Green Room: Keeping Critters Out with a Stylish Garden House

By: Paul Cox
Related To:
Carmen's Command to Live

Carmen's Command to Live

All photos courtesy of Carmen Collins

All photos courtesy of Carmen Collins

Atlanta gardener Carmen Collins had a critter problem in her backyard garden. She didn't always see the offender, but found the evidence: nibbled fruit and veggies.

Keeping critters out of the garden is a tough task, for sure. A screen simply placed over her raised beds wouldn't do. Carmen wanted a productive garden, and a way of protecting her garden that would be both beautiful and functional. Her solution needed to be a centerpiece for entertaining and a place she could enjoy her favorite pastime.

She calls her remedy for garden pests a "critter screen house." Take a look:

Tour the Screen House

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An Enclosed Garden

Atlanta gardener Carmen Collins had a critter problem in her backyard garden. She wanted to grow more, but squirrels and other garden pests kept making a mess. So, to keep the garden pests out, she came up with a design that enclosed her entire garden — raised beds and all — and hired friend Keenan Phillips to build it. Then, as the following photos show, she made it look less like a critter barrier and more like a place to celebrate her favorite pastime.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

Carmen's Command to Live

A planter above the screen room's front door is inscribed with the word "LIVE" which Carmen says is "both a command for what's growing inside, as well as a peacekeeping promise for the critters we agree to feed from the outside."

Tiered Planters Outside

Tiered strawberry boxes work as exterior window boxes for herbs and ornamentals that critters won't want to disturb.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

Cracks are Sealed on Screen House Door

Squirrels and other four-legged garden pests can squeeze through tiny cracks. To keep them away from her veggies in the screen room, Carmen stapled vertical strips of quarter-inch flexible hardware cloth on the inside of the screen room, between the door frame and the door.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

Strawberries Grown Inside Screened Garden

Mounted to the inside of the screen room walls are terraced planters for strawberries. Slow-drip irrigation hoses line the planters and spray irrigation nozzles are mounted to the screen room's wall studs. A layer of pea gravel finishes the floor of the screen room.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

Wiring the Critter Screen Room

A one-inch hole was drilled into the screen room for electrical (to power the holiday lights) and water lines. Rocks prevent the critters from getting inside.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

Cold Frames for Trees

Corrugated polycarbonate panels were used to create a few cold frames that keep citrus trees, such as Meyer lemon, from freezing during winter months. Lettuces and other leafy greens also can be grown in them.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

Ceiling Keeps the Critters Out

The screen room ceiling and walls were made of individual, framed panels covered with standard hardware cloth. To discourage diggers, Carmen buried the hardware cloth one foot deep and curled it outward six inches.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

Lighted Beds

Path lighting illuminates the flower beds that wrap the perimeter of the screen room.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

Access to Screen Room from Outdoor Kitchen

This screen room is 25 feet long, 12 feet wide and 10 feet high. A back door was included on the screen room to allow easy access into the garden from an outdoor kitchen.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

Holiday Lights on a Critter Screen House

Lights strung around the interior ceiling add the charm that makes the room feel less like a critter barrier and more the centerpiece of her backyard at night.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

Garden Espalier

Carmen chose to espalier her fruit trees within the screen room to make the most of her backyard's light and small space. Galvanized wire mounted along a wall holds the branches. Training the tree branches to grow in this way enables you to grow a lot of fruit in a small space.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carmen Collins.

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