Inexpensive fence alternatives

Updated February 21, 2017

Privacy, security, freedom from nibbling forest creatures or just attractive landscaping are all good reasons for a fence. Surrounding your property with custom or purchased fencing can represent a considerable investment. But, even if you want a lasting barrier, you don't have to spend your nest egg on the fence. Inexpensive materials, personal sweat equity and living landscapes will deliver the fence you need.


A bamboo grove makes an attractive, musical, sound-dampening, living barrier against the outside world. Running bamboo grows quickly and can be tamed to fill in the area you want to screen. The rhizomes are aggressive, which is good for a fast fence. But they should be planted with deep root barriers buried on either side of the fence area. During the growing season for bamboo, as you begin to see new shoots, chop off any that escape the barrier and cook them for dinner. Use a flat-blade shovel to break through dirt and spreading rhizomes along the fence line. The bamboo is hardy and low-maintenance when it is properly contained and will regenerate the fence infinitely with minimal care. As running bamboo grows so quickly, a small investment in plants will grow to be a lush green fence in a season or so. Clumping bamboo represents a bigger initial investment and grows more slowly but it has a thicker, sturdier culm diameter and does not require vigilant management.

Dry stone wall

A dry stone wall will last for generations, so you create a legacy with your own considerable labour when you build one. If you live on rocky land, the stones can come from your own property in classic frugal British tradition. This is definitely inexpensive and requires hard work, but it can be very satisfying. Quarries will deliver stones if you can't imagine a completely sustainable wall, but that is an added cost. A stacked wall should be no more than 90 cm or 1.2 m (3 or 4 feet) high for stability. If privacy is a concern, evergreen hedges can be planted inside the areas of the wall that need extra screening. The wall itself uses flat or broken stones, with the largest and flattest available on the bottom. The stones slant slightly inward as the wall rises so the base is broader than the top. Stones are alternated so they overlap the seams below them, and chinks in the wall are filled in with small stones and chips. Flat stones finish off the top of the wall.

Willow hurdles

Existing or pounded-in fence posts are the bones of an inexpensive fence you can install in an afternoon. Willow hurdles are an extremely sustainable and inexpensive natural fence that will last up to eight years, ageing gracefully and providing an organic backdrop for the garden. The willow staves or withies are thicker vertical willow branches woven horizontally with thinner, more pliable willow. They will silver as they age or may be treated with a mix of linseed oil and turpentine or a water-based protective coat to preserve their colour and resilience. The hurdles come in a roll that can be wired or stapled to fence posts for a strong, stable privacy barrier and a charming backdrop for climbing vines.

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About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .