Millions of gardeners around the world enjoy growing their own veggies, but not fencing a vegetable garden means the local wildlife may enjoy the garden even more than you do. Whether it’s deer, rabbits, groundhogs, or any number of other garden interlopers, learning how to fence a vegetable garden properly can be the difference between an ample harvest and a non-existent one. In this article I’ll cover the most popular vegetable garden fence ideas and share some tips for using them successfully.
Why fencing a vegetable garden is a must
Almost all gardeners face issues with critters from time to time. Putting up some sort of garden fence before trouble strikes protects your plants and your investment. Garden fencing doesn’t have to be expensive; your options for barriers are many. Later in the article, I’ll cover some of the most common types of vegetable garden fencing for all budgets. Those with small gardens will admittedly have an easier time fencing their growing space, but even gardeners with big plots can fence inexpensively if they are willing to do some research and explore their options.
Fencing material options
When thinking about fencing your vegetable garden, first consider the different fencing materials available to you. They each have pros and cons, including their appearance, cost, difficulty to install, and lifespan. Here are a few of the most popular material options when fencing a vegetable garden.
Wood: Wooden garden fences can be made from naturally rot-resistant woods like locust, redwood, or cedar. You can opt for picket fencing, privacy fencing (called stockade), or even a split rail fence. If the fencing won’t touch the plants themselves or the soil immediately next to their roots, you can even opt for pressure treated lumber which is less expensive than the other options. Costs will vary greatly. Upcycled wood fencing materials, like pallet wood, are another option if you enjoy DIY projects. Bamboo fence options are a sustainable and long-lasting choice, though they may not be as sturdy as standard lumber.
Mesh: There are several options for mesh fences. Mesh can be used alone or in combination with other materials. Wire mesh, like chicken wire or welded wire, are great economical options. Wire fencing is inexpensive compared to wooden fencing. One step down on the budget ladder from wire mesh is plastic mesh. Plastic mesh fencing options include deer or bird netting and garden fencing. It doesn’t last as long as wire mesh but is inexpensive and easy to install.
Metal: In addition to metal mesh, there are other metal fences that work well for vegetable gardens, with the most popular being chain-link fencing. I like to combine chain link with wooden split rail fences for a rustic look that keeps even medium-sized animals out. Though it is not as attractive as some other options, chain link can easily be covered by flowering vines and climbing veggies like pole beans and cucumbers.
Vinyl and plastic: Backyard veggie garden fences can also be made of vinyl or plastic. Commercially made vinyl fences offer several benefits. First, they can be very decorative. Second, they are long lasting (my parents have had the same one around their vegetable garden for close to 25 years). They can also offer a lot of privacy, depending on the style you choose. Their biggest downside is the expense. Depending on their height and length, vinyl and plastic fences can be substantial investments.
How to fence a vegetable garden
After deciding which materials to use, the next step is to consider how best to install your fence. Here are a few suggestions for an easier installation.
- Temporary wire or plastic mesh fences can be mounted on either metal T-posts or wooden 1×1 stakes, depending on the look you are going for. These casual fences are super simple to install. No need to get fancy if you don’t want to.
- For permanent vegetable garden fences, if you live in a cold climate, sink 4×4 or 6×6 wooden posts or metal posts to a depth of at least 36 inches (3 ft) and secure them with concrete. This depth keeps the concrete below the frost line and prevents the posts from heaving out with freeze/thaw cycles. At the very least, your corner posts and gate posts should be set in concrete. It’s your choice if you want to set the other posts in concrete, too.
- Be sure the posts are straight before setting them in concrete. Crooked fence posts not only look bad, they are more difficult to secure the fencing materials to.
- If your garden consists of only a raised garden bed or two, you can opt to put a small DIY garden fence around each one by securing the fencing to the raised bed frame with only corner posts in place.
- There are many tutorials online that can help you with installing a vinyl fence or more challenging wooden fences such as stockades or pickets.
Vegetable garden fencing ideas
Below are some of my favorite ways of fencing a vegetable garden to deter specific animals. Use them for inspiration and consider your own needs and preferences.
Fencing to keep deer out of a vegetable garden
Let’s start with deer and how to fence them out of a vegetable garden. Deer can easily jump a fence up to 7 feet in height. If you plan to erect a deer fence, know that the higher it is, the better. Be sure to check your municipality’s fencing laws to ensure you won’t be breaking any rules. My own vegetable garden fence is deer-proof. It is 7 ½ feet high and consists of a wooden structure with 6×6 corner posts and 2x4s that frame welded wire fencing (see photo below).
Another option for the deer is an electric fence running around the perimeter of your plot. A four- or five-strand fence is best, but a three strand one may work, too. Confirm with your local government that electric fences are allowed and follow any signage requirements. Solar electric fences are a great idea and there are many options available. Keep weeds and other vegetation from touching the fence wires which will ground them out. Warn children and neighbors of the fence and turn it off when you work in the garden. I’ve touched a live electric fence on a few occasions, and it is not fun.
Raccoons, groundhogs (also called woodchucks), skunks, and similar animals can be fenced out of a vegetable garden in a few different ways. These animals can be very destructive, and they easily burrow under fences or climb over them.
Your two best options for protecting your vegetable garden from these critters are electrified poultry netting (again, check your local ordinances to see if it’s allowed) and burying the bottom edge your fence to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. Installing an L-shaped fence left loose at the top is another option. Here are instructions on how to build this kind of fence.
Fencing a vegetable garden to keep out small animals
Small animals, like squirrels, gophers, chipmunks, mice, voles, and other intruders are a lot more challenging when it comes to fencing them out of a vegetable garden. They dig, they climb, and they squeeze through very small spaces. Chicken wire with very small holes or 1/2″ hardware cloth are your best options for fencing these tiny guys out. In many cases, it’s easier to protect individual targeted plants with a covering or cloche made of these materials, rather than creating an entire perimeter fence around the garden.
Rabbit fencing for a vegetable garden
The good news is that rabbits can hop a long distance, but they can’t hop very high. To keep rabbits out of a vegetable garden, install a 3-4 feet high fence of chicken wire or attach chicken wire to the inside of an existing wooden fence using a staple gun. For added protection, bury the bottom edge of the chicken wire fencing 8 to 12 inches into the ground to keep rabbits from digging beneath the fence.
Additional tips for fencing a vegetable garden
Whether you’re growing tomatoes, beans, or cucumbers, here are some additional tips for fencing a vegetable garden.
- Fences can also double as trellises. They don’t have to be wasted space. Use sturdy fences to support vining crops like peas and winter squash.
- In addition to using them as a trellis, you can also use fences to support row cover, insect netting, and other protective structures to shield plants from damaging insects. I use my vegetable garden fence to help support the bird netting that covers my blueberry bushes each year.
- At the end of the season, you can opt to roll up temporary fencing like chicken wire, plastic mesh, or welded wire fencing, and store it for winter, prolonging its life and saving you money.
Vegetable garden fencing can be upscale or a simple DIY. It can cost you very little or a whole lot. Decide on your preferences and the time and money you have available for the project. My first vegetable garden was surrounded by a small wire fence secured to simple wooden stakes. As my garden grew (and more and more critters showed up), I upped my fence game to the permanent wood and wire fence I have now. You don’t have to go all-in to start. Know that you can always make upgrades if and when they become necessary.
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