VEGETABLE plots have traditionally been enclosed and our gifted gardening ancestors, the Victorians, went to considerable expense enclosing their gardens for more than just climatic and pest reasons.
Ten-foot high walls were paramount to protecting the valuable produce within from theft by the often poor and hungry surrounding population.
Clearly, times have changed, but Victorian walled gardens still hold pride of place in the horticultural world. Stone and brick walls provide an idyllic backdrop to plants, give maximum rabbit, deer and other four-legged pest protection and also provide an inbuilt support for trained fruits and ornamentals. In addition, walls absorb the warmth of the sun by day and radiate it back out during the cool of the night, offering plants a personal storage heater, thus helping to extend the growing season. If you are one of the fortunate few to possess a garden enclosed by walls, follow the lead of these gardening gurus and maximise every inch of vertical and internal space.
For the rest of us wall-less gardening enthusiasts, be thankful that a range of man-made, living, and natural boundary choices exist. The perks of walls and fences are that they take up less space, give instant effect, do not compete for sun, nutrients or moisture, make a perfect support for climbing plants and trained fruit, are relatively easy to make animal proof and if put up correctly, require minimal maintenance. However, the initial cost may be a drawback and if you are looking at surrounding a large space, cheap, but not always cheerful, could be the order of the day. That said plants are a great softener and climbing plants will cover a multitude of sins. A hedge, on the other hand, adds wildlife and colour interest to your garden and is an attractive, inexpensive, long lasting option, but will take some years to establish.
Before you make a boundary selection, it is advisable to think about your primary priorities. Factors such as security, privacy, decorative and plant support need to be sized up. If rabbits are a main concern, you may need to use a wire mesh fence which should be turned outward at a 90-degree angle and buried 6 inches in the ground to discourage them from digging under the fence. If shelter from prevailing wind is a priority, you will need to erect a permeable screen or hedge. A solid wall or fence deflects wind upward, causing turbulence in another part of the garden as opposed to hedges and slatted fences, which slow down the air as it passes through.
When it comes to ‘man-made’ boundaries, all sorts of structures can be made or bought, from traditional picket fences, to wooden trellis surrounds, garden panels, post and wire fences to using recycled pallets. For smaller areas, rolls of willow, hazel, reed or rush screen panelling will cover up less-than-attractive walls and fences. Interestingly, disputes over boundaries do arise, so if possible, speak to your neighbour before altering or erecting one.
For lots of innovative ideas and photos of beautiful and fruitful garden boundaries, Joy Larkcom’s ‘Creative Vegetable Gardening’ is a must read.
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