Creating An Engish Wattle Fence

Creating An Engish Wattle Fence

Part of Ep. 1201 Melting Pot Pledge Special

Learn how to make an old English-style wattle fence with Shelley Ryan and Susan Churchill. It's the perfect accent for any garden.

Premiere date: Mar 06, 2004

Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Susan Churchill:
Good morning and welcome to wattle fence making. Just a little bit of background about wattle fence before I start. It's probably the most ancient form of fence making that exists in the world today. Much of our example or impression of wattle fencing has come out of what we've seen in the British Isles. That's been used for generations again, in the same forms that I mentioned both for containing domestic animals or for keeping predators at bay.

The thing to know about wattle fence it is not a long-lived fencing method. Typically, a fence such as this will last five to ten years. Ten years is certainly on the optimistic side. It is a natural material that goes back to nature.

This is a four-foot section. And what you want to do-- There's essentially two pieces to the wattle fence construction. There's your upright posts and there are the weavers which hold the posts together. And you can determine both the length and the height depending on what your purposes are. These particular posts I've put in-- I've cut these at 20 inches. But the end ones, in particular, are down into the ground, ideally, about 12 inches. So you're actually starting with your end pieces. You want those to be at least 32. The middle pieces don't have to be in quite as far. What I did with these, I just used the reed bar and I punctured holes. The ground's nice and soft, so I just shoved these right in. It was easy to do today. So we're going to go to a length of 24 on this one. Larry, I'll measure if you'll cut. We're cutting at 24 inches high, which means, ideally, these uprights would be cut at 36 inches before you inserted them. So, we've got five posts, five uprights, spaced 12 inches apart.

These are our weavers. Also, this is just willow. And these are half-inch and smaller. You want your uprights to be a little bit larger than your weavers. These have been cut for several days so they're starting to dry a little bit. So one thing you may want to do depending on how fresh your material is, is limber it up a little bit. And speaking of material, this is all willow. But other nice kinds of wood to use are alder, hazel is available. Really, any sapling. I know people who've built a wattle fence out of smoke tree trimmings, lilacs-- You can use any manner of things. Okay, so these are cut 20 inches above the soil.

And we're going to start placing our first weaver. And it's just an in-out approach. Leave a little extension beyond the end. I like to leave several inches beyond the end. Then, you push them right down to the ground. An alternative to that just to show you a different weave would be if you wanted to do two on the same side. And then, we'll alternate two to get a little more of a pattern. The other thing, as you add each row you want to come back in and really press 'em down. You don't want them to have a hill and valley effect. You want them really snug for a couple of reasons. One, that'll keep the critters out and two, it adds a lot of stability to your fence. These will dry. And as they dry, they shrink. And if they're not woven tight they tend to fall down at random so you won't have as nice a smooth surface. Whereas if you weave them tight, they still will shrink but they're going to stay where they are. In terms of your choice of height it's going to depend on how you want that fence to function.

Here's some measurements for you. Those of you who are raising animals-- Anybody raising animals? For chickens, you need a six-foot fence. For pigs, you need a four-foot fence. For deer -- anybody guess how high you've got to go for deer? Eight to 12, so you've got to be pretty ambitious. When you get to the end, when we're all done -- and I'll just start now just to give you a sense of what to do. It's nice to come in and trim these off so they're flush. And I like to go out three to four inches before I make my cut. And I also like to do julienne cuts just 'cause I think it looks a little nicer.

This is also a great activity for kids. Kids love the simplicity and the hands-on. It's very satisfying, and they love to use it to denote their own little children's garden. So, it's a great thing to do sort of inter-generationally. And then we're going to insert these arcs to add a little interest. Another thing you can do for additional trim and I don't have material here to do it today but it's a very nice effect is rather than the hoops, take vines and interweave them. You can use grapevine, wisteria, anything that has a nice, gnarly feel to it. Bittersweet is beautiful. So, you just interweave that to add a textural interest across the top.

Well, then, it doesn't have to be perfect here.

No, it doesn't. It's rustic, remember.

That's the beauty of it.


Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.


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