There is a common saying that good fences are good neighbors. Unfortunately, all too often, fences are things that separate us and affect the environment, rather than improving things and bringing people together.
Of course, fences are often needed for a variety of reasons. For example, we need to fence in pets or livestock. But when looking for sustainable fence ideas, the first thing you should ask yourself is whether you even need a fence.
Do you really need a fence?
If fences are only used to mark the boundary of a property, for example for privacy or protection, it may be best not to use a fence at all, but to use plants instead.
Hedging and living “feds” of willows etc. can often be far better solutions. Using native trees and shrubs to create windbreaks, privacy hedges, or partitions can often be better for you, your neighbors, and the local wildlife.
You might consider creating a border with fruit trees or fruit-bearing shrubs, or creating looser, more informal borders with taller grasses and perennials, to name a few other examples.
There are many planting plans out there that can help define, protect, and enhance the layout of your garden much more effectively than fences. These can be far more sustainable solutions than creating an artificial fence structure.
Ideas for sustainable natural fences
When you need a permanent fence for pets or farm animals, the choice of materials is important. What your fence is made of and where those materials come from are crucial considerations for those looking to live sustainably and environmentally friendly.
The most sustainable way to build fences is with natural materials – ideally materials that come from your own space or the immediate vicinity.
For example, you can create:
- “Dead hedge” with fallen branches / scrub
- Woven fences made from hazelnut or other pruned or cut branches
- Wicker fences
- Bamboo fence
- Log fences
As an alternative to a perimeter fence, you can also use natural materials to build a wall. For example, you can create:
- Cordwood walls
- Dry stone walls or stacked natural stone walls
- Corn on the cob, clay or sack walls
You can also make sustainable fences from recycled materials that are much cheaper, maybe even free, and have a far lower cost to people and the environment.
For example, you can create:
- Reclaimed wood fences made from old wooden pallets, old doors or shutters, etc.
- Reclaimed chicken wire / fence panel for livestock fencing. Maybe even create a double fence and linear compost bin or leaf bins inside.
- Scrap metal fences (with corrugated roof panels, sheet steel, excess copper pipes, etc.
If you let your imagination run wild, you will find that there are many ways to make proper fences out of materials that would otherwise have been thrown away. You may even be able to build household garbage into a fence or wall on your property – using glass bottles is just one example.
Plant next to sustainable fences
Even if artificial fences are required, it is important to consider how you can increase biodiversity and improve the convenience and visual appeal of the space. A stand-alone fence without accompanying vegetation will never be as environmentally friendly and sustainable as it could and should be.
Creating hedges or border plantings next to fences can benefit wildlife, any farm animals you keep, and you. And you should also remember to complement the structures you have created with suitable climbing plants and vines.
There are many different ways to combine the vegetation with an artificial fence structure that can improve its function and performance, as well as offering a number of additional benefits and yields.
Sustainable fencing should only be viewed as part of the overall design. Don’t think about a fence adding in isolation. Make sure you think carefully about how it fits and integrates with the rest of your garden.
In your yard, any element you add – including fences – should serve several functions. So before deciding on a fence, think carefully about what exactly you want to achieve and what additional functions the fence could fulfill.
For example, a fence for keeping pets or livestock can also be a trellis for climbing plants, provide protection or wind protection for border plantings, provide habitat for wild animals, compost in a small space and much more.
If you consider all of the above, you should be able to find the best solution or solutions for your needs and create new fences without negatively affecting people and the environment.