In the previous post, we looked at how to form hoops to use for supporting a covering over the garden. In this post, we use the hoops to add netting over the garden to keep squirrels from ruining our tomatoes. Obviously, this also keeps birds from damaging the garden.
The netting is made up of 4′ x 50′ rolls of plastic netting that I bought at Lowes Hardware. Because of the size needed for this project, it took five rolls sewn together to make a piece 20′ x 50′. To sew the pieces together, I roll them out on the concrete driveway and sew them together using trot line cord that can be found wherever fishing equipment is sold (at least down here in The South, since it is used for catching catfish). I made a “sewing needle” from a piece of stiff wire and formed an “eye” in one end. Bend a bit of a curve in it to make it easier to use.
Each hoop consists of:
• 10 section of 1/2″ EMT (galvanized metal electrical conduit) bent into a 4′ radius
• Two 5′ sections of thin-wall PVC pipe slipped over each end of the metal conduit. There is a 3″ overlap on each end.
• Duct tape at each joint to keep it from slipping.
Try to keep all hoops uniform in size and shape. When the hoops are assembled, any differences will become very noticeable and make the finished structure look very sloppy.
The finished structure includes three sections of PVC pipe cable-tied to the sides and the top. This provides support for the covering and makes the whole structure strong enough to hold it together. When it is time to disassemble the structure, just cut the cable ties and the whole thing can be easily stored in a fairly small space.
Side view of the hoops and netting covering the tomatoes
End view. Squash is in the foreground.
There are three sections of PVC pipe that run the length of the frame - one on each side and one along the top.
It is important to keep the lengths of PVC pipe on the INSIDE of the hoops. Otherwise, the covering will hang up on it and be very difficult to work with. For the same reason, the cable tie ends must also point toward the inside.
Hoop frames are a great way to support any kind of covering over a garden. They can be used for a cold frame to protect from frost damage, with netting to prevent damage by birds and squirrels and rabbits, and even to prevent insect damage. Hoop frames can be made in various sizes, from small covers for a 4′ wide raised-bed garden, to a full sized greenhouse. In this post, we’ll be making small frames for the raised bed garden. The material will be half-inch EMT (Electrical Metallic Tubing), commonly known as metal conduit.
The trick to bending hoop frames is having the right tool for the job – in this case, we’ll be building a jig designed for the job. Without a bending jig, you end up with kinked pipe and uneven bends. Aesthetics play a big role in enjoying your garden. Make sure that what goes into the garden is neat and attractive looking.
This jig was built using mostly scraps. The plywood was a badly warped piece that probably should have been cut up and thrown away long ago. The 2×4 pieces were various short pieces that I just couldn’t bear to throw away, so they were stacked in the pole barn. The table frame that they are mounted on was originally built to hold a container garden at waist-high level. The clamps were needed not only to secure the plywood base to the table frame, but to flatten down some major warp in the plywood.
- 10′ section of 1/2″ EMT for each hoop
- 1/2″ PVC 1120 pipe (thin wall) for in-the-ground legs
- 2×4 to make the arc of the jig
- Plywood for the base of the jig
- 1/4-20 x 2 1/2″ bolts and nuts and washers
In the next post, we’ll show how we used it to add netting to prevent damage from squirrels and birds.
Measure from the center point at the top of the arc to find where you need to start the bend.
Start bending the EMT around the jig.
Continue bending the EMT, making sure that it stays flat against the base and doesn't slip.
When the bend is complete, make sure that you don't bend it any more since it is no longer supported by the jig and you will have an uneven bend.
Remove the hoop frame from the jig and adjust if needed.
The finished hoop frame pushed directly into the growing mixture. For taller hoop frames, you may want to insert lengths of PVC pipe over the ends.
#110 Conibear trap set for squirrel
image: William Reid
One of the most serious pests that I have to deal with in the garden is squirrels. They either completely destroy the fruit, or they will eat just enough to spoil it and then move on to the next plant to do the same. A good pellet rifle will help, netting helps, and the squirrels usually find their way to the rat bait in the barn, but trapping also looks like a good way to go. I haven’t tried it yet, but that will be on my “to do” list. Take a look at this post on the Kansas State University Northern Pecans blog.
The Conibear 110 trap can be ordered from F&T Fur Harvester’s Trading Post.
Netting protecting the strawberries
Guarding your garden against various pests is a never-ending task if you expect to benefit from your labor. Before adding this netting over the strawberry plants, the squirrels were getting them before we were. They still get one on occasion when they can reach through the netting, but most of the strawberries are out of their reach. While a pellet rifle with a good scope does a fine job of thinning the population of “fuzzy tail tree rats”, it just doesn’t compare to netting when it comes to results. It may be more satisfying to see the little thieves fall from a tree, but it doesn’t even put a dent in the population. Netting is far more effective.
The down side to using netting is that if I’m in a hurry in the morning, it’s easy to just take a quick look for ripe strawberries to pick rather than removing the netting and looking carefully under the leaves. I’ve lost some by letting them get over-ripe.
This year, we just had 4 strawberry plants. We will definitely be increasing the number next year.