Protection Frame for Tomatoes or any fruit/veg

Discussion in 'Building DIY, Machinery & Tools' started by ClissAT, Jul 2, 2018.

  1. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I have got heartily sick of feeding the critters around my place!
    Its time they got weaned off the good food I grow for myself & started eating the actual natural food I grow for them! :mad:

    This idea has been percolating in my head for a couple years but there were sticking points.
    Aren't there always?

    Finally the answers came after seeing a slightly similar idea on youtube.
    Also due to the urgency of needing to protect my fruit, I had to give in & use lesser materials that I might otherwise not have used.

    So over the last 10days while it rained on & off & I began walking again after a fractured pelvis, this frame slowly took shape.
    There were 3 variations before I got the actual frame finished in the shelter (ref to this shelter workshop at the bottom of this post), then another 2 variations once I got it mounted on the bathtub bed that I grow most of my tomatoes in.

    It had been my desire to create a kit that people could buy or copy with a definitive list of easily purchased materials & parts. However it didn't turn out that way. I had to fabricate some parts using the heat gun, old conduit, odd fittings & make-do bits & pieces.

    So the upshot is I have provided many photos & if you can work it out, understand the photos & are a bit handy, then you should be able to make something similar!

    The other thing is my pc is in damage control & running in safe mode this week so things like photos are warped so I apologise if the resolution is not very good or photos out of proportion.
    And the other thing that I noticed as I began making these collages is my camera had a dummy spit too & the date stopped working! :D So to add all those failures up, that's my pelvis, the computer, the camera, one battery drill, & a few other things I cant remember now. Not a good time around here to be honest. Lets hope this frame does its job (do we have a crossed fingers emoji?)


    Below is the finished frame with doors open on both sides. For want of a better solution, I made door props from old bamboo blind parts with a hook made from some soft fence wire. You will find the photo for that further down this article. The idea was to be able to walk under the doors without the mesh brushing against my hair. Luckily the bath tubs were originally placed a good distance apart so I was able to make large doors with good head height. It makes gardening so much easier when the bed surface is near waist height & the cover is above head height.

    finished tomato frame.gif


    Below is a collage of how I fabricated the compound corners & the electrical parts I used. Apparently it is possible to buy these compound corner fittings but necessary to go to an electrical store & pay heaps. I wanted to get everything from Bunnings if possible.
    All these photo collages will open quite large when you click on them so you can see the work in close up.
    I didn't glue any of the joins. Better not to so they can be pulled apart if needed. I dragged the built frame out to the garden on a big piece of thin plywood but you might need to pull it all apart & rebuild it onsite. So gluing is a bad thing! :) The pipe fits into the fittings tightly in anycase & I didn't have any joins come apart.

    compound corner joiner fabrication collage.jpg compound corners.gif compound corners installed.gif


    tomato frame parts collage.jpg

    In the above collage, one photo shows tec screws & thin wire which is to make diagonal bracing. I used baling twine on the other end which is harder to get evenly tensioned. There is also a photo showing bolts which are to make the hinges for the doors.
    You will also see the needle I used for the sewing. I called it a 'baling needle' which is wrong! It is a 'bagging needle'!
    I ended up using 5 lengths of 4m long 25mm grey(exterior) conduit. It is a bit flimsy but cheap enough. I already have a better design in my head which I will sketch & post in this thread showing better bracing for the frame. Also I will post a list of how many of each fitting I used. I forgot to add that to the photos of each fitting. For some fittings 8-12 are required.

    building tomato frame.gif

    In the bottom row of photos in the collage above, you can see how the bath tub is up on concrete blocks to bring it up to my working height. Under the plug end I have a container that catches excess water which I pour back onto the bed a few days later. I also showed the tomato stake sets I buy which support the tomato plants. They used to be in sets of 4 stakes to form a square but now for that price you only get 3 stakes to form a triangle! Anyway they are a great idea & I have used them successfully for several years.


    Below are some full sized photos of building progress & details. For the shade cloth I used these shade sails that I got as a throw out special at Bunnings. They were $15each down from $179!! Being very light shade, plants will grow under these sails so I will test that & report back whether that is a true statement on the shade sail bag!
    These sails are made of very light weight shade mesh & now it is illegal to sell this type of shade mesh suitable for shading people in Australia due to not being heavy enough. 50% is now the lightest that can be sold.
    I wish now I had purchased all 7 of the bags they had on sale. But I got 4 anyway so enough to make another frame plus some bits left over.
    I cut the mesh with big overlaps so it was easy to sew with the garden wire twist tie stuff. I use a huge bagging needle. I've had mine for years & got it from a rural store but perhaps you can get one at Spotlight. Otherwise a really big darning needle might do the same job. It needs a huge eye & a bent point. The sewing is very rough! Big tacking stitches are all that's necessary. No need to be really tidy. The idea is to keep out rats & mice as well as birds, possums & bats.


    tomato frame in build stage.gif shade cloth I used.gif sewing cloth to frame.gif



    Here below is the finished frame with doors closed. I still have to make wire hooks that will attach to the sides of the doors near the bottom to hold the doors closed. They will just hook into the mesh on the ends of the frame.
    The mesh is shown sticking out all around the doors. I did that on purpose because I think it will prevent rodents getting through the gaps around the doors. Well its a theory anyway! I'm sure I won't be able to keep every critter out but it will stop most. The only thing I now will have to do is hand pollinate the cucumber & capsicum since this frame will also prevent bees & insects getting in to do their job.
    I also have beans & I'm not sure if they need pollination or not. Time will tell.
    finished frame installed.gif

    You can see that the frame overhangs along the left side. This is to give the tomatoes more leaf room because the birds chew through the mesh to get the fruit if it is up against the mesh. Also important to give air space to the leaves.


    I took heaps more photos. If you want to see photos of particular parts or aspects of construction just ask me. I'm sure I will have a photo of it! ;) All except the orange pipe roof supports. Those photos must have disappeared into the ether when the date thing went wrong on the camera! But I can take some more & draw some diagrams of how I made those horizontal supports. But I now have a better idea in my mind to make them that doesn't require a heat gun etc.

    shelter collage.gif
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2018
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  2. Letsgokate

    Letsgokate Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Wow what an amazing job and very informative and great photos. Fortunately I haven't had too many issues with possums or rodents eating my veggies just the bugs, caterpillars etc they are in a more open areas away from trees. I did have something chew through the one bed I do have netted due to the bugs, made a big hole but I was able to sort that out. So just be aware things might still chew through the net. I totally empathise with things eating your produce though with all the possums issues I have and fruit trees.

    So sorry to hear about you pelvis fracture. You don't have to answer this but was it due to osteoporosis? Reason I ask is my mother is having issues with it and also a friend. My grandma also had it and fracture her hip. My bone density scan was very very good. My mum won't take any medication or have the needle for it due to side effects and other health issues she has so is doing a lot of research on ways to restore bone and prevent any further bone loss.

    Hope you are feeling much better and things look up from here :)
     
  3. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Re the frame, it's the king parrots that do the most damage in winter along with possums. But soon it will be the bats.
    Kate, my bone density is reasonable all things considered. It was a bad slip down a muddy slope where I left my left leg behind and twisted my pelvis. I didn't know how bad it was for almost 2wks, except it got more painful until one day I couldn't put weight on my hips as I got out of bed. I was forced to go to the doctor! All the ligaments got torn as well making things a lot worse & I keep hurting it again when I do heavy work around the place like carrying the horse feed bags.
    Today I walked without pain for first time but it will be sore tomorrow due to some gardening I did this morning so its ebb & Flo.
    I do have some osteo due to my medical history but it was a bad slip.
     
  4. Letsgokate

    Letsgokate Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Ouch. With things like that you need to rest it and give the body time to heal. I’m not real good for relaxing and sitting around so I understand that it can be hard but in the long run it’s the quickest way to get better.

    I torn my calf muscle earlier in the year and that was bad enough let alone the injuries you have.

    Hope it all heals quickly for you.
     
  5. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Designing and building this cover frame has been theroputic & a good way to give me enough light work to keep my mind busy. Also for me to be happy with the amount of work achieved each day.
    But the several car trips to Bunnings themselves did damage also. Like the other day when some bloke kneecaped my right leg with his trolley so I stumbled forward heavily on the concrete floor with my left leg &....... Guess what.... Hurt it again!:dunno:
    Hard to win.
     
  6. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Wow this weather is so out of season for us here in SE Qld. So much heat and humidity.
    Even my reading glasses are fogging up inside. I had to put the fan on to write this post!

    I noticed late yesterday that the plants growing under this frame are suffering from the wet and probably humidity inside the frame.
    Not enough air flow through the mesh.
    So today I have the doors open. No fruit on so hopefully it won't attract birds. I'll close it up overnight, but while this rain persists the doors will have to be open during the day.
    Just goes to show how little it takes to throw things out of balance.
     
  7. Jenny

    Jenny Active Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Great post, thank you. I also have to seriously build some protection frames for my veggies asap.

    The first week in June (beginning of winter), within a space of 2 days, all my cabbages, broccoli, brussel sprout, cauliflower and kale plants were eaten down to almost ground level, with only stumps of stem left. Next the tatsoi and bok choi got eaten to stumps. The culprits are massive rats that come out of the city sewer systems at night. Very upsetting as I now have to start again from scratch wrt to Brassicas. Not only did they eat all my brassicas, they also completely stripped the bark off 2 fig tree branches overnight! We had very cold weather with rain for a few days (unusual as we normally don't have cold winter nor winter rain) and I suspect the rats ran out of the sewers en masse looking for food.

    Anyway, I have planted seeds again this weekend, hopefully germination will be good and once big enough to plant out, I will definitely need to but protection frames over. I'm think of making them with very fine wire mesh, as I need something strong enough that will not be easy for rats to chew through or squeeze through.
     
  8. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Gosh Jenny, your rats are worse than mine! They sound big enough to eat!
    I'd be putting baits out.
    The fine wire mesh sounds like the way to go.
    I truely hope you have success & please take photos as imI sure many of us here would be very interested in your design.
    I have a fine wire bird mesh timber framed cover on my compost tub but the baby rodents can & do still get in through the 1cm square mesh.
     
  9. Jenny

    Jenny Active Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Yip, the rats are quite big - we have a major rat issue here in the city, with rats much bigger than 500grams, not being unusual.
    My dogs catch rats outside on a daily basis and indoors my cats take care of any rat or mouse that attempts to enter my house through the floor boards. I used to have brown house snakes living under my floor boards and they took care of field mice, but seems that these big rats have chased them away, as I haven't seen any snakes in my house for quite a few years now.

    I do not want to put out rat poison, because I don't want my dogs and any stray cats in the neighborhood to get poisoned. Also there are some owls visiting now and again and I don't want them to get poisoned either - I have seen a barn owl once on my wall and also a spotted eagle owl once on my roof. I tried rat cages a few years ago and caught rats daily for a few days, but it was of no use, as I ended up releasing the rats back into the street, because I cannot personally kill any mammal, reptile or bird, even if they are pests. So much for trying to be completely self sufficient - I guess I will definitely become a vegetarian in a shtf situation when there is no longer any meat available in stores!:)

    This year is the first time that rats attacked my garden in such an aggressive manner though, so I definitely have to do something, as I do not want it to happen again. I think I'm going to put up a couple of owl boxes to encourage owls to populate my property and will also construct some wire mess cages for my veggie containers. Will definitely put up pics once I have constructed the cages.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
  10. Lois

    Lois Active Member Premium Member

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    Excellent solution. Good writing, wonderful photos. I will trial this on our tomatoes and corn. The pretty red and green parrots love green tomatoes and the crows love the corn. Might even utilise a similar one for strawberries as the Gulnea Fowl have decided they like them. I lost my only cabbage to them too.
     
  11. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Gosh Lois, sounds like you do need some sort of framed protection device for sure.
     
  12. Kasalia

    Kasalia http://retired2006.blogspot.com.au/ Premium Member

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    Great description to build the frame could use for anything even lower ones for low stuff, like blueberies.
     
  13. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Here are 2 photos taken today of the tomatoes.
    They would be doing much better if I had more water for them.
    I found out that tomatoes drop their flowers if stressed or dry so these bushes have hardly any fruit. What they do have is taking forever to ripen for same reasons.

    But the frame has worked to prevent critter attack.

    IMG_20181006_102939-01.jpeg

    IMG_20181006_103006-01.jpeg

    I leave the door open some days to let beneficial insects in.
     
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  14. Kasalia

    Kasalia http://retired2006.blogspot.com.au/ Premium Member

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    The weather here is just starting to heat up, may be that although you are higher up.
     
  15. jancas

    jancas Member

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    The frame looks great, I had been thinking of doing something similar as well, though I was wondering about pollination do you think it has any effect?
     
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  16. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Hi Jancas, welcome to our forum!
    As far as tomatoes are concerned, polination is not affected by not having insects around.
    But is affected by lack of air movement. Slightest air movement floats pollen from one flower to the other, facilitating polination.
    I discovered that on still days I needed to open a door.
    This also meant I needed to apply a bit extra water due to evaporation.
    The white mesh creates quite a moist environment and holds lots of moisture, sometimes too much.
    So its a balancing act. There's good and bad to having the plants closed up in such a small space.
    When it comes to other plants that need insects to pollinate them, yes having the doors closed would be an issue.
    The other thing I learned was that tomatoes hate to have their root zones dry out. This causes flower &/or fruit drop.
    I have to say though, that if I didn't have this frame I wouldn't have any tomatoes, or even plants for that matter, because some critter would have got to them.
    I hope this helps you make a decision.
     
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