How to Build a Deer-Proof Raised Bed Garden
How to build a deer-proof raised bed garden using an easy “just add lumber” kit with step-by-step directions.
Our new garden turned out so well, and I’m excited to share with you how to build a deer-proof raised bed garden for yourself using THIS easy “just add lumber” kit !
One of my favorite things about where we live is all the nature we get to observe.
But, at the same time, I didn’t want to go to all the trouble of creating a garden only for it to become a salad bar for the critters instead of for us! 😂
How to Build a Deer-Proof Raised Bed Garden:
The first step in building a deer-proof raised bed garden was to order the wood.
We knew we wanted to use natural cedar because we didn’t want the chemicals from green-treated lumber leaching into the soil and the veggies.
I looked around online at various places like Lowes, Home Depot, and Menards, and soon discovered that we clearly weren’t the only ones who were using some of their quarantine time for home improvement projects, because none of the three big box stores around here had all the various sizes of cedar we’d need.
Getting everything we needed would have required us to visit all three stores, gathering some of the pieces at each one.
I wouldn’t have wanted to do that during normal life, let alone. in the middle of a PANDEMIC. Huh-uh.
Then I remembered a local lumber company that had delivered all the wood to frame our home a couple of years ago. I gave them a call.
Because they have their own mill on-site, they were able to make me exactly the sizes of wood that I wanted! And, they were willing to deliver it to me for free the very next day!
Several of these pieces were 12 feet long, so them bringing it was a big relief. It would have been hard to get those suckers home ourselves. 😂
Making the Cuts
This was a lot of expensive cedar, so we didn’t want to mess it up. To make sure we could get accurate cuts, my hubby bought this Craftsman Sliding Miter Saw at Lowes.
We wanted this to be a fun project for us to take on together, and one thing I’ve learned over the years is that having the right tools makes a big difference in your enjoyment of a project.
Sure, we could probably have made one of the saws we already have work, but it would have been harder and not as accurate, which likely would have diminished the quality of the finished piece and maybe caused frustration.
This saw was reasonably priced, worked great, and now we have it for future projects, too. Well-worth it in my opinion.
We spent the first day of our project doing all the cutting.
Honestly, this part took longer than I thought it would. Seems like everything does lately, though. 🤣.
But, we wanted to be cautious, because we had purchased only exactly the right amount of cedar that we needed, and if we made a mistake, we’d have to figure out how to get a replacement.
I think it took us about 5 hours, with me measuring and marking (and double-checking myself), and the hubs making the cuts. It was a lot of cuts.
It was fine though because remember we wanted to enjoy ourselves. We were sipping coffee, listening to music, and taking our time figuring out how to build our deer-proof raised bed garden.
After we had all the cuts made in the garage/driveway, we carried all the pieces around back and laid them out in stacks on the lower back patio.
This turned out to be a good workspace, because it gave us some shade by working underneath the deck, and gave us a flat workspace for assembling the trellises, with easy access to electrical outlets.
Building the Base of the Deer-Proof Raised Bed Garden
The back of the raised bed is 12 feet and the sides are 8 feet.
We used 10″ by 2″ pieces of cedar, stacked two high to make the base, attaching them with metal corner brackets. This makes the height of the raised beds 20″, which I love!
I also love the little keyhole cutout in the center, which makes everything in the garden so accessible!
In the picture below, you can see how we used some of our scrap wood pieces to add a brace across the longest 12′ run. We wanted to make sure it wouldn’t bow out, or get out of alignment once all the dirt was added.
Another Layer of Critter Protection
At the last minute, we decided to add some mesh screening on the bottom to keep out any tunneling creatures like moles or voles.
I haven’t seen any moles, but in the far back part of our property, I do notice several holes where something tunnels. And we definitely have seen several voles and their trails.
The last thing we wanted was to go to all the trouble of building this well-fortified garden with a fence, only to have some little guys tunnel up from the bottom! And since this is definitely one of those things you can’t go back and add later, we decided “better safe than sorry”.
I ordered 3 rolls of this wire mesh from Lowes online, and picked it up curbside. Then we cut it with wire cutters just enough bigger than the bottom of the garden that it would go up the sides about an inch or so.
Be really careful doing this because the edges are sharp!
We made sure to wear work gloves when we were working with the wire, to protect our hands, but this still turned out to be the only injury of the whole project, when I accidentally rubbed my ankle across the edge of a piece of the mesh, instantly drawing blood. 😳 🩸
Building the Trellises/Deer Fencing
Next, we assembled the upper sides of the garden. These serve as both a barrier to keep the deer out, and also mesh trellises to support any vining plants, like cucumbers.
Applying Wood Protector
At this point, we decided to apply a clear wood protector to the cedar, to make it withstand the elements better. We used Cabot’s Clear Wood Protector just to give the wood some water and UV protection, without adding color, since the new cedar was already a nice tone.
We made sure to apply the stain to only the exterior portion of the base. We didn’t want the toxic chemicals to come in contact with the soil, and seep into our vegetables.
We did apply the water protector to all sides of the trellises though because those won’t be in contact with the soil at all.
Adding the Trellis Netting
We used heavy-duty polyester netting and cut it just slightly larger than each trellis piece.
Then we tacked it down with a staple about every 2 inches on all sides, using an electric staple gun.
You can use a manual staple gun, but this ends up being a lot of staples. I think we went through a box of 1200.
My hand was tired after I was done, even with an electric staple gun.
Attaching the Trellises
The trellis frames are made out of 2x2s and 2x4s, so they sit nicely on top of the 2×10 inch boards of the base. We secured them by drilling multiple 3″ screws along each one.
We were very careful to drill pilot holes first, so we didn’t split the cedar. One thing that was a big help was using both our Ryobi drill for the pilot holes, and our Ryobi impact driver to insert the screws.
By having both, we didn’t have to keep switching drill bits over and over. Plus, my hubby had these magnetic bowls, which were super handy to make sure our screws weren’t getting lost in the grass.
Not to mention, how lucky were we to be working with this view? See what I mean about the enjoyment of a good project, especially an outside one? It was just what my tired soul needed.
Attaching the Door
We built the door out of 2x2s and 2x4s. The bottom panel of the door has some hard wire mesh that is black plastic coated to make it stronger, and the top has more polyester netting.
We added three pretty sturdy hinges, and a self-latching gate clasp to hold the door shut.
This is where we made our only “mistake”.
We realized the 2×4 in the middle of the door wasn’t going to align correctly with the post rail for the door to lock properly.
It was an easy fix though. We just had to remove the screws, move it down, and drill new holes.
No big deal.
Ready for Dirt!
Can you believe that the dirt was the hardest part of this whole project?! 🤪 Both acquiring it and hauling it.
It never even occurred to me that we’d have a hard time finding dirt. I mean, really?
I started calling around to various companies and many of them told me that because a record number of people had decided to build a garden this year, they were out of garden soil.
I guess this pandemic made everyone decide they better secure their own food supply, huh?
Victory Gardens for everyone! 🤣
It took calls to multiple places, plus one guy who stood me up twice, before I finally caved and paid more than I wanted to a company who agreed to bring it in an hour. Worth it.
They brought almost 4 tons of a garden soil mix (60% black soil, 20% compost, and 20% sand) and dumped it right in the middle of our driveway. Which is a looooooong way from our garden site. Like, an acre away.
Fortunately, my hubs had this handy garden cart that attaches to his lawn tractor which we used to haul allllll of that dirt back there, one cart at a time.
Shovel it in the cart, drive the cart back to the garden, shovel it out of the cart. Doing this with 4 tons of dirt was a long, hot, sweaty process.
We also had help from our strong and energetic 18-year-old, who has youth on his side. 😂
But even my 82-year-old mother-in-law did a little shoveling. I was impressed!
It was definitely a group effort to get this part done.
Above is a picture of my husband hauling a couple of totes of dirt we had leftover from another project.
We dumped those in the bottom of the garden base first, and then the 4 tons of garden soil, but even that wasn’t quite enough. After it settled a bit, we still added about 6 bags of compost and peat moss on top.
But look at that beautiful dark, rich soil we ended up with! That is going to grow some mighty good veggies, I have no doubt.
Time to Plant!
The raised beds are more than 20″ high, which made adding the plants so easy! No stooping down.
Plus, since the soil is such a nice loose mix of dirt, compost and sand, it was light and easy to work with. All of the plants tucked in so nicely.
This 12’x8′ garden has a surprising amount of space to work with. In here I was able to plant 4 tomatoes plants, 2 cucumber plants, one zucchini plant, one yellow squash plant and 8 pepper plants (4 each of 2 different varieties!)
Not only is the height of the beds perfect, but I love the little keyhole cutout center.
It makes it so easy to access all the plants without having to traipse through the middle of a muddy garden to reach things.
Plus, we added several bags of pea gravel in the walking area, which keeps the grass from growing up, and prevents it from being muddy after watering.
I was so excited to get my plants in there at the end of the weekend!
My husband worked on the mowing, and I got all my plant babies nestled into their new home.
Just as we were finishing up, we were treated with these beautiful rays.
And then when I looked across the pasture, I saw these little guys watching us, making me glad all our plants were fully protected in their garden fortress. 😂
I love watching the deer, but we didn’t go to all this work to provide them with a snack. 🤣
Finishing Touch: Flagstone Pavers
A Memorial Day project many years ago was to build a small fish pond in the back yard of my former house.
Well, when we moved, I brought those flagstones with me, hoping to find a new purpose for them.
For the past several years, they’ve just been hanging out waiting for the right place to relocate.
After we got the garden done, and the pea gravel inside, we decided we needed a way to block a little more of the gap under the door, and hold the gravel in.
The flagstones worked perfectly.
We used paver leveling sand to situate them, and then Quickrete Sand/Topping Mix to fill in the gaps and hold them in place.
I love how it turned out! Plus, we arranged them in a bit of a slope, so it serves as a little ramp to get the garden cart in and out of there if needed, and allows the water to run off away from the gate.
Plus, it’s a happy memory from days gone by every time I walk over those stones. ❤️💕
More Garden Kit OptionsThe Watering Dilemma
When we were building our house, we noticed too late that the builder oddly did not include an outdoor water spigot on the far side of the house, closest to where we placed our garden.
There is one in the garage and one on the side closest to the garage. Design flaw.
Originally, I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to just drag a really long hose from the side of the house out to the garden to water. Wrong.
Have you ever drug 200 feet of hose across an acre of property in 100-degree heat? And then rolled it allllll back up again.
Yeah, that was not going to happen daily.
While we were figuring out Plan B, I made do by filling my favorite red water can (a gift from my mother-in-law) many times over and trekking it out to the garden.
And then, these guys showed up to save the day!
They work for the company that originally installed our lawn irrigation system, and they had a plan!
They added two new lines to our existing irrigation system. One is a little box inset in the ground, and when you open it, a hose spigot pops up! Hose problem solved!
And even better, the second new line runs directly to the garden, and up each corner.
We can now program that zone independently to water the garden on a timed schedule every day, even when we aren’t home! Brilliant!
The garden sprinklers can be operated from the main controller in the garage, or directly from our phones. Money well-spent in my opinion.
We decided to go with both the hose option and the wifi sprinkler option, because this way, if we aren’t home or traveling (in future summers), it will automatically water without us needing to hire someone to come do it.
Plus, now we also have hose access on that side of the house for whatever else we might need it for.
Zones 1-8 are the lawn sprinklers, and zone 9 is the garden. It’s on its own program.
Garden Planning & Record Keeping
Before I planted my garden, I made a plan of where to place things.
I recorded each type of plant. As the growing season goes on, I can jot notes of what grew well, what didn’t, and how each plant produced.
This will help me make decisions about next year’s garden. If we liked or didn’t like a particular variety, I will be able to recall what it was, so I can purchase, or not purchase, it again.
If I didn’t do this, there’s no chance I’d remember by next spring. writing. ❤️
PS. To see more great projects like this one, follow The House on Silverado on social media and so you won’t miss a thing.
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Disclaimer: I hope this post has helped you learn how to build a deer-proof raised bed garden of your own. Although we started with a Gardens to Gro Just Add Lumber Kit, we did make adjustments and additions to suit our own purposes. Please carefully read the information from Gardens to Gro regarding exactly what is included in the kit.
This post contains affiliate links.
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- Just Add Lumber Kit
- Cedar Wood
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Join the conversation
17335038 on Apr 26, 2022
It will be interesting to see if over time the keyhole center continues to be a 'deterrent' to deer jumping over the garden walls. In my experience, deer seem to think that anywhere there is food is 'safe' for them to enter.
One thing for sure, they will know when the gate has been left open!🦌
Bs253041600 on Apr 30, 2022
My dream garden ♥️
Did you think about covering the top to keep birds and squirrels out?
Is the structure supported underneath with any concrete or crush, or is the lumber sitting directly on the grass?
How wide did you make the beds? I've seen 4' as the general recommendation but I assume since you can only access them from one side that you made them a bit narrower.