Overthinking a planting of beans
May 15, 2019 11:06 PM   Subscribe

Please help us figure out how to get the PVC fence frames we built to sit nicely on top of the raised garden beds we built.

We recently built raised garden beds from a kit. They look like this. We built PVC frames to fence them in because neighborhood cats were super aggressive about wanting to use them as litter boxes.

The frames we built are pretty flimsy and wobbly, so it's a little hard to get them to sit on the bed properly, as you can see in this and this close-up picture. It would also be pretty easy for one of the aforementioned feral supercats to knock them off kilter or squeeze between them. But we do want it to be easy for us to get the frames on and off.

So what we want to do is install some kind of cradles/receptacles/guides to help us land the frame in the right place and to help it stay seated once it's there. In my imagination, the ideal solution looks like this (my SketchUp drawing)—a plate with slanted sides that we can fasten to the top of the bed, so that dropping the frame into position is easy. But that doesn't seem to be a thing that exists or can be bought.

So far the best workable idea I've come up with is drilling angled holes into the bed and putting dowels (or perhaps shoulder hooks) in them like this.

Ideas we've already rejected:
  • Right now we're temporarily using garden stakes to kind of hold things in place, but they don't work that well. They don't hold the frames steady enough, and the fencing gets caught on them.
  • We were originally going to hinge them like this YouTuber, but we decided not to do that because there's not really enough clearance, and because we like having full access to the beds from all four sides.
I'm definitely overthinking this, but I don't have the experience to know what's feasible or what makes the most sense. Advice on how to solve this tiny problem would be helpful, including (1) ideas we haven't thought of, (2) ways of sourcing or constructing something that looks more like the imaginary ideal solution, or (3) advice on whether the dowel idea makes sense.

Constraints: I don't have much DIY experience generally, and I don't have anything more than basic hand tools on hand. I am willing to learn new things and acquire new tools but advanced woodworking techniques etc. are probably beyond me.
posted by Syllepsis to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You are totally overthinking this. You’re using what appears to be 3/4” PVC pipes. Go back to the hardware store where you bought the pipe and ask in the plumbing section for pipe hangers.

There are a million different kinds, so be creative. Some are meant to hold a pipe flat to a surface. I personally have used plastic “hanger straps” (think one is shown at the top of the link I provided, though in galvanized steel). What I did was to use a pop rivet tool (which is just a cousin to a pair of pliers—easy if you’re not into diy) to make a loop sized for my frame, and then I screwed the “tail” to my raised bed.

Here’s another option—one hole pipe straps. You might just have to bend the straight part to attach the pipe to the face of the board.

Truly, if you ever need to do something with pipe, a plumber has figured out the way to do it.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:34 AM on May 16, 2019 [6 favorites]

To further riff on the plumbing-based solutions, you could use that rivet tool to make a small loop on a hanger strap to secure it to the frame and then fasten the "tail" to a nail or a dowel on the side of the bed to secure the frame when you want it closed. You could skip the rivets and screw one end of a hanger strap to the inside and attach the loose end to a screw or a nail on the outside.

Honestly, the easiest thing would be to make a small lip around the edge of the bed using some more wood--it probably wouldn't need to go all the way around, just one point of contact on each outer face for each of the two frame pieces.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:52 AM on May 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I might try gripper clips like these. Attach them along the top of the woodwork, and then just snap the frame into place, which should hold the pipe with enough force to deter cats. A lot of tool clips leave a small gap, but these look like they'd hold the pipes pretty close.
posted by pipeski at 2:34 AM on May 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I use PVC frames over my beds to keep my chickens out. If you take off the bottom pipes and connectors, you can attach copper tube straps to the inside of the beds and then just slide the pipes in.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:33 AM on May 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Could you insert dowels into the corner posts of your beds so that the corner pipes of your frames slide on to the dowels?
posted by Segundus at 4:58 AM on May 16, 2019

I'd fix the tubes at the ends of the beds permanently into place by looping short lengths of galvanized hanger strap over them and screwing those into the bed rails, thereby turning the tube itself into the pivot pin of a giant hinge.

To give the side tubes a bit of positive location I'd screw four pairs of 1x2 wooden risers projecting above the side rails by maybe an inch and a half to the inside and outside of each of the side panels, generously rounding the inner edges of the projecting ends to reduce the accuracy required while swinging the covers back into place.

Then I'd hacksaw the heads off four six-inch nails, bend them all into a squared-U shape with a vice and a hammer, and drop them into paired 5/16" holes drilled downward close to the ends of the tubes where each pair of covers meets in the middle.

The only way to raise the covers once they're hinged at the ends is to swing them up and out, and this necessarily requires the tubes where they meet at the top to separate. That can't happen as long as the U-pins are still sitting in those holes. Pretty sure no cat is ever going to figure that out.
posted by flabdablet at 5:50 AM on May 16, 2019

If the geometry of my proposed solution is appealing but you'd rather be able to remove the covers completely, you can achieve that by doing the hinging with wooden retainers at the ends rather than using the hanger straps. Screw a pair of 1x2 risers to the outside faces of the bed ends, projecting maybe two inches above the edges, then screw a couple of small blocks to the inside faces of the risers so that when the PVC tube is lying along the end of the bed it can move neither outwards nor upwards.

That way you still need to use a hinging action to start lifting the cover off, so the U-pins will still do their jobs; but once the cover has swung up far enough to clear its mate, you can just slide the hinge end inward a couple of inches to let the whole thing come free completely.
posted by flabdablet at 6:01 AM on May 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

so, if I were doing this, I'd take one of two approaches. Either re-do the frame so it slides over the garden, and make it taller as needed, or add a facing panel of wood to the box frame, maybe just only on the corners, to provide a place for the PVC to sit in.
posted by odinsdream at 6:57 AM on May 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if I was *really* done with this fucking thing, I'd probably get some big squeezy clamps that can reach over the PVC tube and grip the wood underneath, and get 4 for each bed and just clamp them down.
posted by odinsdream at 6:59 AM on May 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Big binder clips on the pipe, matching one on the wood frame, glue a magnet to the clip on the base. Or some other magnetic metal and magnets.

I saved a bunch of wire frames from campaign signs and use the sturdy wire for lots of stuff. You could make wire wickets to remove when you want to work in the garden, and put back in to secure the frame. Wire garden edging/fencing would also hold it on place if you put put them around the edge.
posted by theora55 at 7:08 AM on May 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think pipe hangers (or i'd go back and put in some Ts along the bottom and run pipes into the soil) would be good, but if you can get a piece of thin plastic around the bottom of your frame, then you can get a some big plastic cable ties and wrap them around the wood and the pipes.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:38 AM on May 16, 2019

Yeah, in line with odinsdream's idea, my first instinct would be to extend the corner and center pieces of wood on the outside up by an inch or two, so that the frame rests on the edge of the bed but is prevented from falling off. Unless the frames are extraordinarily flimsy, you should only need to do the outside edges, as the opposite outer edge will prevent it from moving inward.

If you wanted to go with your bracket idea, you could buy some U-channel and cut it down. I'd probably put a 6" piece at the center of each of the 4 edges. You can get it in a variety of heights, widths, and thicknesses, and you could probably find a local store that stocks several sizes that would work.

A quick-and-dirty way to make a cradle would be to just take a length of slightly larger diameter PVC pipe (or even a fitting for the size of pipe you used) and cut it in half along the length of the pipe.
posted by yuwtze at 7:44 AM on May 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

My initial thought was strips of velcro. Easy to staple to the upward-facing edge of the bed and glue-or-screw to the PVC and boom, cats can't move it. It won't help you with guiding them into perfect position but it's fast and easy.
posted by komara at 10:17 AM on May 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Conduit clips?

Screw 'em down and clip the pipe in.

Admiral Haddock and pipeski are on the trolly!
posted by Max Power at 3:41 PM on May 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Unless the frames are extraordinarily flimsy, you should only need to do the outside edges, as the opposite outer edge will prevent it from moving inward.

The bottom corners of the frames where they meet in the middle are completely unsupported as far as sideways movement goes. If they were made of iron pipe that probably wouldn't matter much, but they're only PVC so it will.

Pairs of small risers will get you more positive location with less material than full-length outer edge lips, and they'll be sturdier and less easily damaged than clips or bits of channel.
posted by flabdablet at 8:51 PM on May 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thank you for all the amazing and thoughtful ideas, everyone!

I ended up going with the gripper clips that pipeski linked, and they work great!
posted by Syllepsis at 6:03 PM on June 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

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