How to build a garden fence from branches

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The art of weaving branches into fences is called wattling; it stems from the Bronze Age, when hatchets were invented and could cut down willows. Wattled fence panels are easy to make, and add a rustic look to your garden. They are simple structures made from easily available and cost-free materials. To bend the wood, use pliable willow or hazel wood branches or soak other woods to make weaving easier.
Wattle fence panels woven in roughly 1.5 metre (5-foot) sections are called hurdles. They make it easy to screen parts of your yard and garden into sections for flowers, storage, lounging or lawn.

Cut 2.5 cm (1-inch) willow branches near the base with a lopping pruner in the fall. Tie them into bundles and store them in a root cellar or basement. Rehydrate them in the spring by soaking them in water when you're ready to make a fence. Willows are more pliable and splinter-resistant than other woods, but hardwoods like maple, dogwood and oak can be used.

Prepare five posts that are about 3.8 cm (1.5 inches) in diameter and 30 cm (12 inches) longer than the anticipated hurdle height.

Sharpen the base of the posts with a hatchet. Drill 2.5 cm (1-inch) holes about 30 cm (12 inches) apart in a 1.5 metre (5-foot) split log for a base. Drive the posts through the holes and into the ground about 30 cm (12 inches) with the blunt end of the hatchet.

Make a 90 by 150 cm (3-by-5-foot) hurdle (fence section) by weaving the willow and other wood in and out of the posts like a tapestry.

Alternate the weave of each row by starting it on the opposite side of the post from the last row. Switch the base of the branches with the tip ends; the thick bases give a tighter weave.

Work each branch down the posts after it is woven in place and make it fit tightly against the other branches. When the hurdle is tight, use loppers to trim the ends neatly.

Finish the hurdle and make it more stable by tying hemp string around the ends.Traditionally, wattle panels were finished by wrapping the weaving branches around the end posts, but this works just as well, says Lee Zieke Lee of Willowglen Nursery in Decorah, Iowa.

Add more hurdles to your fence to create the desired length. Erect the hurdles in circles, zig zags, straight lines or squares as desired.

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