Seedling Shelter

By Art Mulder

Photo by Dave Starrett

While it’s not easy to spread SPF-30 sunscreen lotion on your young garden plants, those little guys sometimes need a bit of shelter from the sun. But you can use some wooden SPF instead. A lath house is a structure made of narrow slats that let in air and filtered light while still providing shelter from the hot sun and strong winds. My portable lath house’s design is easy to build, and the house folds up for quick storage when it’s no longer needed.




Getting ready

Inexpensive, construction-grade strapping, also known as SPF, from a home-improvement centre is the best choice of material for this project. Although the tag will say 1x2, this lumber is actually about 11/16"-thick x 11/2"-wide. You could also use another outdoor-friendly wood, such as cedar, but it will cost about twice as much.

If you’re planning to add a finish to your lath house, I recommend sanding and painting before assembly. It is much easier to apply paint to long, straight boards without having to deal with various nooks and crannies.


Cut all your parts to size, with 20 pieces at 36" long for the crosspieces and six pieces at 32" long for the legs. Two legs on each side are probably sufficient, but I added a centre leg on each side for extra reinforcement.

Measuring and spacing

Lay out three legs on your bench and carefully measure their spacing so they are parallel. Clamp a couple of crosspieces temporarily at the top and bottom, and measure the diagonals to ensure all three legs are square. Laying out parts on a piece of plywood or in the corner of a room also helps ensure square results.

Attaching crosspieces to legs

My research into lath houses showed me that they usually will cut the sun by about 50 per cent; so, when attaching crosspieces to the legs, use another crosspiece (or some offcuts from the original lumber) to space the crosspieces evenly. Hold each crosspiece tightly to the spacer, and nail or screw the crosspiece into place. Repeat this process with the other set of legs and crosspieces.

Attaching hinges

The final step is to attach a pair of hinges to the two outer legs, bringing the two sections together.

Tools & Materials

Part Material Size (T x W x L*) Qty.


Legs SPF 11/16" x 1/12" x 32" 6
Crosspieces SPF 11/16" x 1 1/2" x 36" 20
Hinges Brass or plated 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" 2

* Length indicates grain direction

Recommended Tools



Jigsaw or handsaw

Drill/driver or hammer


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