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Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Now that you’ve planted your beautiful brussel sprouts, luxurious lettuce and tasty tomatoes it’s time to really get serious about your garden. You may have tilled the soil, selected the perfect veggies and tenderly planted your produce, but those tiny tendrils have big enemies lurking.
Deer. Rabbits. Raccoons. Just to name a few.
To protect your pride and joy from these hungry antagonists, you need the right fence.
Bekaert Fence Pro, Steven Sarson has been helping homeowners protect their gardens for nearly three decades. He recommends asking yourself four questions when planning your perimeter.
These relentless garden-robbers can climb and dig.
“The best way to manage raccoons is with an electric fence,” said Sarson. “Start with a woven wire fence with three-inch openings, such as our Solidlock® Pro 12.5 ga Fixed Knot Fence, as your first line of defense.
To keep raccoons from climbing up and over your woven wire, ground the fence and then put a strand of smooth, electrified wire around it at 12 inches high,” he explained. “When the raccoons climb the fence, they touch the hotwire, they're grounded to the fence and get off in a hurry.” Plastic netting fence with small strands of electric wire woven into it is another option to deter raccoons. Sarson says most raccoons will learn to avoid an electrified fence.
Sarson says there’s really only one good option for keeping rabbits away from your tasty veggies. “Building a simple woven wire fence [Field Fence and Fixed Knot Fence are great options] and adding a mesh apron keeps rabbits from going through the fence or burrowing under it,” he said.
An apron is made of a material called “hardware cloth” which is designed with mesh as small as a half-inch wide. Lay the mesh, which is about three feet wide, next to one edge of your woven fence and fold it 90 degrees, so half lays on the ground and half can be affixed to the woven wire fence. “You are now protecting 18 inches up the fence and 18 inches out
from the fence,” said Sarson. Use landscape spikes to tack the mesh to the ground and wire clips to adhere it to the woven wire fence. Repeat on all sides of your perimeter. “With an apron, the rabbit cannot get high enough to get through the fence and they won’t dig through 18 inches of dirt to actually reach the interior of the garden,” Sarson said.
“Deer present a unique challenge,” said Sarson. “They can jump up several feet high and yet get their noses under a fence to make entry.”
For a permanent fencing option, Sarson recommends a woven wire fence, such as Bekaert’s Solidlock® Pro 12.5 ga Fixed Knot, Solidlock® 14 ga Fixed Knot or Gaucho® Field Fence, strung at a minimum of 78 inches high with strong corner braces. “These are great fences for orchards, sweet corn patches, or large gardens,” he said. “If you’re building a permanent fence, consider your entry point or gate.” To help you calculate your materials list, Bekaert offers a free, online Fence Calculator tool that allows you to outline your garden, pick your fencing materials and calculate in gating materials.
Sarson notes fence-builders sometimes forget their garden gates are for more than just people. “Specifically, think about all of the supplies you’ll need to haul into the garden area like a small tractor, wheelbarrow or wagons,” Sarson added.
An option for either a permanent or temporary fence is a 3D fence that uses two rows of high tensile 12.5 ga smooth wire at different heights. To build this fence, place two sets of lines of posts 3 feet apart around your garden. Put three 12.5 gauge, high tensile smooth wires on the outside fence using spaces of 8, 10 and 12 inches, making the total height 30 inches. Place two wires on the inner set of posts at 42 and 52 inches. Use a small fence charger to electrify the fence.
“This 3D fence creates an optical illusion for deer. They see five lines of wire, but they don't know how far they have to jump to clear them,” said Sarson. “The illusion means they don't know if their jump has to be two inches or 20 feet.”
If temporary, these wire strands are easily supported by fiberglass fence posts.
Sarson says there are a few details garden owners should remember as they build their veggie fortresses.
“First, just like people, animals don’t know an electric fence will give them a shock until they touch it the first time,” he said. “The most successful electrified fences start with the garden owner “training the wildlife.”
Consult your local farm store for the correct energizer to match your fence length. Remember, a 10x10 garden perimeter fence doesn't need as powerful an energizer as a one-mile livestock fence.
Sarson also reminds his urban garden clients to check their local ordinances before they begin a fencing project. “The most frequent fencing requirements are around height and use of electricity, so we encourage everyone to ask a local contractor or city zoning officer about specifications.”