Gardens and Decorative Fences

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The primary use of fences is to keep animals out of gardens. The worst garden raiders include deer, rabbits, skunks, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, dogs, cats, woodchucks, and opossums. Unhappily, we add humans to this list as well. Your garden location determines which of these animals are troublesome. Fences also provide a way to overcome space limitations in the garden.

Fences can support certain climbing crops, including pole snap and lima beans, peas, cucumbers, small melons, squash, and even some pumpkins. You even tie tomato plants to fences. Instead of spreading horizontally, such crops encompass vertical space, freeing up gardening space for other crops.

The goal is to find the ideal, all-purpose fence suitable for both protection from small animals and support of climbing crops. Fences used to surround and protect crops that appeal to animals, such as corn and salad crops, may also support climbing crops that animals don't molest. The location of the fence, the kinds of animals present, and the other available food sources determine how effective the fence will be. The only sure way to know if the fence works is to try it, or as the scientist would say, experiment.

To determine what kind of fence you need, you first have to determine what kinds of animals find your garden attractive. For example, deer can be troublesome in rural areas, because they can damage vegetables and shrubbery. To deter them you need a high fence. Little pests like rabbits and woodchucks can dig under fences, so to keep them out you need a fence that goes underground. Woodchucks are double trouble because they can climb; for them you need some sort of anti-climbing device on top of the fence, as well as an underground extension. Other notorious climbers include squirrels, raccoons, and opossums.

You can easily discourage dogs and cats by using fences; but human garden vandals are the most challenging lot. They may respond to education or the passage of time but certainly not to fences, unless the fences are barbed wire or electric. Next, you must examine your garden's location. Some location factors reduce the garden's need for protection. For example, city gardens are not usually troubled by animal pests, but the odds that animals will invade the garden increase in the suburbs, and increase still more in country gardens. However, exceptions do exist. For example, I presently have a city garden at my home on the corner of two heavily traveled streets. I have a lot of vegetation on my lot, which is also a short distance from a park. I have frequent garden visitors, including skunks, raccoons, opossums, and squirrels; but I can still grow climbing crops on my fence, because these animals seems to have other food preferences. However, if their alternative natural food supplies decreased, I could have trouble.

Another choice faced by the gardener is whether the fence is to be permanent or temporary. Both cases have their pros and cons. The joy of permanence is that you do the job once and don't have to repeat it. The problem is a lack of flexibility and aesthetics. For example, if you use permanent fencing, it becomes difficult to change the size or shape of your garden. Also, you may not want to look out your window in winter to see a stark, forbidding fence looming out of a snow drift. On the other hand, the annual erection and removal of temporary fences involve a lot of labor and frustration, besides the fact that you may not have the storage space for your fences.