Protect Vulnerable Plants With Deer-Proof Screened Boxes

Constructing simple, deer-proof screened boxes can help protect your favorite plants from voracious critters eager for a meal.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Last summer, I planted a couple of beautiful Siberian irises up in my orchard. At the time, they were in full bloom, and they made such a lovely appearance that I was determined to protect them from the destructive habits of the local deer population.

Maybe I was worrying too much. Generally speaking, deer don’t care for irises and will pass them over for tastier meals. But there are many, many deer in my neck of the woods, and I’ve lost a lot of plants to them through the years, so I wasn’t about to take any chances with my lovely irises.

Since I was still in the process of constructing a perimeter fence around my orchard, I needed a temporary means to protect the irises. My solution was to construct a pair of simple wooden boxes—open frames, essentially—and cover the sides and tops with mesh screen.

Read “5 Tips to Build A Better Deer Fence.”

These deer-proof screened boxes were a simple and straightforward project, requiring little more than the following:

  • Some 2x2s
  • A large handful of screws
  • Mesh of the type used for screen doors

The boxes didn’t take long to construct, and installing them was as simple as placing the boxes over the irises. And since the mesh screens allow rain and sunlight to pass through, the flowers didn’t require any special care outside of extra water during dry spells.

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Despite—or perhaps because of—their very simple design, these little screened boxes offered more advantages than I originally anticipated. In fact, I can see them being handy for anyone hoping to temporarily protect precious plants from voracious critters.

Consider the following benefits:

1. They’re Customizable

Since you’re building them from scratch, it’s easy to customize your deer-proof screened boxes into the exact shape and size you need.

Go out and take measurements of the plants you want to protect. Anticipate how tall and wide they’ll grow (if they’re still actively growing), and leave yourself some wiggle room just to be on the safe side.

2. They’re Portable

These screened boxes are very lightweight, so they’re a breeze to pick up and move around if necessary. If you need to trim the grass inside the box, or water the plants, or just enjoy the beauty of the flowers without screens blocking your view, it only takes a moment to move the boxes aside.

This also means they’re readily reusable if—as in my case—you eventually complete a better form of protection that renders the boxes unnecessary in their original location.

3. They’re Effective

I kept the deer-proof screened boxes over my irises throughout the summer and fall and never had an issue with hungry animals taking a taste.

As far as I could tell, the boxes served their purpose perfectly, and the plants marched into winter in good order. I’m already looking forward to seeing them bloom again next summer.

So put your carpentry skills to work this spring and protect vulnerable plants with screened boxes! Whether it’s irises or tomatoes or something else entirely that you want to keep safe, these simple boxes buy you time while working toward a greater level of protection.

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