Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Do You Dig it - Fence?

Our garden expands, constantly and forever. This spring, we've avoided the temptation to incorporate more space (so far), and we're just making better use of the space we have. To this end, we took out an old funky fence and rebuilt it, bigger, faster, and sexier than before. The project takes about four hours to complete and requires some manual labor.

The first part of the project was taking the old fence out. Luckily, all the hard effort and back-breaking that went into this portion was done by my charming bride, cuz I was too busy studying, doing research, and writing reports. Tearing out the fence can be the most difficult part, depending on how determined the fence builder was to keep out rodents.

Next up, digging. And by digging I mean a sweet trench the likes of which have never before graced this particular corner of garden. We're talking a full shovel width and depth for tens of feet in either direction (from the middle), squared up at the bottom, and cleaned out of all the big chunkers.

If you have stout fence posts in place already (because you're going off a previous fence or something), they are a great place to start and end your fence. If not, you need to make such a post. My favorite post setting method is quick and dirty: dig a hole with your post-hole digger (P.h.D) about 1/4 the length of the post (so for a six foot fence, you want a two foot hole and an eight foot post), then throw the post in, pour loose dirt in around the edges and wiggle the post so it gets down to the bottom. When the dirt has filled up the hole, you'll put extra dirt right next to the post and stomp it, hard, repeatedly, and with conviction. When you've added dirt and stomped each side of the post about three times, the thing will be pretty stout.

If you're going to have a corner in the fence, you can do one of two things, build a stout post with a smidge of outward lean on it, or build a freeny post with some bracing to keep it in place against the pull of the fence. I usually opt for the latter since I'm a broke grad student and because it works just fine. Here's a picture of the freeny post with bracing. The bracing comes off along the line of the fence in each direction. The post and bracing both need to be sunk a ways into the dirt so when you're wrenching on the fence to get it tight, it doesn't give.

Roll out the saved fence from the demolition of previous fences if it's in good shape, or find some other source of salvaged fencing. Ideally, it will sit right on the bottom of the nice, even, square trench you dug without scrunching or lifting above the dirt. A couple of horseshoe nails (the little ones, no use putting a 6 gauge nail in chicken wire) in the post at one end, then work along to each subsequent post, pulling the fence taut before nailing. I always like starting from the bottom to get the depth right, but Marion likes to start from the top to get the top straight and tight, the choice is yours.

Now the fence is all nailed, at the perfect height, and ready for anything. You'll probably want to fill the trench in now, but if you have particularly nasty gophers or bermuda grass, consider filling the trench with woodchips or bark mulch or something. Doing this makes it easier to pull out bermuda runners, harder for gophers to find their way into the garden, and saves all that dirt for something useful, like planting beds.

That's all there is to it: rip, dig, post, nail, fill...

Happy fencing

1 comment:

  1. Easy for you to say... "rip, dig, post, nail, fill" I've never heard such rediculosity in my whole life. Yeah, building a fence isn't much as an intellectual exercise, but I won't have you belittling the labor that goes into the process, especially since you participated in such a small fraction of it. I have wounds from ripping out that fence... I will have scars...!

    Besides not ripping out the fence and potentially being maimed, like I was, you only dug half of a 20 foot trench and stretched the fencing while I nailed it. The trench isn't even filled back in yet. When's that gonna happen you big talker? eh?

    hehehe, I love you.


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