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Orchard fencing

Posted by Josh Klatt 
Orchard fencing
February 19, 2013 07:59PM
We're setting up new orchard this year (approx. 3 acres) and have learned that the best way to prevent deer damage is erecting a physical barrier between the deer and the trees.

Our options are to:
* encircle each tree with its own fence (approx. 10' x 5' metal mesh) or
* to enclose the entire area with a 7'+ fence.

Of course, we want to do this in an economical way, but it's looking especially expensive no matter how we look at it. The single tree enclosures make sense for larger, widely-spaced rootstock. But for higher density plantings, that approach would require more fence than encircling the entire perimeter. In addition, a perimeter fence requires posts, another expense. And treated posts are not organic and potentially toxic.

I am looking for recommendations of

* specific suppliers,
* fence types (metal? plastic? height?) , and
* organic post options.
* prices

Thanks for any help you can offer !

Josh Klatt
Ohio River Valley
Zone 6b
Re: Orchard fencing
July 21, 2014 03:09PM
I'm having an 8' fence installed around 5 acres as we speak. It's going in on pressure treated posts. I freaked out about the PT but after doing a bunch more research (and getting some thoughts on this forum) I realized that the danger from the PT is really minimal and they will last longer than untreated alternatives. Couldn't go with metal posts for a number of reasons. I've had deer jump a 7' high fence. 8' seems to be the standard height in my neck of the woods. The total price of the fence is going to be nearly 18-20K. It's been the biggest financial hurdle so far--by a lot. It was also a psychological hurdle to some degree. Beautiful orchard, not so nice fence. However, our deer pressure is intense and I wanted a worry free solution. We frequently lose power and get lots of snow, which makes electric fencing less reliable. A local organic certifier said it might still be possible to get certification even with the PT--which I was surprised by and still don't quite believe. Either way, we're committed to holistic orcharding. Certification for us, however, isn't a top priority.
Re: Orchard fencing
July 23, 2014 07:04AM
We are using 2x4 welded wire fencing, 6 foot, which a buck or a moose cannot get through. Atop this are foot spaced strands of wire to snag them if they try to jump it, making it 9 feet tall. At the time, about 6 or seven years ago it cost a buck a foot. Much of it is hung right on trees, with some cedar posting.

As an alternative to pt, try cedar. Pt not only is toxic, but never lasts as long as advertised. We have white cedar posts still in great shape that went in 16 years ago. Other softwoods typically last 2 years, though hemlock a bit longer. We had to tear out a lot of structural wood (pressure treated) when we moved in years back. This was all above ground, and both rotted and tunneled apart by carpenter ants. Consider living fence as you install, which can serve as the posting as the posts rot (as all eventually will whatever the material). Charring the ends is an age old technique of adding longevity to them as well.

Living fences and brush fences worked well in years past, particularly in Europe. A key is to make it wide, making it a real hassle. These take time to put together or to grow in the case of living. But, by making a cheaper or short lived manufactured fence, it gives time to leisurely establish something more significant, more natural, and possibly more beautiful.

Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard
Zone 3 in Vermont
Re: Orchard fencing
January 18, 2015 11:35PM
My orchard area expanded since I first posted this almost 2 years ago. This spring we're fencing in about 15 acres and were able to track down black locust for posts -- 10 ' long for $12 / each. A bit pricier than some other wood options, but I expect them to hold up for the next 30+ years. We're spacing them about 12' apart.

What have you guys done for gates ? Of course we need some convenient and wide entrances for equipment, but I'd like to have pedestrian access at regular intervals, especially something that doesn't require too much athleticism to pass thru/over. Any suggestions ?

Josh Klatt
Ohio River Valley
Zone 6b
Re: Orchard fencing
January 22, 2015 01:40PM
An underused option for two legged creatures is the bypass "gate" or entry. This is where the fence itself is offset (picture the two fences bypassing each other with 2' of space between) and an addition small span of fence 2' out and parallel to one of them. This creates a wind around that long/horizontally spined animals cannot pass through due to the dramatic bend. It isn't any more or less work than a true gate, but you never have to open, close, or more importantly... forget to close. No, this won't work for bunnies, but will for deer, cows, goats, and hippos.

Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard
Zone 3 in Vermont
Re: Orchard fencing
October 11, 2018 03:47PM
We need to upgrade from an 8ft electrical deer fence to either a SmartNet (TM) or some other type of woven wire fencing. I have heard both good and bad reviews of the SmartNet. Anyone out there using it? One disadvantage I have heard is that rabbits and other little critters like to chew holes to get in - has anyone had trouble with porcupine chewing through it? Others have said it can sag in high winds - anyone have experience with that?
Thanks for any tips!

5 Star Nursery and Orchard
Zone 5, Brooklin, ME
Re: Orchard fencing
May 11, 2019 12:58PM
I do not know about Smart Net but I have experience with Trident Extruded heavy duty poly deer fence. The raccoons chewed through the bottom within 2 days of installation. The immediate solution was to install a single strand of electric wire about 7 inches off the ground to discourage the raccoons. That worked for a while, but the downside of this is that it creates a maintenance nightmare. The grass grows higher than the electric stand within 2 weeks, at which point you can't see it and can't effectively trim under it, which we did only once and concluded that it was a ridiculous enterprise, after cutting through the electric wire a couple of times with the string trimmer, and the time and effort is just too much anyway.

The plastic deer fence was our third attempt at deer fencing. We have moderate pressure and a small orchard, so I started with a 3D fence (2 electric strands of polywire on fiberglass posts, then one strand offset 6' from that), which they figured out within a year. The second iteration was a fortified 3D, with 4 electrified strands of polywire on the outside, about 18" apart, and 2 strands on the inside fence. Then one day I discovered a deer in the orchard midday, and watched him run through the fence, without breaking stride or disturbing the fence. As if it were a ghost. They are incredibly agile creatures.

So then I put up a 6' Trident plastic fence on T posts, alternated with much cheaper 3/8" rebar, topped with 3 strands of polywire to bring it up to 8'. I supported the polywire with the same fiberglass posts used for the 3D fence, drilling out holes in t-post pin insulators to support the posts. In one spot, the raccoons kindly ate a large enough hole in the plastic fence to allow the deer to scoot under it. About 18" was all they needed. Also, the rebar is not rigid enough; with the wind, the fence leaned considerably.

Chapter 4 in my deer fencing saga is underway, in a second small orchard. With braced wood posts at the corners and 8' T posts at 18' intervals for line posts (no rebar), I am stringing 2 feet of rabbit wire along the bottom. This will keep out the rabbits, as well as prevent the raccoons from chewing through the plastic. There will be an electric strand at the top of the rabbit fence, on offset T-post insulators, to keep the raccoons from climbing up and chewing through the plastic. Two feet will be high enough that the maintenance problem is eliminated, as I can easily mow under the electric strand.

The next layer is 4 ft of Trident plastic fence as before. That brings me up to 6 ft of barrier fence, which I think is all I need, all supported by T posts. Then to keep them from jumping over it, I will do as before, installing small fiberglass posts and two strands of polywire, which I already have on hand, to bring the height up to 8 ft. The cost for all of this (not including the polywire and posts at the top, or the wood corner posts, already in place) was about $1.50 per foot. I haven't priced 8 ft welded wire fencing on 10 ft wood posts recently, but that has to be more expensive, and a lot more work.

Turkey Creek Orchard
Solon, Iowa (zone 5A)
Re: Orchard fencing
May 12, 2019 06:29AM
I really don't understand why people are still buying the plastic fencing. I have dealt with a lot of clients who have bought many different brands and very few were not torn or degraded within a year or two. My steel fencing has been damaged only by occasional treefall. The system I commented on above is what I use. Welded steel, 6 foot (usually 16 gauge or larger) currently runs under 1.50 a foot with sales tax (coated). The cost as of today is-

welded wire 6 foot for one acre- 1142.64
3 strands of 12 1/2 gauge above at 1 foot intervals- 248.00

1391.04 to properly fence in a small home orchard (almost 200 trees at 15 foot spacing) of one acre. This of course gets cheaper the larger the plot.

The fence will easily last 40 years. But let's say 20- that's under 70 bucks a year for good fencing.

Posts are additional, but you will need then for any fence.

Note that a tougher fence requires a whole lot less in the way of post spacing.

A large pvc pipe section or other pipe can be inserted or cemented into the ground to receive a long post. A square aperture would also work. This allows the easy replacement of a wood post over the years.

We are all on a fixed budget, but it drives me nuts when a grower gets so excited buying trees (usually way to many) and forgets that plant outlay in cash is usually a much smaller proportion than all that will go into the system. I tell my clients fence first, trees second. I shouldn't have to tell anyone that a cheap product is just that.
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