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There is a common saying that good fences make good neighbors. Unfortunately, all too often, fences are things that divide us and diminish the environment, rather than improving things and bringing people together.
Of course, fences are often required for a range of reasons. We may need to fence in pets or livestock, for example. But the first thing that you should ask yourself when looking for sustainable fencing ideas is whether you actually need fencing at all.
When fencing is utilized simply to mark the boundary of a property, for privacy, or screening, for example, it may be best not to use fencing at all, but rather to use plants.
Hedging and living "fedges" of willow etc. can often be far better solutions. Using native trees and shrubs to create windbreaks, privacy hedgerows, or partitions can often be better for you, your neighbors, and local wildlife.
You might consider creating a boundary with fruit trees or fruiting shrubs, or creating looser, more informal boundaries with taller grasses and perennials, to name just a couple of other examples.
There are plenty of planting schemes that can help define, protect and improve the amenity of your garden far more effectively than fencing. These can be far more sustainable solutions than creating a man-made fencing structure.
If you do require permanent fencing for pets or livestock, the materials you choose will be important. What your fencing is made from, and where those materials come from are crucial considerations for those who wish to live in a sustainable and eco-friendly way.
The most sustainable way to make fencing is with natural materials—ideally materials that come from your own space, or the immediate surroundings.
For example, you might create:
You might also use natural materials to make a wall, as an alternative to a boundary fence. For instance, you might create:
You might also create sustainable fencing using reclaimed materials, which are far cheaper, perhaps even free, and have a far lower embodied cost to people and the planet.
For example, you might make:
Using your imagination, you may find there are plenty of ways to make suitable fencing using materials that would otherwise have been thrown away. You may even be able to incorporate household trash into a fence or wall on your property—using glass bottles is just one example.Eco Ideas for a Garden Shed
Even where man-made fencing structures are required, it is important to consider how you can increase biodiversity and improve the amenity and visual appeal of the space. A fence sitting alone, without attendant planting, will never be as eco-friendly and sustainable as it could and should be.
Creating hedges or boundary planting alongside fences can be beneficial for wildlife, any livestock that you may keep, and for you. And you should also think about adding appropriate climbers and vines to the structures that you have created.
There are many different ways to combine vegetation with a man-made fencing structure, which can improve its function and performance, and also deliver a range of additional benefits and yields.
Sustainable fencing should always be considered only as part of the whole design. Don't think about any fencing you add in isolation. Make sure that you think carefully about how it will fit within and integrate with the rest of your garden.
In your garden, every element that you add–including fencing—should have multiple functions. So before you decide on a fence, think carefully about what exactly you would like to achieve, and about what additional functions the fencing could fulfill.
For example, a fence to keep pets or livestock contained might also be a trellis for climbing plants, provide shelter or wind protection for boundary planting, give habitat for wildlife, be a small-space composting solution, and 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 fencing without having a negative impact on people and the planet.Plant a Wildlife Hedge Instead of Building a Fence