Saturday, May 22, 2010

Frugal Fencing

Here is the original text of an article that The St. Pete Times ran in my gardening column in 2006. Except for the plants listed, it is fully applicable in cold climates too. John


Nothing can enhance the beauty and safety of a property like an attractive fence. It can protect our kids and pets from stray dogs, discourage would-be thieves, offer privacy and be a powerful design element in a landscape. Trouble is, a commercially installed fence can easily run into the thousands of dollars, and building one yourself usually still costs a small fortune and requires a truck to get the sections home. Chain link fences are more affordable and manageable for do-it-your-selfers, but are sterile looking. And the last two summers have seen lots of our fences hammered by serial hurricanes.

But there is very easy and affordable way to build a sturdy fence that will last many years and offer a bonus.....color and fragrance in your landscape!
Yup, just go to a hardware store and buy green painted 6 foot long metal tree stakes (about $4), a 4 foot tall roll of green metal garden fencing (about $20 for 50 feet), and a small spool of steel wire (about $2) or a bag of metal rebar twist ties for $1.. One tree stake pounded two feet down into the ground with a sledge hammer every 6 feet will make your fence quite sturdy, but if you are on a tight budget space them 10 feet apart. Use a carpenter’s level to insure they are perfectly vertical. Then unroll the green metal fencing and use 6 inch lengths of the steel wire, or the rebar twist ties, to attach it to each post at the top, middle and bottom by twisting the wire with pliers. No need for the hassle and cost of concrete and post hole diggers, just pound, unroll and twist!
You can stop right here with this fast fence. But remember I said a fence can add color ? Well, just think of your new fence as a long long trellis, and plant flowering vines all along it! Soon they will weave into and through it and give you privacy as they clothe it in foliage and flowers. Our balmy climate allows colorfully blooming beauties like Tecomaria, Passion Flowers, Morning Glories, Flame Vine, Mandavillas, Carolina Jessamine, Pandorea Vine, and Allamanda. For an orderly look, plant several plants of just one of these all along the fence, or plant a mix of them all for year round psychedelic one ceases blooming, another will kick in.
But wait!! There’s more!! Indulge in the rare elegance of old fashioned rambling roses that will gladly consume your new fence and add the splendor of fragrant blooms to your yard. Ones that thrive in good soil and on their own roots (vs. grafted) in full sun include ‘Climbing Old Blush’ (pink,date unknown), ‘Climbing Cramoisi Superieur (red,1885), ‘Prosperity’ (white, 1919), ‘E. Veyrat Hermanos’ (apricot, 1895), ‘Souvenir de Mme. Leonie Viennot’ (salmon-apricot, 1898) and ‘Francois Juranville’ (salmon-pink, 1906).
Got kids? Let them grow vining veggies on the fence. Pole beans (the variety ‘Scarlet Runner’ makes BRIGHT red blooms!), snow peas, hyacinth beans, chayote, true yams, and cherry tomatoes will give them their first successes as gardeners by helping you to make that fence pay for itself by cutting your food bill.

And of course one can always choose the understated cool elegance of green vines like Confederate Jasmine (fragrant white flowers now and then), ivy, nephthytis, philodendron, pothos and creeping fig.
So whether you see it as a fence or a trellis, use this cheap and simple solution to free up time and cash while making your yard safe and secure and stunning.

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