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Posts Tagged ‘garden fence’

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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Mending my Small Kitchen Garden Fence

The wooden frames I made for my garden fence are of pressure-treated lumber. The corners are lap joints, meaning I removed half the material from each piece of wood so when I bolted them together they would be no thicker at the corners than at any other part of the frames. I removed the rusted, broken chicken wire from this frame in preparation for putting on new material.

When my small kitchen garden finally dried out at the end of May, of course I started planting. But setting seedlings in the soil motivates me to take on basic maintenance that feels nothing like gardening: evaluating the garden fence and mending any damage.

I have a rather ugly garden fence. This is because I built a fence first for my 14 foot by 14 foot planting bed and I made the fence three feet tall. Later, I doubled the size of the bed and built additional fence, but by then I’d realized a two-foot fence would be enough to discourage the rodents in my neighborhood. I saved money by using less chicken wire and wood for the new fence.

The mixture of high and low fence sections looks messy, but it’s mine.

Fence Mending with Plastic

I added a planting bed last year, and had no fence to protect it, so when I went shopping for materials to mend the old fence, I wanted to buy enough to create a fence as well around the garden annex. And then I found plastic fencing mesh.

These photos show detail of a bolted-together lap joint. There are two lag bolts on each corner, pulled very snugly into the wood by nuts on the opposite side. Note that I used washers behind the nuts. The metal has rusted, and algae has grown on the wood, but the frames are in decent shape even after 16 years of use. I love the well-aged look that these photos captured.

This stuff looks nice, it’s light weight, and it figured to be easy to handle. The chicken wire on some of my three-foot tall fence panels had rusted and broken, so I bought a fifty foot long roll of three foot wide plastic fencing. This would wrap around the annex planting bed and leave enough material to repair the old fence.

The photos show a fence panel and the steps I took to repair it. Here’s what I’ve learned: If you’re serious about fencing critters out of your garden, don’t use plastic fencing. Whoever decided to package and sell this stuff as though we should use it to protect our gardens is an idiot. Sorry, no apologies. The plastic fencing material looks nice, and it’s pretty convincing once you install it. But it won’t stop a rodent that has teeth and a little time on its hands.

Doesn’t this look like legitimate garden fencing material? The packaging claimed it’s garden fencing material. If gnawing rodents run free in your neighborhood, this type of plastic “fencing” is a waste of money.

I figured when I bought it that the plastic would be chew-vulnerable, but I also figured a rabbit or woodchuck would likely just walk away. After all, the stores sell this stuff as garden fence. And figuring on motivation of a small rodent: Why, I reasoned, bother chewing on plastic when there are so many fine things to eat underfoot?

Rodents that chew are a story for another day. The photos in this article show how I mended the old garden fence. Originally I built wooden frames to support chicken wire, and I stand those frames side-by-side around the garden’s perimeter. This is the first panel I repaired using plastic instead of wire, and I probably did the same with two other panels. Those are the last. Next time I repair fence, I’m using something made of metal.

An upcoming blog post, I believe, will convince you my decision is a good one.

There are no tricks to attaching plastic “fencing” to a wooden frame. Actually, the procedure works as well with metal fencing (chicken wire, for example), though you’ll need wire cutters instead of scissors when it comes to trimming chicken wire off the roll. My recommendation: use chicken wire.

 

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