Vegetable gardens: a fence helps define the space

Thursday, August 26, 2010; PG09

Nothing defines a garden space better than a fence, and a simple enclosure will give a vegetable garden the presence it deserves.

A modest fence will keep dogs in and rabbits out (though little else) and offer a support for climbing vegetables and flowering vines. If deer are a problem, the fence will have to be six to eight feet high.

Chain link is cheap but so difficult to make attractive. Low wooden fences, typically up to four feet high, provide charm and utility without overpowering a space. Choices include solid fencing, with vertical or horizontal boards; or the more open style of post and rail fence. The classic picket fence is perfect for a vegetable garden, but be aware that a white picket fence is conspicuous and considered a bit of a cliche by some designers. Pickets can be painted more subdued colors or left unpainted to allow the wooden pales of cedar, locust or exotic ipe to age to a silver gray. The unpainted cedar picket fence is my favorite, beautiful without calling attention to itself.

Panels of woven willow stems, called wattle fencing, will provide a rustic, Colonial look, but they don't last too long in our climate. Snow fencing has an honest look, though it is inherently flimsy, only as straight as its posts, and may need resetting annually.

Garden gates provide their own opportunity for charm and whimsy, and can incorporate an arch for a vining plant.

Before putting up a fence, establish a perimeter bed that will extend 24 inches out from the fence line. This will provide a place to grow herbs and flowers that will soften the fence and attract pollinators and birds to the garden.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company