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By America M. Samayoa

Seven steps for planting a natural fence

A natural fence can make the view from a window attractive and relaxing, while still giving the privacy needed. They are more visually pleasing than man-made fences and can make an environmentally friendly home for butterflies and birds. Natural fences are, however, a long-term commitment, and they may not look lush and green the first few years. Depending on plant choice, they may be sparse in winter, as well. Once you’ve decided in favor of a natural fence, follow these seven steps to complete it.

1. Decide what is needed from the natural fence.

Consider the desired height and width and how quickly the fence needs to grow, which also affects how much maintenance the fence will require. Think about whether it needs to be green all year, have extra deterrence with prickles or thorns and what kind of aesthetics are going to be added, such as flowers, hedge shapes or intricate designs. An option that requires minimal upkeep is a natural looking hedgerow with different varieties planted together for more protection from pests (both insect and human).

2. Design the natural fence.

Whether or not you hire a landscape designer, envision the natural fence and design how it will look fully grown. Go outside and look at the outdoor space to be planted. Write down obstacles, such as power lines, water meters, boundaries and views that should be hidden. Though the fence may not immediately fix these issues, the design should work around them.

3. Research what plant varieties fit the criteria.

Many plants make wonderful natural fences. To narrow it down, consider first which plants grow well in your area’s Plant Hardiness Zone; if it is too warm or too cold for the chosen plants, they may not make it through the year. Second, consider the size of the area available and ensure the plant will not outgrow it when it reaches maturity. And of course, never plant an invasive species, no matter how fast the fence will be finished. Bamboo is an example of a very good screening plant that will quickly take over your yard and possibly your neighbor’s.

4. Obtain the plants.

Visit a nursery, order online or ask for cuttings from a friend’s plants and start them at home. Remember to start small. Though it is tempting to get more mature plants for a faster hedge, small plants will grow quickly and establish easier. Plus, if one or two do not make it through their first year, filling in with another plant will blend better and faster.

5. Plant the fence.

Before the plants go in the ground, prepare the soil with water and nutrients. Before digging deep holes, contact the utility company to mark the location of any underground lines. Water the hole deeply, with a low-pressure water stream to prevent compacting. Compaction will make it harder for the plant’s roots to spread in the soil. Plant when the weather is cool, cloudy and not windy.

6. Maintain the fence.

Especially in the first summer, watch the plants for wilting or scorching. Rather than try to water them on a schedule, check the soil and water when it is dry. Over watering can kill the plants just as easily as under watering. If staking is required to keep the plants upright, be sure it is loose enough to allow some sway, and remove after a year to prevent in-grown stakes or straps. Mulch and fertilize in the second year to keep the young plants growing strong.

7. Enjoy!

One of the joys of planting a natural fence is watching it grow. Every year it will become taller and fuller, give more privacy and attract more fauna. If planned well, the fence will be a beautiful accent to any home and garden for years to come.

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