How to make a willow fence

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Those seemingly annoying branches that grow from tree stumps or live in places where they create unsightly problems, such as ditches, are really a gold mine of material for a rustic, wattle-type willow fence. This kind of material has been around since the Bronze Age in Europe and the British Isles to make roofs, walls and fences to contain livestock such as sheep. Willow or sapling fences cost nothing and lend a garden area an old-world ambience while using natural material that otherwise would have been discarded.

Cut sapling branches from trees or gather them from the sides of a road. Willow works well, but any young saplings from hard wood such as oak or pecan also will do.

Cut posts at least 30 cm (12 inches) longer than the anticipated fence height. Crowded saplings from the garden or the woods make good posts.

Use a hatchet to sharpen one end of each post so it can be driven into the ground.

Drive the posts into the ground, 35 cm (14 inches) apart and about 30 cm (12 inches) deep. Use a piece of rebar or other strong material to make guide holes if driving into hard soil, such as clay.

Begin weaving the long, bendable branches in and out of the posts. Alternate the weave of each row by starting it on the side of the post opposite from the previous row. Also alternate the base ends of the long branches with the tip ends.

After you've woven each branch into place, push it down to the base of the fence.

When the fence is finished, use lopper pruners to trim off any long ends.

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