting the hoop houses I built last fall, for reasons that were discussed in the last segment, to use a different design.

02 Basic fence box 

The basic fence box or frame is a rectangular box and is open on top for easy access to the crops inside the box.  The box lifts off easily when closer access is needed.  This is the summer box.  For winter use I could just wrap this in plastic, but the top would collect rain and snow and probably pull loose.  I thought about incorporating bows to support the top, but adding stress back into the frame is something I wanted to avoid.

03 Fence box with roof 

This house-shaped addition will effectively shed rain and snow when covered with plastic and adds no stress to the frame, so I don’t need to use glue in assembling it.  It will offer enough height that even Brussels Sprouts can grow down the center two rows and not be brushing up along the wet cover for my winter crops.

04 Roof corner joint closeup 

The tricky joint is made from a tee in the side rail and two elbows, all joined together with short lengths of pipe.

05 Trellis box 

For those crops that need something to climb on I built a special split box with a trellis section in the back fastened to the wooden garden box and a three sided fence box…

06 Trellis Box open 

…that lifts out of the way to allow me access for planting and weeding.

07 Blueberry hoops 

I used some of the bows from the Hoop Houses to construct a frame to support bird netting over our blueberry plants.  This is a short term solution.  Once the bushes get some size to them…

07b Blueberry future 

I’ll extend these hoops with more saved from the last design to create arches from the front of the blueberry bed to the top of the grape arbor built right behind.  I’ll extend these arches out the other end to enclose the strawberry bed as well.  These three structures were sized and placed so I could cover the whole assembly with bird netting to protect them.  The quarter-circle ends (one must include a door of some kind) will be the only tricky part. 

Building the Frames

Fence Boxes 8 frame 

The basic frame is a box 46 inches square by 24 inches tall.  No great challenge here.  However, standard plumbing fittings would make this task daunting.

Fence Boxes 9 elbow with side port 

I found this fitting at Lowe’s, it’s called a “90 degree elbow with side port”.  I do not think it’s a standard fitting as I’ve never encountered it before – but I’m not a plumber.  But it works great for building square corners!

Fence Box 10 chop saw 

My workshop is equipped with a chop saw (aka compound miter saw) with a long stock support table and fence.  This makes it a snap to set up for cutting identical lengths.  If you are not so fortunate, a tape measure, sharpie and a hacksaw will do the trick.

Using this set-up it takes only a couple of minutes to cut all the straight parts and assemble with corners.  Be sure you seat all the connectors fully by tapping or squeezing them.  I do not use any form of glue or cement.  Friction is good for now, once the chicken wire is added that will hold the frame together as I move it about.   

Doing Chicken Wire the Hard Way

Fence Box 13 cutting mesh 

I already had a large roll of 48” high chicken wire (poultry mesh) that I had bought to sheath the hoop houses.  I figured I’d use that rather than spending more money on a roll of 24” mesh.  This proved to be penny wise and pound foolish.

I tried two ways of doing this.  One is to cut 24” high segments off the 48” wide roll of mesh; four for each box.  Sliding my arm through this gash as I snipped the wires resulted in some bothersome lacerations to my arms because of the many sharp pointy bits left sticking out of the cut.

Fence Box 14 prickly bits folded 

Add to that the fact that in order to keep from sticking myself every time I handled the frame, I needed to bend over the prickly bits, at least along the top.

Then there was the task of folding and joining the four loose panels of wire mesh at the corners: 48” wide mesh, boxes that are 46” outside dimension leave approximately 44” inside.  Cutting the mesh off on one end didn’t work well because it cuts away the neat, reinforced edge wire.  So folding, fitting and wiring both pieces to the posts, then more wire to hold the “flaps” down.  This was time consuming.

Fence box 15 finished edge 

I tried cutting a 16 foot length off the roll and splitting it in half.  This allowed me to use the finished edge of both strips at the top of the box.  Start at one post, apply the wire *inside* the posts (to provide an air gap when I cover the outside in plastic for the winter so the wire doesn’t rust so badly) work around the box and back to the starting post.  Only one “flap” corner to deal with and I can cut away most of the excess here then weave the prickly bits sticking out into the wire to hold it flat.

This is better, but I’m still ripping up my arm cutting the wire.  Now I’m wrestling with the wire in 16 foot lengths instead of 2, and…

Fence Box 16 center wire 

There is a center wire down the middle of the 48” span.  This makes it ideal for my purpose – on one side.  The other side is left with a ragged edge filled with long prickly wires and very little strength, meaning many more attachment points needed.  Still a lot of work and harm done to my flesh.

The Easy Way

Fence Box 17 easy way 

Just go buy the roll of 24 inch mesh and be done with it!  I’ll use the 48” mesh on something else.  I attach the mesh to all corner posts first, then go back and secure it to the top and bottom rails. 

Fence Box 18 clipping bailing wire 

I used standard bailing wire to fasten the poultry mesh to the rails and posts because… well… because I had bailing wire on hand.  And because it works well.  Bailing wire will rust fairly quickly and makes orange stains on your pretty white pipe.  But it won’t rust through for a long time, it’s malleable and it’s strong.  I also had some lighter gauge galvanized wire.  This would not rust so fast, but it proved to be brittle and many of my lashings ended with the wire snapping as soon as any tension came into the joint.

Fence Box 19a bailing wire ready 

You quickly learn what the ideal length is.  It helped me a lot to make sure I lap the two pieces the same way each time so I’d be twisting the same direction each time.  The end pointing to the right is in front of the end pointing up; that means that twisting these so the top rotates toward me will twist them around each other.  Doing this consistently saves confusion and do-overs.

Fence Box 19b bailing wire twisting 

Grip the wires with the pliers at the junction and give it a twist or two to secure them.  Gripping both ends evenly twists both around the other, get off-kilter and one will remain straight with the other winding around it: not nearly as strong.

Fence Box 20 stretching the mesh 

I also found it beneficial to size the uprights so the mesh fits between the upper and lower rails.  No big issue on the upper rail if it overlaps or even protrudes above, but this keeps the wire away from the damp soil under the lower rail, thus helping to prevent rapid rust-out of the mesh.

There ya have it.  Nothing too challenging about any of this once I had the right materials.

I will mention that on the tall trellis panels I use two lengths of 24” mesh run vertically with the finished edges attached to the side poles and overlapping at the center.  A few stitches with light wire to tack the overlap together and the whole thing came together easily.

Fence Box 40 handy doodads 

Because I had a bunch of extra fittings lying around I decided to make up planting aids.  Again, no glue, so if I end up needing the fittings for something more important I can easily recover them.  Each is 12 inches square, the one helps me plant 4, 8 or 16 plants to a square foot, the other covers 9 and 1.  It was a novelty at first, but I’ve found it very useful.

So, what did you think?  Find anything useful here?  Do you have suggestions?  Feel free to share!

8/15/2016 8:26:16 AM

I covered my small elderberry bush/tree with sheer netting curtains that I picked up at the thrift store to keep the robins out. I tried using the bird netting but it's a hastle to put it on the tree, take it off and fold it up again for next year. You could probably use one for a flat roof on your square food garden to keep birds out. They were very inexpensive too.

8/3/2016 9:07:12 PM

Very nice :) WalMart sells double polished clear vinyl sheet (Kittrich Corporation brand) by the foot in their fabric area. That might be useful for crafting covers for the Winter. I used my sewing machine and clear nylon thread to make waterproof/snowproof covers from the vinyl but if you don't sew you could always use clear Gorilla tape to craft the covers.

1/23/2015 1:09:26 AM

I visited your link and was very much glad to see this beautiful project.I appreciated your insightful ideas.It is well said that People use fence for both safety and security purpose and for beautification as well. I also deal with fencing supplies and love to read your topics and I think your insight will definitely inspire to every homeowners. Nice share.

3/21/2014 8:42:20 AM

Several of you mentioned using zip ties: wonderful idea! I use zip ties for the roof tarps of our dog pens, I don't know why that didn't occur to me. Yes I do: I've only seen them at Lowes and they're pricy there. Will check out Big Lots the next time I'm in Jeff City. THANKS!

3/20/2014 11:14:57 AM

I prefer using zip ties also, they can be purchased at many lengths and they avoid the additional work of all that wire twisting. (they sell them at Big Lots very cheap) I have set mine up inside a 'dog cage' that was laying around, so there wasn't any PVC involved. A good outdoor paint keeps it from rusting, and the zip ties are much easier to 'arrange' than wire, and holds just as tightly. If you make a mistake, just snip the tie, and reposition it. It is 8' wide by 16' long and has a 'top' that keeps animals/birds out. To protect it during colder or wetter months, I use 6ml plastic (lowes) to cover on the outside (zip ties hold it in place) and since the 'top' is caging like the sides, there is no need for extra bracing. Using pallet wood (and pallets that are adjusted for size) I've built levels where shorter plants are closer than taller plants, and I use the "Square Foot" method for soil and garden weed fabric to line them and keep the soil inside the boxes. No weeding, no pests, and easy continuous sowing of the next crop.

3/20/2014 10:25:04 AM

Love reading about the beds. I found that my "girls" are kept out of the beds just using the plastic chicken fencing. It cuts easily, no shredded arms, and seems to do the trick. It's been a week and they haven't been in the beds at all. I have raised beds, and use pvc supports. I'm lazy, and just put the ends of the "hoops" into the dirt at the edges of the beds, except for one bed where I used those wonderful 90° corners from Lowes. It's fun to play with those connections, reminds me of tinker toys from my distant youth. Zip ties are another win for these projects. Thanks for posting your photos... it's inspiring. Think I'll go out and sow some more seeds...

11/21/2013 12:07:30 AM

Do I also see that the wood used for the beds is treated? Think of a cradle to cradle use of materials.

11/21/2013 12:04:32 AM

I like the idea, but the use of PVC. I was planning on doing the same, until I looked into it further Go to this link to find out why.

11/21/2013 12:01:12 AM

I like the idea, but the use of PVC. I was planning on doing the same, until I looked into it further Go to this link to find out why.

11/20/2013 7:56:08 PM

LOVE these ideas. When I make similar structures I use coated chicken wire since it "bites" less than non-coated. I also use zip ties.

michael underhill
3/26/2013 10:16:16 PM

Job well done. I might add,that if you cover in plastic. Spray plastic with Silicone. This will bead of the water and snow in the winter months. Just an idea. It works on camping tents, why not plastic covering. Thanks for sharing your idea. Mike Underhill , nashville,Tn.

robert fischer belanger
3/15/2013 5:37:58 PM

great idea

tj tarbet
5/25/2012 1:47:00 PM

Only one suggestion: go buy a BIG bag of zip ties and use them instead of bailing wire :)

nebraska dave
5/21/2012 1:43:25 PM

Allan, all great useful information. I feel your pain about the chicken wire. I still have some fences to shore up at Terra Nova Gardens. My first round of fencing was quite uneventful as I didn't have to cut the fence. I just wrapped the 48" wire around the 32'X32' area. Now I need to cut the rest into two foot strips to band the bottom of the current wrapped around fence to secure the uneven area at the bottom of the fence. I will most likely be feeling your pain with cutting chicken wire into strips. I will be trying to build a critter secure gate to the fenced area as well. I do have ideas about how to accomplish this but the first order of business is to get everything planted and growing. The weeds are under control but now the grass is going wild at the new property. This first year is a lot of work to tame the wild inner city garden plot. Thanks for all the good chicken wire fence tips. Have a great day in the critter proof garden squares. The planting aids are a great useful idea.