One of the oldest methods of fencing is a woven-stick fencing method called wattle fencing. Archaeological evidence indicates that bent- and woven-stick fencing was in use in the Roman Empire from England to Italy. Wattle fencing is simple to make using a flexible wood such as willow. Willow branches that have been pruned from a tree are a good source for fencing material.
Mark the ends of the location of your future fence by driving wooden stakes with a wooden mallet into the ground in the location where you want the ends of the fence.
Tie a string between the two stakes. Stretch the string tight to mark the fence row.
Measure the length of the fence row. Decide how far apart you wish to space the upright posts of your fence. This will help you determine how many fence uprights you should make. For example, if you want to create a 12-foot section of fence with uprights spaced every two feet, you should create seven uprights.
Mark the location of each fence post along the fence row by dusting the ground in that spot with baker's flour. Baker's flour will rinse away with water and is more biodegradable than spray paint.
Measure the height that you want the fence to be. Add 24 inches to this height; this will be the size that you make your upright fence posts. For example, if your fence will be three feet tall, your upright posts should be 60 inches tall.
Cut the upright fence posts from pruned willow tree branches that are between two and six inches in diameter using a hand saw. Sharpen one end of each post so that it will easily drive into the ground. Remove any sprouting limbs from the fence posts with branch loppers. Leave the bark on the posts for a rustic appearance.
Drive each post into the ground point-side down. Each post should extend down into the ground 24 inches deep at the points along the fence row that you have marked with flour.
Cut long, pendulous willow branches that are approximately one inch in diameter to create the horizontal fence strands using branch loppers. Each branch that you select for the fence strand should be at least 24 inches long.
Trim twigs and leaves off of the branches that you use for your horizontal fencing strands. Put the branches in a bucket filled with water for two hours to make them more supple.
Take a horizontal branch and weave it back and forth between the upright fence posts, leaving three to four inches protruding past the first post. Pass the horizontal strand in front of one fence post and behind the next post in the row in a basket weave pattern. Continue to weave strands between the posts until you finish a complete row of fencing. Leave three to four inches protruding past the last post.
Weave a second row of willow branches on top of the first one so that the weave pattern moves the opposite direction from the first strand. Continue to weave the strands between the posts until the strands cover the upright posts all the way to the top of the fence.
Weave small branches in between any gaps and cut the protruding branches at the end posts to one inch.
As a guide, for a fence section roughly 48 to 52 inches long and 1 foot high, you'll need six branches for posts and 50 to 60 smaller branches for the weaving. Edging made of sticks will weather more quickly than fencing made of treated wood. You may need to replace your willow edging every three to five years.
Tips and warnings
- As a guide, for a fence section roughly 48 to 52 inches long and 1 foot high, you'll need six branches for posts and 50 to 60 smaller branches for the weaving.
- Edging made of sticks will weather more quickly than fencing made of treated wood. You may need to replace your willow edging every three to five years.
- The Washington Post: The Lost Art of Wattle Fencing
- The Alaska Botanical Garden: How to Build a Wattle Fence
- The Providence Journal: Don't pitch those willow prunings --- weave them into wattle
- "London The Novel;" Edward Rutherfurd; 1997
- Society for Creative Anachronism Austrailia: Herb and Garden Guild