If you’re thinking of putting raised beds in your garden, you might be wondering if these beds will keep animals out of your plants, fruits, and vegetables. I did a little digging and found out that…
Raised garden beds can keep out all burrowing animals, such as moles and rabbits. Raised beds on their own can stop small animals like chickens from reaching plants, but these beds are least effective against large animals, such as deer. Making raised beds high enough and using other deterrents, such as fencing, should keep most animals out.
It takes some cost and time to put raised beds in a garden. But just buying raised garden beds without much thought doesn’t mean that your plants will be safe from animals.
Understanding how raised garden beds keep animals out and knowing what animals you want to keep out will help you make the best plan for using raised garden beds and save you money in the long run.
How raised garden beds keep animals out
Raised garden beds can keep animals out in 4 ways:
1. Raised beds stop burrowing animals
Burrowing animals are small animals that dig holes in the ground. A burrow is an underground hole or tunnel made by one of these animals.
Burrowing animals might dig burrows to live in, to hide in, to find food, or to move from place to place. Some examples of burrowing animals are voles, moles, gophers, groundhogs, and rabbits.
Some burrowing animals eat plants’ roots. These animals either eat the roots they find as they make their tunnels or they dig their way to an area where they know there are tasty roots and root vegetables to eat.
For example, a rabbit might burrow under a fence to reach your vegetable patch and eat your carrots. And a gopher may uproot and loosen an entire plant before pulling it down into the burrow.
Other digging animals, such as moles, eat worms, insects and grubs, not plants. These animals move around in tunnels and may surface near your plant to catch a tasty protein treat there. When they do this, they may uproot the plant which then withers in the sun.
Raised garden beds that are off the floor or that have a lined or solid bottom stop all burrowing animals from reaching your plants from under the ground.
2. Raised beds can keep plants out of reach
Plants growing in raised beds are higher than plants growing in the ground, which makes their branches, flowers, leaves, fruit, and vegetables higher too. Because these are all higher, some animals won’t be able to reach them to eat them.
If a raised bed is high enough off the ground, animals that cannot jump, fly, or climb well will not be able to reach the plants either.
3. Raised beds can stop small animals from eating plants
Many small ground-dwelling animals that can jump or fly high enough to reach the plants in a raised bed still like to find food on the ground. Some examples of these animals are rabbits, ducks, and chickens.
This is because it is easier for them to see and smell out food that’s within easy reach. Staying on the ground may also keep them safe if they are with a group, if they are hidden by the grass and plants as they move around, and if there are places to hide when danger comes knocking.
When small animals don’t stay in a group or hidden, they will very likely be eaten by a predator.
Because of these reasons many small animals have a natural instinct not to climb to higher areas for food and expose themselves to danger, unless they are very hungry and there’s no other food available.
If these animals have to choose between looking for food on the ground somewhere else or climbing up a raised garden bed and risk being eaten, many will choose to move on and keep on looking elsewhere.
4. Raised beds can keep large animals out
The soil in a raised bed is usually soft, not compacted. Bigger animals, such as deer, are not likely to climb into a large raised bed as their hooves will sink into the soil.
If a large animal wants to eat plants in a raised bed, it will most likely eat the plants around the edges and leave those in the center that are harder to reach.
What animals do raised garden beds keep out?
Raised garden beds are good at keeping out the following animals:
What animals do raised beds not keep out?
Raised beds do not keep out deer
Deer will not be put off entirely by raised garden beds, so you will need to use raised beds with other deterrents to stop deer from eating your plants, such as your tomato plants.
Raised beds do not keep out climbing animals
These animals will happily climb in to eat whatever you are growing in your raised bed, or they will climb in to bury food in the bed for winter.
If you climbing animals or rodents are a pest in your garden, you can use a raised bed with other deterrents to stop them from getting into your raised garden beds.
Raised beds do not keep out birds
An open raised bed is an invitation to all local birds to eat seeds, fruit, vegetables, seedlings, and insects from your garden bed. Birds will even benefit from the raised height as they are less likely to be eaten by predators found on the ground, such as dogs or foxes.
If you want to stop birds from eating whatever you are growing in a raised bed, click here to go to my list of the top ten things that stop birds from eating your plants.
Animal deterrents to use with raised beds
Line the bottom
Make the bottom of the raised garden bed from solid wood, concrete, or even bricks to stop all digging and burrowing animals from getting into your garden bed.
If you can’t make the bottom solid, line the bottom of the bed with hardware cloth or metal mesh screening (links go to Amazon). The lining needs to extend 6 inches up the border walls and be staked every 6 inches or so to secure it and prevent gaps.
You can also place a layer of rocks or stones at the bottom of the bed to make it more difficult for animals to dig through.
A plastic liner is not effective, can harm wildlife, and even stop your bed from draining properly.
Use strong materials
When constructing or choosing a raised bed, choose natural hardwood that lasts for a long time in all weather and are rot-resistant. Some good options include larch, cedar, and redwood (Links go to these products on Amazon).
Pressure-treated wood contains chromate copper arsenate and railway sleepers contain creosote, both of which are toxic to you and wildlife.
Stone and brick are great alternatives to wood, if not a little more expensive. These materials are much stronger and last longer than wood will.
Make the walls deep enough
Make sure the walls of your garden bed are deep enough to stop small burrowers from digging their way under your raised bed and reaching your plants.
To do this, dig trenches with a trenching shovel that are 12 to 18 inches deep. Place the walls of the raised garden bed in these trenches and secure.
Make the walls high enough
The walls of your raised garden beds need to be at least 2 feet high from ground level to stop small animals like rabbits from gaining access.
Raised beds do little to keep climbing animals and birds out of your garden. All links below are to products on Amazon.
Use greenhouse hoops and greenhouse clamps to keep mesh netting raised over the top of your plants, especially when they grow and get taller. Just make sure that you get the right sized hoops and clamps for your raised garden bed.
Livestock panels can simply lie across raised beds while your plants are still seedlings. Here’s a video showing you how to do this (and other tips to keep animals out of your raised garden beds):
Include plants that deter animals
If you want to keep your raised garden bed open, you can use plants to help deter animals.
Abelia, barberry, caryopteris, diervilla, forsythia, winterberry holly, potentilla, buddleia, and catmint are all plants that deter deer.
Planting allium, daffodils, geranium, hyacinths, lily of the valley, and peppermint will discourage squirrels from jumping into your raised bed (or spray smells on the raised beds that squirrels hate, to keep them away naturally).
Rabbits find plants such as salvia, ageratum, begonias, big periwinkle, coneflower, honeysuckle, lavender, marigolds, and sweet alyssum off-putting.
And planting sacrificial plants, like marigolds, as bait for grazers can also be a valuable method of damage control. These grazers choose to eat the sacrificial plants before eating your other plants.
As you can see, raised beds are a great way to keep many animals out of your garden. You can also use raised beds to grow plants that need a different type of soil than what’s already in your garden, and raised beds are great for small gardens where there isn’t much working or growing space.