Vegetable gardens are sometimes separated from other parts of a garden because – although they are often very beautiful to look at – they can be perceived as functional areas rather than places of leisure and relaxation. Sometimes they are sheltered behind fences, trellis, walls or hedging as means of protection for plants that generally prefer not to be blown around too much by seasonally strong winds. You may need to enclose your plot for reasons of vegetable security where, for example, free range chickens, ducks, goats or sheep might get in and help themselves to whatever is on offer. If you need to separate your vegetable garden or orchard for whatever reason, there are several different ways you can do this.
Fences are functional and usually sturdy. They can take a bit of work to erect but once they are up the hard work is over. You can use fences as support for climbing plants like grape vines and passion fruit. The good thing about fences is that they are generally slim and take up little room - yet can protect your garden up to head height if necessary. There are council regulations about the height of any fence along a boundary – usually this means they can be no higher than 2m. Any structure should be built on your land unless you have permission to do otherwise. Maintenance is minimal compared to how long they can last – around 20 years plus if well looked after. There are two types of fence – soild and open.
Solid – Fences can be solid structures made from panels or boards with no gaps between them. Wood is often the chosen material and it can be painted, stained or allowed to ‘silver up’ over time. Timber is often treated with chemicals to preserve it outdoors and so you may want to think before planting right up against it. You can use Macrocarpa for the paneling – this doesn’t need to be preserved, or you can use untreated timber and paint it very well so that it is weather proof. Both of these will work and shouldn’t pose any health issues if you are concerned. Metal sheet and corrugated iron fences are also an option. It depends on taste as to what you go for. Solid fences put up a lot of wind resistance so they need to be well-constructed, this means concreting posts into the ground.
Mesh – Fences need not be solid if protection from wind is not an issue. Wire and mesh fences still keep animals out – depending on the gauge of mesh or gaps between the wires. Open fences like these allow light through and are less of a visual obstacle for those who want to enclose their garden but still be able to see it. If you want an open fence you don’t have to use wire. Pallisade fences – with wooden palings separated by gaps are decorative and functional and they allow light through too. They kind of go with the whole cottage veg patch look. You can use recycled materials and manuka poles to create a more rustic style palisade fence – these can simply be driven straight into the ground side by side. Because they catch less wind open fences are often a little less solidly constructed but ensure posts are strong enough to carry the weight of materials between them. Remember, if growing plants on them, that a mature climber can end up weighing a lot.
Trellis: Often chosen as a more decorative and less obtrusive option to a fence – particularly a solid one. Trellis is great for growing plants through and saves on having to put up training wires. Trellis allows wind through so panels are often fairly flimsy. You can make your own trellis with sheets of reinforcing mesh that rusts up and looks pretty good in smart, modern gardens as well as when surrounded by the lush green chaos of a runner bean plant. Panels are relatively light and quick to erect. Hazel rods are sometimes tied together into grids or criss/cross diamond patterns in rambling rustic looking gardens. Often its not the trellis that creates visual benefit to the garden but what you grow on it.
Wall: Walls are long-lasting, solid bits of architecture in a garden and they often create an aesthetic link with the house itself. They can enclose a vegetable garden and make it an area all of its own, a sun-trap - safe from wild weather and a place to scurry off to with a book hidden in your wheelbarrow. A walled garden will have hot walls that face the sun and cool walls that create shade – these are both great for different types of planting. Fruit trees are often trained against walls where the fruit can ripen with absorbed heat of a sunny wall. Herbs such as coriander, salads and other leafy plants can benefit from a cooler position close to a south facing wall. Walls are costly but they can be worth it. They can be an eye-catching, positive element that is part of the overall design. Walls must be constructed by someone who knows what they are doing – so a call to a local builder could be in order. Bricks, rocks, dry stone, concrete, plaster all give walls different effects and some of these materials can be painted or left in their natural state.
Hedge: Hedges are living screens and for this reason they look fairly harmonious surrounded by other plants in gardens. Because they often consist of rows of trees or shrubs they tend to take up a bit more space than a fence or a wall but they are well worth the extra space. Hedges create great habitat for nesting birds that can help us in the battle against insect pests as well as slugs and snails. Depending on what plants you choose you can enjoy the added bonus of food from your hedge – feijoas, lemons, guavas, hazelnuts, rose hips for instance. Hedges can also brighten up the day with foliage and flower and they can be used to support climbing plants and vines such as zucchini, cucumbers, squashes and grapes. It can look cool seeing the odd fruit or bunch of fruits popping up out of the hedge itself. Because you start with a bunch of saplings or bare rooted plants, a hedge ends up costing a lot less than a fence or a wall. There is a degree of patience involved but once your hedge is up – its up, thereafter maintenance will involve feeding it, mulching and trimming it.