Saturday, April 13, 2013

Garden Fencing - Let Me Count the Ways

I have a love-hate relationship with the fencing around our garden.  I dislike having my access limited to a couple of gates but here, as in most regions, anything growing in an unfenced garden just becomes critter food.  We are starting our 17th year and have gone through several variations of garden fence.  When we first moved here we had no other animals and our main goals were to keep the deer and groundhogs out of the garden.  We put up 5-strand electric which really didn't help with either problem.  How naive we were.  The deer went over (or through) the fence and the groundhogs went under.  We soon added two feet of chicken wire around the bottom and made an apron on the outside which kept out the ground hogs.  It also broke a lot of trimmer line and the chicken wire eventually rusted away and was removed in rusty pieces.  We learned (from somewhere but I forget now) that deer would respect a single strand of electric fence if it is about 30 inches high and baited with peanut butter. The idea is that the deer smell the peanut butter, touch it with their nose, and once "bitten", leave the garden alone.  This seemed to work so our spring ritual before the early crops went in was baiting the perimeter fence with aluminum foil and cheap peanut butter.  The procedure is to place 4-inch foil squares every 8 to 10 feet along the wire.  The foil is taped to the wire with duct tape then the peanut butter is spread on the foil and folded over.

As we added dogs to the farm, the groundhog problem went away and the single wire baited a couple of times a season served us well for a number of years.  The one issue with foil though is that the birds just love to sit on the wire and peck at the the peanut butter eventually destroying the foil.  In an attempt to foil the birds (no pun intended) I opted one year to try hanging beer cans with a bit of peanut butter inside.  That year our garden was encircled by a lovely garland of Old Milwaukee cans filled with wasp nests.  I resumed using foil the following year, knowing we'd have to redo the foil in late summer.

Somewhere along the way we decided to get chickens.  We built a coop inside the garden (there is that naive thing cropping up again) and fenced it with 6-foot-tall 2x4 wire.  The plan was to keep the chickens in a run when there were plants growing in the garden (April through October) and feed them lots of garden leftovers. 

Chickens stripping broccoli leaves.
This worked very well and it was handy since we spend a lot of time in the garden but the chickens still consumed a lot of purchased feed while incarcerated.  We decided that it would be better to have them free ranging.  So we gave away the chickens.  That was about 3 years ago.

We decided to get chickens again last last summer.  I wanted free ranging hens this time so that meant keeping the chickens out of the garden.  I pondered various fencing options and thought that I'd just put 4-foot chicken wire around the garden and put the electric wire on the outside to keep out the deer.  By now, having had lots of experience with dogs, goats, and chickens, I have put up (and removed) a lot of fence of various types.  Will I EVER learn???   I started with the chicken wire then ripped it down the next day after putting up a few feet of  wire.  Chicken wire is floppy and ugly especially when the terrain is the least bit irregular. Being in West Virginia, our farm pretty much defines irregular. Time for plan B.  Give the chickens away again, save myself a lot of time and money and buy free-rang eggs from a friend.  We decided against plan B and began to implement plan C. 

Plan C, currently under construction, involves fencing the garden perimeter with galvanized cattle panels covered with that 4-foot chicken wire that I had already opened and used.  I must say that I dearly LOVE cattle panels. I buy some every chance I get.  The downside is that they are 16-feet long and to haul a number of them requires a good-sized truck.  Fortunately, good friends offered to haul all my fencing materials on their flatbed truck and for this I am grateful.  The up-side of cattle panels is that they are semi-rigid, virtually indestructible and I can put them up by myself. They also make great tomato fences.  I often say that if I ever move away from this farm all my cattle panels are coming with me.

Anyway, back to the current fence.  Since I am working alone, I lay the panels on the ground, roll the chicken wire over the panel and attach it with zip-ties. As each panel is finished, I carry it to the garden, attach it to metal t-posts with big zip-ties.  Later I will go back and secure the panels with more zip-ties.  I am gradually working my way around the garden adding posts and panels and it looks like this:

Cattle panels covered in chicken wire.  The electric fence will be on the outside of the panels.

 I'm nearly done putting up panels except for a double cattle-panel gate for tractor/truck access to the garden and a smaller gate for people access.  This fence should keep out all the errant dogs, goats, chickens, deer, and small elephants that may wander by looking for a tasty nibble of broccoli.


  1. Cattle panels. Now I think I need to find a use for them around here, but nothing comes to mind.

    As for the groundhogs and dogs, did the dogs kill them or just scare them?

  2. Cattle panels are great. I can take four of them, tie the corners together and use it for a temporary pen or garden enclosure. A couple of t-posts on opposite corners make it pretty sturdy. I used that method to fence off some "greens" that lasted most of the winter.

    As for the groundhogs that literally had burrows around the perimeter of our garden...they were pretty much obliterated and others have not moved in.

  3. My dog would want to play with the groundhogs! Now my former dog, a german shephard that was a different story, haha. Shelley, how much do cattle panels go for? I think I'd like some of those around here.

    1. Cattle panels here are about $21 or so. I "invest" in them whenever possible :-)

  4. I have a vegetable garden in my backyard and I get a lot of benefits from it. Good thing my mom told me about this.

    Denver Landscape

  5. Awesome blog!!!!!! You shared useful inofrmation related to fencing which provides security for garden. Thank you..

    1. I'm glad you found the information useful. It has worked very well for us

  6. I used to have lunch with a lady from my church at her house, and you could practically see up the slope to the murder location on the other side of Grand. The parents of my husband's best friend basically live within earshot. Matt did not die in wilderness-- but that's the scene ingrained in our imaginations. wooden fence post