The Art of Electric Garden Fences

From polywire to radio fences, a complete guide to buying and maintaining a little harvest protection with electric garden fences.

| August/September 1994

Electric fences for most pastures are an expensive but mandatory piece of overhead, and no rancher or farmer with cattle can do without them. Their styles and methods of operation are many (see "Build a High-Tension Fence") but they are designed to enclose areas on a grand scale. For those of us with smaller but equally precious garden plots to protect, modified electric garden fences can assure that your hard-won autumn harvest goes unmolested by other hungry creatures and that your wallet will survive the effort.

With lightweight electric fences, you don't need heavy posts or specialized tools. All you do is push the self-insulating plastic or fiberglass posts into the ground by hand or tap them in with a mallet. And you won't need posts at all if you put up an "invisible" radio fence to keep your doggy out of the veggie patch. But more on that in a moment.

Visible electrified garden fencing comes in three options: twine, tape, and net. A ll three are made from strands of polyethylene combined with metal filaments, the polyethylene for strength, the metal filaments to conduct electric current. Would-be marauders coming into contact with the fence get a jolt that's not unlike a sharp static spark.

The beauty of electroplastic fencing is that it goes up fast. You can fence the average family-sized garden in an hour or less. After the autumn harvest, you can take the fence down, roll it up, and put it away for the winter, giving you an unobstructed view of the backyard while your garden is fallow.

Polywire Fencing

The basic stuff electroplastic fencing is made of is electroplastic twine, also known as "polywire." Lightweight and easy to cut with scissors, polywire is used much the same way you would use any fence wire.

It looks a bit different, however, mainly because it comes in colors—yellow, white, orange, and black. Color affects both the fence's visibility and its resistance to ultraviolet sunlight. Black has the greatest resistance to sunlight but is hardest to see. Color visibility is strictly for the benefit and safety of humans, since most animals are color blind.

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