If you’re starting a vegetable garden for the first time (or just completed our raised bed project), then you’re probably looking forward to sitting down to your first dinner made with vegetables you’ve grown yourself. Chances are, you’re not the only one. Your neighbors are already covetously looking at your growing produce, biding their time until the best moment to sneak in and steal it while you sleep.
In this case, the neighbors in question are likely small, furry, and prone to running on all fours. (If not, talk to them about at least helping out with the watering and weeding.) And the tried-and-true strategy for keeping out unwanted wildlife starts with putting up some garden fencing.
For dealing with the little guys – like rabbits and gophers – a low fence of chicken wire will probably suffice. (For a quick look at some of the properties and possibilities of this versatile DIY mainstay, check out our Meet the Material article on chicken wire.) Fencing with a 3 foot width should be enough to deter most earthbound critters. The bottom 6 inches should be buried to keep the Hogan’s Heroes of the animal kingdom from tunneling their way to your vegetables. You can string the fencing between stakes planted at intervals along the perimeter of your garden. Be sure to leave space between the fence and the garden so that you’ll have room to maneuver when you’re getting your hands dirty.
Squirrels and other acrobats of the animal kingdom are trickier. If you haven’t yet built your garden, consider planting it away from low-slung tree branches. If you’ve already placed your garden, try removing any nearby branches from which squirrels might drop. If both solutions are impractical in your situation, you can fence your garden in on all sides – including above – to keep them from dropping in from a nearby branch. Just be sure to use something that allows plenty of sunlight in, and that will hold up to abuse, as squirrels have been known to chew through other kinds of netting. Again: think chicken wire.
Sterner measures are called for if your gatecrashers are bigger. Deer are voracious eaters, willing to nosh on just about any garden material they can find. The small-scale fencing you use to keep out pipsqueaks like rabbits will barely slow down a deer. If they’re known to roam your neighborhood, you’ll need to build your fencing up to seven feet or taller. Even then, large deer populations may prove difficult to thwart.
Fences need not be your only strategy for dealing with uninvited guests. They’re most effective if coupled with other deterrents, like a chemical repellent or an outdoor pet. Against certain smaller diners, you’ll need to take other precautions altogether. But if you find yourself losing the fruits of your labors to intruders of the four-legged variety, a good fence should be your first defense.