How To Keep Pests Out of Your Garden With Wire Mesh

Choose wire mesh to protect your plants and keep pests like rabbits, deer and chipmunks out of your garden.

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I once tried plastic fencing to keep rabbits out of my vegetable garden. The fence material was pretty and green, and I thought it wouldn’t be as noticeable as plain wire mesh. But it didn’t take long for the rabbits to nibble holes in it and help themselves to my lettuce. Lesson learned. Now, it’s strictly wire mesh.

Here are my tips for using wire mesh to keep pests out of your garden.

Choose the Right Size Wire Mesh

Wire mesh comes in many sizes and thicknesses. The size means how big the holes are. You need smaller holes to keep out smaller pests.

Wire gauge refers to the thickness. The smaller the wire gauge number, the thicker the wire. Thicker wires make sturdier barriers but they can be hard to work with.

Cut Wire Mesh With Wire Cutters

Although it’s tempting to grab your garden pruners or pliers to cut wire, don’t. Go with wire cutters or wire snips made specifically for that task; it’s safer. And choose a wire cutter designed to cut the gauge of your wire mesh.

Wear Heavy Gloves

Always wear heavy gloves when cutting or handling wire mesh to prevent scratches and puncture wounds.

Protect Your Eyes

Tiny pieces of wire can flip up when you cut the wire. Protect your eyes with safety glasses or goggles.

Fence Out Pests

According to Susan Mulvihill, author of The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook: Identify and Solve Common Pest Problems on Edible Plants – All Natural Solutions, the height and depth of your wire mesh fence matters with certain persistent pests.

“When erecting a wire barrier to keep rabbits away from areas of a garden, it would need to be at least two feet tall and have several inches of it buried in the soil to prevent them from digging underneath the wire,” she says.

“The one-inch diameter chicken wire/poultry netting is ideal for keeping a lot of creatures away from veggie crops. It also works on the bottom of a raised bed to prevent pocket gophers from sneaking into a bed from below. If a gardener is dealing with chipmunks, they would need to use 1/4-inch hardware cloth.”

Wrap Small Trees

Rabbits and other pests will sometimes gnaw the bark on young trees, especially in the wintertime when other food is scare. Wrapping the trunks with wire mesh (chicken wire works well) prevents this. Be sure to wrap it loosely and remove it as the tree grows and the bark becomes thicker, making it less likely to be a food source.

If you leave the wire mesh on for too many years, the tree may grow around the wires. That makes removing it difficult and will likely damage the tree. The mesh should cover the lower two feet of the trunk at least to ensure small animals can’t get to it when there’s snow on the ground.

As a bonus, this method also works to keep wandering cats from turning your tree into a scratching post.

Build a Small Cage

A small wood and wire mesh cage can help keep birds away from ripening fruit. Kathy Jentz, co-author of The Urban Garden: 101 Way to Grow Food and Beauty in the City, protects her strawberries that way.

“I use wire mesh (hardware cloth) to wrap around a wooden cage structure (using a heavy-duty stapler and staples to attach the wire mesh to the frame) that I place over my strawberries as they are starting to ripen,” she says. “This keeps out the birds as well as the resident rabbit family.”

You can make your own frame with scrap lumber or 1x2s.

Stop Animals From Burrowing Under Your Wooden Fence

If rabbits, chipmunks and other animals burrow under your wooden fence to get into your garden, block them with wire mesh or hardware cloth.

Cut a piece of wire mesh wide enough to staple to the bottom of the fence and pin the ground with landscape staples. This also works to keep pests, including skunks, from burrowing under wooden decks. Use mulch to hide the wire mesh.

Carol J. Michel
Carol J. Michel is an award-winning author of several books including five gardening humor books and one children's book. As the holder of degrees from Purdue University in both horticulture and computer technology, she spent over three decades making a living in healthcare IT while making a life in her garden. She started writing about gardening on her blog called May Dreams Gardens which lead to numerous magazine articles, her books, and a podcast called The Gardenangelists. She was recently named a GardenComm Fellow by Garden Communicators International.