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I am planting a small nut orchard.

I have about 1500' of fence line enclosing a few acres.

So far, I have placed all of the poles for the fencing. These are 12' 6 inch diameter treated wood posts, with 4 feet buried. The distance between posts is 12'.

My plan was to trench along the outside of these posts, and to bury vinyl coated welded wire mesh fencing 2' deep. This is to exclude groundhogs from the planting area.

My issue is that the trenchers I have looked at all seem to have the digging blade in the center of the machine, so that the closest I could get to the poles easily would be half the width of the machine.

Any ideas/advice would be much appreciated.

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  • Given groundhogs burrow down 2'-5'; maybe justify why a 2' deep mesh makes a difference? Jan 25, 2017 at 2:30
  • What did you end up doing? I am in the same boat..
    – eaglei22
    Jun 5, 2017 at 14:06
  • @eaglei22 I used a sod cutter and cut 2 feet out, then buried fence horizontally, and rolled sod back over it. Seems to be excluding rabbits/groundhogs pretty well so far. Jun 5, 2017 at 14:11
  • Wow, with a sod cutter you were able to trench 2ft deep? Wonder if it's worth trying. I have hard clay soil, and need to trench a electrical wire right up against the fence as it has to be at least 5ft from pool. Might have to look into the sod cutter as I am avoiding trying to rent a back hoe or heavy equipment. Thanks for the response!
    – eaglei22
    Jun 5, 2017 at 14:15
  • @eaglei22 Sorry: I cut only 2 inches deep, but 2 feet wide. For my purposes that was good enough to exclude critters. You could look into maybe renting something like this minitrencher (minitrencher.com/faq), but I did not find any available in my area. Jun 5, 2017 at 17:49

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You haven't done yourself any favors, but if only the posts are in you could make it work. You'd just have to plunge next to a post, trench six feet, then rotate the machine and repeat. The blade ought to protrude enough to clear a six inch post, and if the fence sections aren't installed clearance between the posts isn't an issue.

In all honesty though, I suspect using a mattock to dig pass the posts may be less aggravation. Trench what you can, and knock the gaps down by hand. It's not like you need to get all of the dirt out as you can work the mesh into loose soils.

I hesitate to mention it but if it's just the posts and they're set in the ground not cement you can pull them straight out and drop them back into the hole after you do the trench. The easiest way is definitely a front end loader with a chain on the bucket; it's a lot more work with a chain, crowbar, and blocks.

There are also chainsaw attachment/chainsaw type trenchers. (Terrasaw among others) I've no idea if you can find one at a nearby rental place but it may be worth a look. I've no experience with them, sounds like a long day but it'd get you close to the fence. [There's also something called the "Alpine Magnum" that I mention for the sake of completeness. I'd never even heard of them before and I'd be absolutely amazed if anyone rented them.]

If the whole fence is in or nothing above works I'd suggest renting a small excavator for the day, assuming you have room along the fence line to drive. That would let you dig flush with the fence, but the trench would end up a bit wider.

Maybe the best piece of advice is to visit your local equipment rental place (the one the specializes in renting machinery, not the BORG) and explain your problem rather than what you want to rent. They know what they have in inventory, and can give you suggestions. For example, the one here rents Bobcats for 1.28 Gigadollars per day and small banged up Kubota with a backhoe for about a quarter of the cost. So "I'm digging a hole" saves you a ton of cash over "I'm looking for a bobcat excavator." Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll have an offset trencher or small skid steer with a tiny bucket.

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