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Let's start with the tl;dr: I'm starting a new vegetable garden and need to put up a fence around it. 16'x12', constructed of wood and metal poultry netting. My goals are to ensure that:

  1. Squirrels, groundhogs, rabbits, raccoons, and neighbourhood cats stay out. No deer here.
  2. The fence will hold up fairly well to small impacts (like a soccer ball kicked by a 5-year-old, or an out-of-control 5-year-old).
  3. The fence can be expanded repeatedly in subsequent years, and completely disassembled/removed/reassembled with relative ease (hence no 4x4 posts set in concrete).

Here's how I was thinking of approaching this, I would appreciate your feedback or suggestions:

  • Use 2x2's for the vertical posts. I found 42" 2x2 stakes and will drive them a foot deep, so the finished height will be 32" above ground.
  • Use 2x2's for rails running along the bottoms and the tops of the posts. Most posts will be spaced 4' apart.
  • Use standard 2x4 concealed fence rail brackets to make both installation and removal of the rails easier and cleaner. (Do you suggest something else??). I will line up all the posts, measure, mark, pre-drill, and screw in all the brackets before the posts ever go into the ground.
  • Staple mesh fencing to the outside of the posts and along the frame. Extend the mesh a few inches above the top of the fence frame (to deter wood-climbing animals) and bury it a few inches into the ground (to deter some diggers).
  • Build a simple door about 3' wide with using 2x2's for the frame (or possibly 1x2's with mesh fencing sandwiched between them).

A couple things I'm also wondering:

  • My yard slopes, about 1/2" per foot. Do I slope my fence or do I make sure every post top is level with every other? 1/2" isn't much, my rails should still fit neatly in the rail brackets. Do I offset the brackets on either side of each post? (I prefer the "standardization" since I can move the fence to any other near-level surface in the future, but I might just be acting dumb).
  • Should I put some boards around the bottom of the fence for additional structural support, to withstand some extra impacts, etc.? 1x6x8 SPF are $4 apiece (I'm in Canada) = $28 total.

Your suggestions are welcome! Diagrams, images, more info can be provided. I hope this wasn't too long. Thanks in advance!

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    Squirrels and raccoons can climb over just about anything “Out of control control five-year-old” is there any other kind ? – Alaska Man May 20 at 3:09
  • Ditto Alaska Man - I couldn't stop the ground hog until I put an electric wire on top. The chipmunks could get though anything larger than hardware cloth, and get to my strawberries. Its going to depend on what critters you have and what you are growing. – DaveM May 20 at 4:07
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    As already noted, squirrels and raccoons regard a jaunty trip over a fence (or straight though for the squirrels depending on mesh size) as a delightful pre-dinner ritual. Groundhogs and rabbits also dig under for access. Fencing can be a frustrating experience, depending on pest pressure and desirability of your produce to pests. – Ecnerwal May 20 at 12:06
  • I have chickens and the squirrels join the girls several times a day 6’ chicken wire or metal poultry mesh will not slow squirrels down, I found one of the best devices was a motion activated sprinkler I have on the pool for ducks, I have 2 in the garden it helps with both deer and squirrels but if they are hungry they will get in and eat the plants not just the fruit / veggies. I feed them peanuts no salt and that has worked for several years a few handfuls scattered around the yard keeps them full and busy burying what they don’t eat. And they share the girls cracked corn. – Ed Beal May 20 at 14:04
  • Thanks for all your feedback! I had a number of vegetable plants out last year in pots, and they surprisingly had little attention from animals (groundhog nibbled on broccoli leaves and something ate my kale), but I think the critters here are relatively well established and have access to plentiful food in the surrounding neighbourhood. Lots of clover on my lawn for bunnies to eat, raccoons have their pick of people's garbage cans. Still, I will reconsider my approach and perhaps use bird netting over top to create a complete enclosure. TBD. Thanks again. – h0708 May 21 at 19:17
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I will line up all the posts, measure, mark, pre-drill, and screw in all the brackets before the posts ever go into the ground.

What if you can't drive one all the way to your predicted depth, or what if you drive one your predicted depth and it is not yet stable and you want to drive it further? I would not pre-attach your rail brackets or I bet they will not end up straight/level.

Do I slope my fence or do I make sure every post top is level with every other?

Slope the fence, 1/2" per foot adds up.

boards around the bottom of the fence for additional structural support, to withstand some extra impacts

Unnecessary for impact, unless you expect charging cats and hedgehogs to head-butt the fence. But it might add some extra stability.

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    Setting posts is as much art as science. Do NOT pre-attach anything! Level up the fencing (and cut the tops of the posts, if necessary) once they're all in the ground. Agree 100% – FreeMan May 20 at 14:39
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I’d suggest burying the posts deeper than 1ft I’d say at least 14” (1/3 post depth) Maybe put one in and feel the resistance by hand to see if it works for the strength you are looking for.

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  • I've already ordered some materials to test out and will see how they feel. The ground in my yard is dense, hard clay. I will need to use a digging bar just to make the hole; if I pound the stakes in without pre-digging, the wood will split and break! Could also brace them but I don't want to go overboard. I'll report back this weekend :) – h0708 May 20 at 3:51
  • 1/3 of the post buried in the ground is the general recommendation. Agree 100%. – FreeMan May 20 at 14:38
  • In my test, I buried the posts (which were 41" end to point) down about 13" and they felt very solid, even before securing them to each other with rails. I may add an inch or two below that but our ground is really dense clay so, short of an adult pushing against a post with all their weight, these should be able to withstand all the kinds of impacts they're going to be subjected to. Thanks again for your help! – h0708 May 26 at 15:07
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No fence. Recruit 5 year old for garden defense.

  1. Fencing is a thankless task.
  2. Stuff always gets in.
  3. You need to get in too!
  4. It is interesting when animals eat your vegetables.
  5. Giving a 5 year old boy something useful to build is like giving him super powers.

The fact that you are putting this up now, and your boy is 5, means you want it to be interesting to the 5 year old. Instead of one big fence, make cylinders of chicken wire. He can make a cylinder of chicken wire, one per plant. Get him garden gloves that fit and show him how to use a wire snips to build them. You can ask him how to keep them from tipping over if a squirrel pushes on them. See what he comes up with. Rocks? Stakes? String? Run with it.

If the plants with no chicken wire are getting eaten, you need to give them armor too!

If the plants are getting too big for their chicken wire, you need to make them bigger chicken wire cylinders.

If animals are getting past them, see if you can catch them in the act. Or discuss (you and son) how it is happening and adjust plant cages accordingly (for example, pinch closed on the top)


When your boy is older and does not want to be part of garden projects anymore, you can make your proper fence.

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  • Thanks for the great insights. My boy is actually closer to 3, but I'm planning ahead. Right now, the fence is going to keep HIM out of the garden too, haha. He really loves gardening, but obviously doesn't want to stop pulling 3 week old carrot sprouts out of the ground. So it will be a learning experience for everyone, and we will always be doing it TOGETHER which is the most important thing. :) – h0708 May 21 at 19:18

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