size of hardware cloth for berry bed cover/box
I have my strawberry beds covered in shade cloth 24x7 to stop the rabbits and chipmunks (and birds, and ...) from destroying the plants and fruit.
It's not an ideal solution (although free) since I have to move bricks, pull it back, etc. to get access to pick, weed, view, etc.
I would like to build (or convince my father in law :) ) a box over each of my raised strawberry beds. The sides and top will be hardware cloth over a wood frame. Each 14' bed will likely have two hinged lids to raise for weeding/etc. access.
The beds are 4' across, so I need 4' widths of hardware cloth to keep things easy. I have seen 1/2" x 1/2" hardware cloth which also has a vinyl coating - which would seem to be better wearing/less rusting, but I haven't seen this in 1/4" x 1/4" hardware cloth.
So, my questions are:
1. Will I need 1/4" x 1/4" hardware cloth to keep out the chipmunks? (they are so cute I just want to strangle them all! grrrr). I'm assuming this size will allow in all my beneficial insects.
2. If 1/2" x 1/2" will do, is there a real advantage to using the vinyl coated version?
3. If I don't use the vinyl coated, is there an advantage to painting all of the hardware cloth with Rustoleum? The hardware cloth is galvanized.
4. These strawberries are in raised beds; how high above the soil level should I have the sides of the hardware cloth box go? I assume 8 inches should be plenty?
5. Any tricks to working with hardware cloth? What type of fasteners work well for attaching it to the wooden frame? How easy is it to work with since I need it flat and it comes in rolls?
Wow, a lot of questions. But I do hate the wildlife around here.