The best attack is the fence

OH, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above- don't fence me in.

It’s a classic song about starry skies, land, and more importantly fences, that has been sung by gardeners and landscapers for generations.

It captures the imagination with regards to containment barriers, and serves as a social warning not to take freedom for granted, something I’m reinforcing by singing it as I walk past the home of Doug who is under house arrest, two doors down.

But while we might all echo the sentiment of not being fenced in, fences play an important part in any backyard.

They stop pets and kids getting out, and keep other pets and kids from getting in.

So much has changed in fencing technology over the years.

See Gherkin's latest adventures, as he talks to cutting edge landscape designer Ghoran Shelsburg-Waverly.

I recall early on in my working horticulture career, at the Jarramungle Native Nursery (Famous for its “Fill your pockets with potting mix” Thursdays) where we were required to construct a fence around the entire facility.

The owner was a little paranoid about plant theft at the time and installed some cutting edge technology- literally.

The razor wire coils on top of the galvanised mesh fencing gave it more of a detention centre feel than that of a garden centre, but thefts dropped an amazing 40 per cent after it was installed.

It should also be mentioned that Davo, the cleaner, also left at the same time the fence was installed so that could have something to do with the drop in theft rate.

Anyway, it served a purpose and was a good example of solving a problem by not skimping on quality.

The same goes for backyard fencing. A few wooden stakes and bits of wool may be a cheap option, but is it really going to stop soccer balls from going through to the neighbour’s, or be enough to support a passionfruit vine? Probably not.

Wooden palings or that coloured metal sheeting would have to be the most common forms of fencing in Aussie backyards but your options need not be limited to that.

A series of old 44-gallon-drums stacked up can make a nice feature, or even pruned and dead branches woven together.

Discarded packing crates/pallets give a nice tone to a yard, while 30 – 40 strands of 80lb fishing line gives a glimmer of class when used with those citronella burning bamboo poles.

A university garden design student I once met had the idea of creating a fence by running out kilometres of Glad Wrap, secured at various intervals by stakes painted up as barber poles. Sure, it let a lot of light in, but it wasn’t very kind on the environment. (It also tended to scorch the grass due to a “magnifying glass” effect on sunny days.)

Think ahead when it comes to planning your fence. Here are some questions to ask in the earlier stages, so they don’t become headaches (or court cases) down the track:

-How ugly are the families who live around me?

-Where will I put a gate, or will a cattle grid do the job?

-Do I need to find out incriminating information about my neighbour in order to ensure he/she agrees to pay for half the fence?

-Should I run a few strands of thin wire through the fence in case electrification is needed later on?

-Who do I know at the council in order to get this passed?

-Has the timber been sustainably grown or could I care less if it has?

Remember that fences don’t just divide; they make a statement of status and help contain the hideous people.

Tip of the Month: To get kids to try new foods, mix up labels in the veggie patch. (Eg. Label chillies as strawberries, radishes as beetroot, onions as pears, etc.)

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    Better Backyards with Gherkin JarvisSelf-proclaimed gardening expert and carpet enthusiast, Gherkin Jarvis, brings you his thoughts on Australia’s great lifestyle tradition, the backyard.


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