Assessing Your Needs
When the primary purpose of a fence is to deter animal pests, you can’t choose the best garden fence until you know what they are. The eight most prevalent wild animal pests of gardens are (in alphabetical order): deer, groundhogs (woodchucks), pocket gophers, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, and voles. Note that opossums and moles are missing from this list. Neither species directly damages garden crops, and both eat enough insects to be considered beneficial. To help you identify which animal (or animals) is making mischief in your garden, match the evidence you see to the damage descriptions in Who’s Raiding Your Garden? Most animals leave signs of one kind or another — footprints, tooth marks, scat, or the way they dig as they forage for food. Check with your local extension service to find out which types of animals are known for damaging vegetable gardens in your area. You can often witness damage being done by birds, squirrels, or groundhogs during daylight hours, but the night shift can be harder to track. If you can’t figure out which critters are doing the damage, station a $10 wireless motion-sensor light in your garden, and then turn off most of the lights in your house. The light might scare the animals the first few times it comes on, but after that they will accept it if doing so means getting a good meal. Have binoculars handy to get a good look at your new enemy.
Permanent Perimeter vs. Temporary Pop-Ons
Do you need to fence your whole garden, or are there only certain plantings in need of protection? If your only problem is protecting strawberries from birds and squirrels, making a secure cover for one bed using chicken wire, row cover or both is much less work than putting up a fence. Raccoons after your sweet corn are another problem that can be handled on a small scale with a carefully positioned two-strand electric fence, with one strand 6 inches above the ground and the other 12 inches high. See Electric Fencing for a full report on your electric fencing options.