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Plastic Mesh Fencing? NOT For Kitchen Gardens!

Looking through the plastic mesh fencing at my garden annex, you can see bush bean and chili pepper plants scattered throughout a robust weedscape. Squint, and you might make out the fencing that stretches along all sides of the planting bed.

I recently reported how I repaired the fence that protects my small kitchen garden. This year, I used plastic mesh fencing that I bought in the garden department of a large discount store. The material came in a 50 foot roll clearly marked as fencing for vegetable gardens.

I repaired, perhaps, three fence panels with plastic mesh, using no more than nine feet from the roll. I stretched the remaining 41 feet of plastic around my garden annex—a small planting bed I added last year where my kids’ sandbox used to be.

My Vulnerable Small Kitchen Garden

The plastic mesh “fence” was three feet tall, and it sat flush with the ground around the entire planting bed. Everything inside looked secure. The photos tell the rest of the story, the unavoidable conclusions of which are:

The day after my son mowed the lawn, I discovered a hole in the plastic mesh that surrounded my garden annex. I guessed my son had run the mower against the fence, and I covered the hole by leaning a board against the mesh. Later, I found two more holes in the mesh… one of them against the rhubarb patch. Clearly my son hadn’t mowed through the rhubarb patch to reach the garden fence; there must have been some other force at work here.

1. If you want to keep critters out of your garden, don’t use plastic mesh fencing as your garden fence.

2. Though metal fencing (such as chicken wire) may be three times the cost of plastic mesh, you will spend more money on the plastic stuff. Some of my chicken wire fences have survived 15 years, while the plastic gave out in a matter of weeks.

3. The manufacturer of plastic mesh fencing and the retailers who sell it as fencing should be ashamed. The stuff is useless as fencing; it can’t protect against exactly the things you’d expect a fence to keep out of your small kitchen garden.

When I examined the damaged fence closely, I noticed a tuft of hair and some flattened grass. Probing with a stick revealed a hole in the garden soil lined with rabbit hair and weeds; a rabbit had eaten through my fence in several places and built a little nursery in my garden annex! Fortunately, I’d intervened before rabbit puppies appeared; my activity in the garden annex discouraged the rabbit from returning.

I don’t know whether it’s the fence-damaging culprit, but this rabbit hangs around my yard quite a bit. When I muse about what a rabbit needs to do, I realize that it has plenty of time to sit next to a plastic mesh fence and systematically chew large holes through it. Plastic mesh fencing is a really bad idea.


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4 Responses to “Plastic Mesh Fencing? NOT For Kitchen Gardens!”

  • Oh wow – I’ve been using the plastic fencing for 2 seasons now, and the only problem I’ve had is the occasional cucumber growing through the mesh – with hilarious results. You have a tough bunny! We make sure to put a tent stake down periodically along the perimeter to hold the mesh tight to the ground, and we use the 7 ft fencing b/c of our deer issues. Maybe b/c I’m in the garden at least 1x a day I’m leaving enough scent to discourage bunnies? Best of luck with your next fence!

  • Don’t introduce your rabbit to mine. Not only do I have at least a dozen hopping around in my garden each evening, but even my chicken wire and hardware cloth fencing is inadequate to keep out the rats, mice and some of the more determined rabbits. I’m still looking for a fencing that will work in the chaparral. Plastic fencing? Yeah, it’s great for the TOP of my vegetable patch! Good luck with yours, Daniel!

  • Samantha:

    This is my first season as a “vegetable gardener” and while I’ve failed the rose bushes I inherited with our home purchase, I had thought I was doing pretty well with my veggies. After reading your blog, I’ve realized I’m totally ignorant to what it is to “Garden”.

    That said – I bought the plastic mesh fencing this year, thinking that I was saving myself some money on a “adventure” in gardening. Now that my tomatos are starting to ripen, I’ve noticed that they get eaten pretty much down to the vine before I can even pick them. After reading your blog, I’m pretty sure that I’ve got a case of the rabbits as well! Even with stakes in the ground, my garden is still under attack. Next year, I’ll opt for the chicken wire fence and try to get some of the crop for myself!

    Thanks very much for the enducational blog. After reading your posts, I’ve realized I definitely have blight on my tomato plants and have MUCH to learn about gardening.

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    Samantha: Thank you for visiting and thanks for your kind remarks. Don’t sell yourself short. Every season has its own challenges, and even very experienced kitchen gardeners can feel pretty ignorant about gardening. Last year I’ve dubbed “The Year of the Insect” in my small kitchen garden, and I mean to blog about it any month now. I ran into several insect problems that were all new to me, and each one sent me scrounging for information about how to save my garden. The year before that was all about late blight on my tomatoes.

    I hope you don’t have late blight on your plants, but I’ve heard that it’s about in some northern states. Such a shame, though not entirely surprising given the crazy wet spring we had. Good luck in any case… focusing on your successes each season makes it easy to dig in the following year, tweaking a few things that need it, and trying a few new things. I hope you have some great harvests!

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