At long last, we have new fencing around the main vegetable garden. This is a project some time in the making, since the original plastic mesh deer fencing was only supposed to be there for a ‘couple’ of years when I put it up, and that was five years ago! The new fencing should last for a long time, and might even outlast me. It should also provide a sturdy deterrent to the deer, groundhogs, rabbits, raccoons, opossums and any other critters that would likely feed on the garden goodies if they were left unprotected.
The fencing material itself is six foot tall galvanized welded wire, with a 2″ by 4″ opening. It is what many people use for fencing a dog pen. The corner posts are treated 4x4s, sunk in the ground two feet and filled in with concrete. They are braced and reinforced with more 4x4s to keep them from leaning. It is safe to say the wooden posts are not going anywhere. In between the wooden posts we used 8 foot metal t-posts, also driven two feet in the ground.
I had a contractor do the above work of setting all the posts and putting up the fencing. He had to deal with ground that slopes every which way, and he did a great job. That left me with cleaning up the old fencing, which was on the inside of the new fencing, and putting up poultry netting around the bottom part of the fencing. The 2″x4″ opening is big enough to let small rabbits through, so the chicken wire will serve to keep them from squeezing inside and feasting on the veggie buffet. I secured it to the main fencing using plastic tie wraps.
For a gate we chose a ready-made one that is designed for use with chain link fencing. It’s 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall, which should be plenty wide enough to get in and out with a wheelbarrow full of compost or one headed for the compost pile with garden waste. Since the gate will be subjected to the stress of frequent opening and closing, it made sense to get a heavy duty one made of metal tubing instead of making one ourselves with wooden framing. I fashioned a little flap of flexible plastic mesh material around the bottom to keep rabbits from squeezing in there. We used a similar treatment on the gate at the Impact Community Garden and it has worked great for us there.
One other chore I’m doing now is mulching around the perimeter of the fencing with cardboard. I am picking up boxes from the kitchen where I volunteer, breaking them down and flattening them out before laying them on the ground. They will help keep the weeds down on the outside of the fence. I may do the same on the inside too.
I expanded the garden significantly with this project. The old garden was about 30×40 feet, and the new one is 44×48 feet. This increases the available space from about 1200 square feet to around 2100. This will allow me to stop growing some things in the unprotected kitchen garden area, plus have room to grow additional crops. The old garden area was more of a trapezoid shape due to my poor layout, and the new one is a nicely squared off rectangle. This will surely make planting a bit easier as well.
I also plan on orienting my rows and beds in a north/south direction, instead of east/west like they have been. I think that makes more sense given the way that water flows down the hill to the garden site. That way the rows and beds will serve to slow the runoff. I plan on having one long raised bed on the ‘up’ side of the garden, which will also serve to block the runoff. Right now I have 3 beds that are 4×8 feet each. I should be able to make one long bed at least 4×40 feet. I typically use these beds for crops that stay in the ground for a long time, like garlic and overwintered greens. It’s also a nice spot for early planted things like onions, broccoli and cabbage.
The new fence has already received it’s official blessing from the resident bluebirds. They were visiting here yesterday, and checking out the fence. I saw a bug in the mouth of one of them, so it must provide a good vantage point for their food hunting activities. Which of course means less bugs in the garden, so it’s a win-win situation for me and the birds!
As soon as the ground can be worked next year I’ll begin breaking up the new ground and amending the soil. I also have a few sapling trees to dig up, which we do a lot since we have a mulberry tree in the back yard and the birds are forever dropping seeds all over the place. I’m looking forward to putting the extra garden space to use in 2013, and I’m working up the garden plans already. 2012 is almost gone, and it will be time for planting spring vegetables before you know it!