Fencing for our edible garden was our most time-consuming, resource draining decision. The long-term battle with critters is one farmers and gardeners have waged for ages. Guess what? Most times the critters find a way to win, so you should focus on minimizing the impact they have on your harvest.
Armed with this experience and knowledge we made the decision to fence in our garden. We are now very pleased with the results from an effectiveness and aesthetics standpoint. Is it the most perfectly straight fence? No. Does it look great and keep the critters out? Yes!
You can take a look at our fence and gate here. As with other do it yourself projects, always wear proper attire and safety gear. Working with fencing materials can be dangerous. Here is how we built our fencing, step by step:
1) We determined what kinds of critters we needed to keep away from our tender, organic, edible produce. Chipmunks and rabbits are the main intruders in our neighborhood. We have deer too, but made the decision not to build the required 8 foot or higher fencing required to keep them out (fingers were crossed).
2) We researched many books, magazines and websites for examples of fencing that provided both utility and great looks. Nothing too perfect looking, nothing painted or stained. We wanted something totally natural and organic looking. Furthermore, we selected to build our fence from untreated cedar. Cedar stands up to the elements well and will provide many years of service and beauty.
3) We decided to build a simple fence with 4×4 corner posts and 2×4 support posts in between. Each post was sunk quite deep in the ground to ensure stability. We took the extra step of cementing in the 4×4 corner posts. You must pack the soil around the posts really hard and tight to ensure they will be strong and sturdy. Our fence is about 4 feet high above the ground. We also fenced in a larger portion of yard than we initially intended to plant. Future planning is key here. Two years later we have maxed out the fenced in area and are finding creative ways to further use our space without making the garden too hard to tend. Guess we should have went bigger!
Note – we learned the hard way that it pays to do step 4 before setting n the posts in step 3. We set the posts first and had extra time and effort trenching up to each positioned post. A better way is to mark the positions of the fence posts and then trench the perimeter. The trench should be centered on the posts, not in front of, or behind them.
4) Our fencing itself is made from a wire mesh with small rectangular holes (see below). We buried an additional 12 inches of the wire mesh fencing below the soil surface and curled the very bottom of the mesh up and facing the exterior of the garden. Theoretically this makes it more difficult for animals to burrow beneath it. To accomplish this you must make a narrow trench from post to post to accommodate the buried mesh fencing. A trenching shovel and the wide side of a pickaxe come in handy here. This part was hard work, but worth the effort.
5) Here is where you get to make a design decision. Do you want a top rail to the fence like in the pictures of ours? If so you will need long sections of the same cedar, but in much smaller sizes. See the pictures of ours so you can tell where to install it. Smaller sizes are easier to work with and weight less. Weight is key on the top rail as heavy wood will be more difficult to work with and will stress the posts. The size you chose is part aesthetics and part size of garden. The top rail will also add stability to the wire mesh. We found this to be the best benefit. A bottom rail can be added too, but we opted not to so we could keep workload down and costs under control.
After trenching and setting the posts in place you unroll the wire mesh fencing from post to post. Be careful, the wire mesh can be really sharp. Start at a corner post and staple or nail the mesh into the post. We used a heavy-duty stapler for this and 1000’s of the longest staples our staple gun could handle. We added nail-in staples on corner posts for extra strength. Next, follow the top rail and the trench as you unroll the wire mesh fence. We found working with two people helps here. One person can bend the lower part of the mesh up (away from garden interior) and tuck it into the trench while the other can staple the wire mesh into the top rail. When you reach the next fence post you can cut the mesh and start the process again or trench just behind the post and keep unrolling. The later did not work so well for us, but the job was being done solo at that point.
As you go along you need to fill the trench and pack down the soil very well (using a tamper). You can buy a tamper or use a large stone or brick like we did. You also need to make sure the soil around the posts is tamped in well too.