Fences, Neighbors

‘Good fences make good neighbors,” the saying goes. I understand that comes from farm life, where someone else’s livestock eating your corn crop or someone playing Finders, Keepers with your cow are Generally Frowned Upon. In the Burbs, although free-running dogs and toddlers can be a problem, it’s more of an esthetic thing. Maintaining boundaries is important. But some people’s idea of their boundaries includes whatever they can see from their windows, whether it’s in their yard or not.
We’re lucky in our current place. It came with a 6-foot cedar fence surrounding most of the yard, and a dense row of Leyland cypress along the other side. We weren’t financially equipped to put a board fence around the remainder, so made do with 4 x4 posts and wire fencing. The lucky part is that the sunny spot, where the shed and garden are, and the someday chicken coop will be, i.e., the industrial part of the yard, is blocked from public view. But what if you’re not so lucky?
Maintain your boundaries, and no one will notice the rest. Most humans, at least those not in direct contact with nature constantly, perceive the natural world as a “Green Screen.” If you keep the edges tidy, the rest will be a blur. So how do you do that?
If your garden has a public face, use an old Amish trick. Plant flowers along the edge facing the viewers. The Amish are fond of petunias. I like a combination of calendulas, dark red marigolds, and blue forget-me-nots. I’ve also used nasturtiums along the edges. Queen Sophia, with its bluish leaves and dark red blossoms is awesome. Keep the edges weeded, even if you fall behind on the rest of the garden. Better yet, keep the whole thing weeded and mulched, but I know how it is sometimes.
If you want privacy and can’t afford a real fence, make your own Green Screen. About the simplest and cheapest is PVC pipe. Make a rectangular frame with t-connectors at the bottom end so you can add two 2-foot long pipes for posts. Max size for stability is 6 feet high and 4 feet wide. If you need to go wider, say 5 or 6 feet, add an extra post in the middle of the bottom horizontal pipe.
Wrap nylon seine twine between the bottom and top horizontal pipes. It’s a good idea to wrap it all the way around each pipe before sending it down (or up) to the other pipe. Pull it snug. (Manly efforts to pull the string so tight the pipe bends are not necessary.) You can put a dot of glue at each wrap to keep it in place. If you want permanence, dig holes a foot and a half deep and put concrete in them. Stick the poles in and brace them until the concrete dries. If you want extra stability, but don’t want it there permanently, ram a couple of 3 foot long pieces of rebar into the ground, leaving a foot or so above ground level. Put the pipe posts over them and ram them at least a foot into the ground.
What size PVC? you may ask. I’d go to the nearest hardware palace, pick up the rebar and take it over to the plumbing supply aisle. Find the pipe that fits the rebar best. Ignore the strange looks from that guy in the overcoat. If you can’t find a pipe that fits snugly, go a size larger and wrap a plastic bag over the rebar before fitting the pipe over it.
Then plant something that grows vines. Annuals like beans, peas, morning glories, moonflowers, or perennials like rambling rose, grapes or hops*, whatever suits your fancy. In a couple of months, your yard will be your Secret Garden.
*hops grow 25 to 30 feet tall. To grow them on a little support like this, you’ll need to train them to zigzag back and forth across it. With hops, you might want to run your twine in horizontal Vs, rather than vertical, and put small notches where the twine wraps, in addition to the glue. For grapes, use horizontal wire supports, notching the sides of the pipe to keep the wires from slipping.