Garden Defenses: Making a Sturdy Cover for Your Flower Pot

So, a couple of blogs ago I started off by discussing my poor chomped on bachelor button plant. Let me show you my solution to this problem. While I would prefer to have completely “natural” and unfenced gardens, this is simply unrealistic in the environment that I live in, especially with our continuing drought. As far as the wildlife is concerned my garden is a veritable supermarket of yummy water logged flowers and vegetables, just ripe for the picking.

First decide on what sort of materials you are going to use. I chose hardware cloth because I wanted to make a permanent cover for my flower pot that I can use every year. Now this is not a tiny flower pot. The inside diameter of the top of the pot is about 16 inches and the pot is 15 inches tall. I had a piece of hardware cloth, left over from another project that was 17 inches tall and about 6 feet long. I simply coiled the hardware cloth inside the lip of the pot, noted where to cut the wires (leaving at least an inch or two overlap), removed it from the pot, and used my dikes to cut the wires.

Let me take a moment to show you my basic arsenal of tools for this project.

tools for fencing

Pretty basic stuff – a pair of wire cutting dikes, a pair of needle nosed pliers, and a roll of baling wire. You may also consider having another set of pliers on hand, just in case you really need two hands for something. I usually carry a smaller set of needle nosed pliers, just in case. The red and white checked table cloth is not necessary, but it does add a nice “country” touch – yes, that is really my kitchen tablecloth.

Once I had cut the hardware cloth I refit it to the pot to be sure that it was the correct size – better to find out that I had made a mistake now than after I had wired it together. Then I used my needle nosed pliers to create spirals from two inch pieces of baling wire.


This spiral isn’t very pretty, but it will still work. I simply hold the hardware cloth ends together (remember that overlap!) in the position that I want them, spin the spiral wire so that it rotates around both layers of the hardware cloth wires to hold them together and then squish the coil tighter with the needle nosed pliers to hold everything in place. Put as many spirals on as you need to to create a sturdy structure.

hardware cloth in place

Now I had a sturdy hardware cloth “wall” around the pot, but I still needed a top. If you don’t need a permanent top you can just cut a piece of fencing – either hardware cloth or chicken wire to fit and put a rock on top, or use zip ties or twist ties. If you need to create shade instead, just use a board or piece of plywood to cover the top. I wanted to attach a “permanent” top of chicken wire, so I cut a piece that was larger than the top of the circle of hardware cloth. I then bent the chicken wire down around the edges to form it to the hardware cloth and twisted a few of the loose chicken wire wires around the hardware cloth to anchor it in place.

chickenwire top

My flower pot cover was now complete. I can lift it off if I need to pull a weed or two. Before I put the top in place I threaded the drip irrigation in through the hardware cloth and anchored it where I wanted it with small plastic spikes. In the week since I did this the bachelor button is already beginning to perk up and the seeds that I planted are sprouting and growing in the safety of the wire cover.

Next: Garden Defenses – Making Large Covers for your Garden.

Garden Defenses: Designing Your Enclosures to Meet Your Needs

Last time we discussed the basic need for protecting plants from hungry critters, and what sort of materials you might choose to use. We also mentioned briefly the need to think about what sort of longevity you wanted to have in these structures. Let’s talk a little more about that.

Say I wanted to create a simple, easy to assemble, temporary cover for a plant – just something to keep the bunnies from munching on it until it was big enough to not mind an occasional trimming. A simple piece of chicken wire, held in shape by a couple of zip ties or twist ties would do the trick. If I needed to hold it down a rock, or a landscape spike or two would keep it in place (we have high winds where I live on a regular basis).

I have a section of flower bed in the yard where I grow Violas. Last year the baby bunnies were sneaking into my yard and munching them, so I quickly threw up a piece of hardware cloth and held it in place with short pieces of rebar. I had actually planned to do something fancier, but time got away from me, and by the time I realized it the violas had grown through the hardware cloth and created a lovely cascade of flowers, the majority of which was protected from bunnies. So I left it. The marauding bunnies have once again trimmed the violas outside of the hardware cloth this year, but not the plants or seedlings on the inside. I am planning to rebuild the enclosure next year, but meanwhile my “stock” of naturally reseeding violas is safe from the rabbits.


There is a wonderful kitty at our house named Jesse James. He totally loves playing out in the yard, chasing grasshoppers and lizards. But he also loves to use my freshly dug garden beds as a litter box. Something that I do not approve of. So, when I plant a section of garden bed, as soon as it is planted I water it (he does NOT like mud) and then I cover it with a piece of wire. It may be chicken wire, or in the case of larger plantings, like my potato bed, field fencing, but it keeps out the kitty and allows the plants to grow safely. In the case of the potato bed, I remove the wire when I hill up the potatoes and put down plastic mulch between the plants. Sometimes I simply leave the chicken wire in place on the ground and let the plants grow up through it.

cat protection

If you are growing Cat Mint (catnip) you may find it necessary to make a cover for your plant. Cats will sometimes eat the plants all the way down to the ground in their search for a “feline high”. It can actually kill the plant. A simple chicken wire “hat” should be enough protection. The cats will trim it to the wire, but the plant will survive. So be sure to chose a pleasing shape for your wire hat – think of it as a topiary form.

If you are a scrounger like me, don’t be afraid to use other “found objects” to help protect your plants. Another excellent example of a sturdy barrier is expanded steel mesh. I once used a wire drawer to keep my kitties from sitting on the seedlings that I was starting in the dining room. There are lots of options if you think outside of the box.

Next Time: Garden Defenses – Making a Sturdy Cover for Your Flower Pot

Garden Defenses: Pulling it Together

I was chatting with a friend the other day about problems that they were having in their garden, when this topic came up: What do you do when something is munching a plant in your garden? It is not a bug. It is not something large, like deer, elk, moose, or even antelope, or something more obvious like a woodchuck or rabbit, and you have tried unsuccessfully to fence it out. You may not even be sure of who the culprit is, which means that it is likely a type of small to midsized rodent (squirrels, chipmunks, rats or mice). Or, in the case of plants like cat mint (catnip) it just might be the neighborhood kitties.

Well, I had exactly this problem in my own garden this summer. A single pot with a bachelor button in the middle – growing well and waiting for me to plant more seeds, when CHOMP. I came out one morning to find most of the bachelor button GONE.

Chomp 1Now there is nothing like this sort of event to put a dedicated gardener on the warpath, but I had already been mending fences, and watching closely for daytime marauders. I knew that my best bet was to simply put up a barricade, and it had to be a good one.

Now, for those of you who do not know, I live on a “ranch” – a 43 acre piece of mostly undeveloped land on a barely maintained dirt road in Northern Arizona. So I knew that I had the tools to do this project. But don’t let this fact scare you away – I have seen my mother-in-law, who lives on a lovely tree bedecked side street in a town in Maine, do essentially the same thing to save her cat mint from marauding neighboring kitties. If “grandma” can do it, so can you!

I scrounged up an assortment of left over hardware cloth, chicken wire, and baling wire for my project. When you live on a ranch you try to always have these sort of materials on hand, and many suburban gardeners do, too. One of the questions that you need to ask yourself is “how permanent is this solution going to be?” Does it need to last a couple of weeks (just long enough for the plant to get a “head start” on the critters), or the season (the critters will be there for the rest of the season), or several seasons (I will need it again next year). After living and gardening in this area for about eight years I usually try to make as many solutions be permanent as possible. The critters will be back next year.

If I were buying new materials I would purchase a roll of hardware cloth (probably 18 or 24 inches wide/tall), a roll of chicken wire, and a roll of baling wire. So let’s discuss the differences and why I made these choices. Hardware cloth is a welded wire “fabric”. The holes in the hardware cloth are all the same size, and square. Hardware cloth is sold with holes in an assortment of sizes – I prefer 1/2 inch because it will keep out the vast majority of my pests, but allow all but the largest lizards to go through to eat bugs. Hardware cloth is stiffer than chicken wire and has a lot of structural stability. It can be curved into arches and circles, and creased to create moderately sturdy square structures.

Chicken wire has six sided holes. They can vary in size, depending on the brand, but they are generally about 1 inch across. The wire is thinner and less sturdy than hardware cloth. The wire is not welded, it is twisted together to form the six sided shapes. Chicken wire can be curved into arches and circles. It is difficult to crease into square structures and it crushes much more easily than hardware cloth.

Close-up of chicken wire used in a chicken coop.

Close-up of chicken wire used in a chicken coop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Baling wire is the wire, which comes in rolls, that was traditionally used to bale hay. Most modern hay balers now use some sort of synthetic twine. Baling wire is a soft iron wire that is useful for repairing lots of things. It will rust.

Next time: Garden Defenses: Designing Your Enclosures to Meet Your Needs