DIY Eco-Friendly Fencing: Wattles

As you know, the Eco Women are kind of nuts about their gardens.  For a while Enviro Girl has really wanted to add some fencing around hers–more to add structure than for any other purpose. Among her favorite gardens in the Whole Wide World is Anne Hathaway’s garden in Stratford-on-Avon, England. It’s rustic and charming, full of pretty flowers and practical vegetables and a small orchard. Sweet little paths wind through the property and occasional benches and trellises provide cozy spots for reading a book or watching the birds.

She has studied many books about garden design to try to figure out how to flesh out the bare bones of her own garden.  Enviro Girl keeps coming back to those English Cottage Gardens.  She’s been hankering for the white picket kind of fence, but she has a lot of garden to fence around, so the price tag on such a project would be substantial.

Then she kicked around the idea of planting hedgerows, but they take eons to grow, and while she thinks she may plant some, she wants more immediate gratification. Like the kind that happens this summer.

While studying her garden-design books, Enviro Girl remembered (reminded by Jen on the Edge’s recent post) how Anne Hathway’s garden was framed out by very rustic-looking fencing and edging. Since Medieval times, gardeners have constructed wattle fences to provide structure, shelter and support for their plants.

Some research revealed that building a wattle requires a lot of “green” sticks, preferably live willows since they are flexible, durable, straight and don’t have too many excess branches to clip off. As it happens, Enviro Girl has a prodigious amount of willows growing on her property. To build a wattle you need sturdy branches for posts. As it happens, she also has enough fallen branches to heat an entire European village for two years.

So, the materials to build a wattle are plentiful and free if you live out in the country.  A person can build any size of wattle to suit their needs. All Enviro Girl needs is time–to gather the sticks and branches and pound/weave/shove/tie them all together. There’s hardly any snow on the ground and there aren’t any bugs or stinging nettle at this time of year, so this past week Enviro Girl began Project Wattle. Armed with a pruner, she attacked a berm of willows and dragged several loads up to the garden. Then she scavenged the woods and found a good supply of sturdy, straight branches and logs measuring at least 3 1/2 inches in diameter.

For the next month or so she’ll continue to cut willows and find fallen trees for posts. It’s great exercise tromping around back in the woods and dragging loads back up to the house, the fence will cost nary a dime, and the carbon footprint of a wattle fence is zero.  When the ground thaws, she’ll be ready to pound in the stakes and begin weaving the willows between them.

The same free materials Enviro Girl is gathering from her woods can be used to build trellises, gates, benches and other outdoor structures.  If you don’t live in the country, Enviro Girl advises you to ask a local farmer if you need brush and willows–they’d probably be thrilled to have you clear some of the undergrowth.

Read more about constructing your own wattle fencing at East Coast Gardener or Mother Earth News.

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