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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

May 19, 2015 - 2:30pm --

Have you ever wished that you could totally protect your plants from being eaten by anything but you and do so without using sprays, pesticides and repellants! I have had that wish and a desire to make that wish come true.

How I got started:  Over forty years ago I become so frustrated with cabbage loopers eating my crop I took drastic steps.  I had some old wooden window screens stored in my shed.  I used these to create a screened-in-box with sides and a top but no bottom.  I placed the box on the tilled ground in my garden.   Next I planted my cabbages inside the box and placed a thick straw mulch around the cabbage plants to prevent weeds from growing.  With the cabbage plants and mulch in place I attached the screened lid on top.

To seal the deal, I used chalk to fill in all gaps that a bug or worm could hope to squeeze through. I next banked the bottom of the box with soil to seal out any ravenous beasts trying to crawl underneath. 

Sunlight and rain water were able to pour through the screens freely--but not garden pests.  I was able to watch my cabbages grow and thrive in their protected environment.  I never opened the screen box or broke the seals until harvest time.   The result was healthy, bug-free cabbages without the use of any sprays, dusts, or repellants.  The protective box also guarded against most four-footed pests like raccoons and deer.  I am not so sure that it would be effective against elephants.

Exploring New Options. While I was working in the Oxford Community Garden as a Master Gardener Volunteer and advisor, one of the community garden volunteers took me to the eggplants and showed me how the bugs had turned healthy leaves to lace.

To backtrack, ours is an organic garden and I am an organic gardener, so we had picked the potato bugs off our potatoes by hand and planted marigolds in with the potatoes to try to repel the bugs.  However, after the potatoes had completed their growth cycle, the bugs seemed to have moved over to the eggplants. 

As I was rattling off the list of remedies in the organic gardener’s arsenal, including soapy water, Neem tree oil, and other sprays, my memory took me back to my screened box method of bygone years.

Technology has come a long way since the days of wooden window screens.  I began thinking about currently available materials that could be used to create screen boxes.  Items that came to mind were inexpensive stackable plastic milk crates, modern waterproof glues, and nylon screening.  I decided to put one together.  My cost for one box was about $7.00.  It was too late in the season to really test the milk crate screen box, and the waterproof glue failed at the first rain, but I would encourage the reader to use your own creativity to construct something to screen out bugs and pests. 

I have recently seen garden supply catalogs that offer various products for screening out garden pests.  As always, it is a good idea to read the reviews that accompany the ads for these products.  This will provide insight to learn from others about how these screen boxes worked for them.

If all else fails, clean out your garage or your basement to see if you can come across some old wooden window screens.  That’s how I got started 40 years ago. 

A screened box will keep out bees and other insect pollinators, but many vegetable garden plants are eaten before they flower such as lettuce, carrots, cabbage, and beets.  Others such as bean and peas are self fertile and do not need pollinators or like corn are pollinated by wind.  So keeping the bees out will not hurt your vegetable crop.

For more information on home, lawn, indoor, or outdoor garden care and tips, as well as other garden topics, visit and click on the Yard and Garden link, or call the OSU Extension, Butler County, at (513) 887-3722, or in Middletown at (513) 424-5351, ext. #3722.

News Release provided by Richard Sunberg.