First Hardscape Project: Fencing
If you are starting this process from scratch at this point you will have completed your site selection, preliminary planning and clearing and are ready to move into structural elements. Hardscape refers to those elements of your garden that are hard – not only in terms of materials but also in terms of permanence.
The major elements of hardscape that you will want to consider are fencing, patios, pergolas, outbuildings and pathways. You might also consider whether or not you would like to add a pond or other large water feature, including a spa. Please note that all of the water features mentioned above will require access to electricity. Pond pumps and filters can be connected using heavy duty extension cords that are easily hidden. A spa will require 220 to be hardwired – a bit more of an investment.
Fencing – the first element of your hardscape plan
Fencing your garden area is paramount in the high desert. Your area must be enclosed otherwise all of your beautiful plants will be lunch for the rabbits and squirrels. The desert is not only home to those surreal jackrabbits, cottontails breed like… well, rabbits. Cottontails are the bane of my gardening existence. Your enclosure must be rabbit proof. And that is not an easy task. They can get through the smallest openings.
True story: When I was having my fences put up I had to go out of town. When I returned my clever craftsman was proud to show me the design he had created. Standard 2×6’s with a 2” gap between each board. Clearly not going to work. And back to the design board I sent him.
While having your entire garden area completely enclosed is necessary, aesthetics are important. You not only want your fence style to complement the style of your home but also be aware that it will be a backdrop to your plantings. Create your design with these thoughts in mind.
Design Note: The purpose of this endeavor is to create a visually appealing environment. My goal was to warm up the sun bleached colors of the desert by adding warm organic color to my fencing…i.e. stain.
Anchor points are extremely helpful in designing fencing. Do you have outbuildings that fencing can run between? Perhaps you plan to add a shed or other structure. Consider its placement in the overall design.
I was fortunate that there are two outbuildings on my property. The logical plan was to tie the three buildings together with fencing. This is a lot of fence and not an inexpensive undertaking but it is an absolute necessity.
Wind is an incredibly destructive force in the high desert. All posts must be sunk in concrete obviously, but corners and shorter runs of fence are more structurally sound. A long run of straight fencing will eventually end up flattened in the inevitable wind storm. Posts at the minimum should be pressure treated lumber. Although not the most beautiful of posts, for longevity I recommend using metal posts either boxed with wood are as reinforcement of wooden posts.
If you are going to have garden beds against your fences water can cause rotting of fence posts. Try to leave some space between the fence and beds and water away from the fence.
For some reason this spring I have had problems with squirrels coming over my fences. Nothing seems to stop these four legged devils and they are much smarter than rabbits. I recommend that your fence is 5 feet tall. This is no guarantee but it is a harder height for them to climb.
Beware!: the varmints are going to want to get in. Be diligent along the outside of your fence. Watch for areas where they are digging. My solution: dig back the dirt against the fence and either lay pavers against the fence or a double row of chicken wire. Push back the dirt to cover. You can do this to your entire perimeter from the start or just troubleshoot areas that you find on your patrols.
Study types of fencing on the internet. Drive around and look at fences you like. Choose a style that will complement your house. Consider your budget, talk to your contractor and proceed.