Build a Garden Fence on a Budget

article image
by Jake Lasorsa

When we moved into our new home, we were thrilled that the previous owners had already installed six raised garden beds in the sunny backyard. Unfortunately, our dogs were just as thrilled as we were. They loved digging in the rich soil, and they would beeline straight to the beds whenever we let them outside. That was fine in winter, but we knew we’d need a secure fence come spring.

While designing our fence, we had four goals: It needed to be cost-effective, simple enough to build ourselves, attractive, and sturdy enough to hold up over many years.

Our garden beds butt up against our neighbor’s fence, so we designed a three-sided fence to capitalize on their existing wall. This saved us about a quarter of the price on materials, along with a significant amount of time. If you can go this route, check with your neighbor before building to make sure your fence doesn’t interfere with the structural integrity of theirs.

Our fence is rectangular in shape, with two 35-foot-long sides and one 18-foot-long side that includes a 4-foot-wide gate. (The other short side is our neighbor’s fence.) You may need to tweak it based on your garden’s size and whether you have scrap lumber to use or an existing fence to build off.

Finally, we primarily grow flowers and medicinal herbs, so we don’t battle much with food-eating pests, such as squirrels or rabbits. If you do, however, you may want to use a tighter weave than the welded wire we selected to keep our big dogs out of the space.

Tools and Materials

  • Chalk line reel
  • Measuring tape
  • Auger or posthole digger
  • Box of 2-inch all-purpose wood screws
  • Drill
  • Phillips head drill bit driver
  • 80-pound bags of cement (2)
  • 4-by-100-foot rolls of steel welded-wire fencing (2)
  • Wire cutters
  • Box of fence staples
  • Hammer
  • Miter saw
  • Box of 4-inch Phillips head decking screws
  • Reciprocating saw or handsaw
  • 4-by-4-inch copper pyramid post caps, optional (10)
  • Box of finishing nails, optional
  • Nail gun, optional
  • Gate hardware kit
  • 8-foot-long 4x4s for fence post (10)
  • 10-foot-long 4x4s for fence post (2)
  • Scrap 1x2s for bracing
  • 8-foot-long 2x4s (13)
  • 12-foot-long 1×12

Build the Fence

1. Outline your proposed fence with a chalk reel, leaving a 4-foot-wide space for the gate. Measure and mark where you’ll want each fence post. We placed our fence posts approximately 7 feet apart, except for the 10-foot-tall posts that support our gate, which are 4 feet apart.

2. Use an auger or posthole digger to dig a deep, straight hole for each fence post. Plan to bury the 8-foot-tall posts 3 feet in the ground, and the 10-foot-tall posts 4 feet deep. The taller posts will serve as the foundation for the entryway gate and trellis.

3. After digging all the holes, place the 10-foot posts on either side of the entrance and the 8-foot posts in the remaining holes. To keep the fence posts straight while you add the concrete, use the 2-inch screws and two scrap 1x2s temporarily screwed into adjacent sides of each post at a 45-degree angle to prop them up.

4. Mix the cement according to the instructions on the bag, and then pour it into the first hole, filling it halfway. Repeat this step until you’ve added cement to each of the fence post holes. Let the cement harden overnight before removing the temporary supports and moving on to Step 5.

5. Align the edge of the welded steel wire with one of the corner posts, and then use fence staples and a hammer to secure the wire to the post. Unroll the wire slowly, stapling it to the next post while keeping it as taut as possible. Continue until you’ve securely wrapped the entire perimeter (except the entrance) in wire. (We have about 8 inches of wire extending from our corner posts to our neighbor’s fence; this has been enough to keep our dogs from squeezing through without us actually attaching our fence to theirs.)

6. Measure the distance between each fence post (except the entrance), and trim an 8-foot-long 2×4 to fit snugly between each post horizontally.

7. With the help of a friend, balance the first trimmed 2×4 directly above the wire in the space between the first two posts. Rotate the board so it’s flat, with a 4-inch side facing up. Attach the board to the posts with two 4-inch decking screws on either side. Position the screws at 45-degree angles so they travel through the underside of the board and into the side of the fence post. Repeat this process until all the fence posts — except the two that will hold the gate — are connected with horizontal 2x4s.

8. If the depths of the fence post holes vary somewhat, trim the tops of the fence posts with a reciprocating saw or handsaw so they’re all the same height.

9. We liked the aesthetic of capping each post with a copper top. You can also buy solar-powered tops, which would help you keep an eye on your garden at night. Gently tap the cap down on the post until it’s secure, and then use a nail gun or hammer to add a few finishing nails through the side of each cap for added security. (This step is optional.)

10. Use fence staples and a hammer to attach the welded wire to the bottom of the 2x4s around the entire perimeter of the fence.

11. Fill in each fence post hole with the remaining dirt. Tamp securely, and be sure to add plenty of dirt to each hole, as it will settle with time.

Make the Gate

  1. Cut two of the 8-foot-long 2x4s in half so you have four 4-foot-long boards: Two pieces will lie horizontally, and two pieces will lie vertically, to make a square frame.
  2. Measure the space between each of the 10-foot-tall entryway posts to make sure the gate will fit, and trim the two horizontal boards if the gate is too wide.
  3. You’ll want a 5- or 6-inch clearance along the bottom of the gate, so hold up the boards that will make the vertical sides of the door frame, and trim them to a height that’s comfortable for you. When the gate pieces are the size you want, lay them out on the ground in a square, and attach them with two 2-inch screws on each corner, so all four pieces are joined in a solid square.
  4. Lay an 8-foot-long 2×4 at a 45-degree angle on top of the square frame, so it runs from the top of the inside left-hand corner to the bottom of the inside right-hand corner. Mark the points on either end of the board where you’ll need to trim it to fit.
  5. Trim the support board to fit, and then connect it to the door frame with two 2-inch screws on either corner.
  6. Cut a piece of welded steel wire to fit the door frame, and then staple it all around the perimeter of the frame.
  7. Attach the gate hardware to the door, and then hold the door in place so you can mark with a pencil where you’ll attach the latch and hinges on the posts.
  8. Use 2-inch screws to attach the hinges and the latch to the marked areas on the gate posts.
  9. To make the decorative trellis above the gate, cut the 12-foot-long 1×12 into two 6-foot-long sections. Style each board by trimming the ends at approximately a 15-degree angle, leaving about half the board’s end untouched. Position these boards on either side of the gate posts at the top, so they connect the posts, with the cut edges facing down. Attach them to the posts with two 2-inch screws at either end.

We’re very pleased with our new garden fence, and the dogs haven’t gotten inside once! We plan to grow passionflower up the trellis this summer, and we appreciate the fact that we can conveniently place tools and drinks on the horizontal wooden boards that run the fence’s perimeter.