View from the Garden: My New Fence – Bamboo vs. Deer

Keep Bambi out with bamboo!
Keep Bambi out with bamboo! Photo: Stacy Dermont

In the late fall of 2014 I finally decided to build a fence to deter deer from entering my back yard. I have been planting only deer-resistant plants for a very long time but—oh, how I long for hostas and lilies! And maybe I could finally plant that vegetable garden I have been planning, without the threat of deer.

I went to the Building Department in Sag Harbor for a building permit. When planning a fence, it is a very good idea to do this and find out the fence regulations for your location. In Sag Harbor a 6-foot wooden fence from the front corner of the house to the property line is allowed…just what I needed.

I had someone else install the posts in early winter of 2014, because I don’t like to do that part. I planned to build the panels myself. I thought about what kind of fence to build but
could not make a decision until the fall of 2015.

I work on two properties with bamboo stands, and neither had been thinned for two years. Thinning makes the stands look good and helps the bamboo grow well. Also, thinning yielded a lot of beautiful, long canes. Green bamboo has limited use because it does not last like bamboo that has been cured—like the kind available in garden centers. It can be used for teepees and staking but only for one season. Building structures for long-term use is a waste of time. But as I looked at these big piles of bamboo headed for the dump, I had one of those exquisite moments and realized that I could make the fence with this bamboo!

We brought bunches of canes to my house and one of my co-workers and I began. The diameters of the canes varied from pencil size to 4”. We built the panels in a way to keep water from the insides of the canes, which I hope will maximize the life span of the bamboo. I made the panels 4” thick. The canes were in colors from green to tan, which was beautiful—but they will eventually all be tan (which is also beautiful, I think). Building it took a while because we learned as we built. Some things had to be redone. Only with the last gate did we use the correct hardware. It is not perfect but it is close.

It’s one-of-a-kind. Because the bamboo is green (untreated), the fence is an experiment. But I like it and was able to utilize material headed to the dump.

There is a 4-foot picket fence across the front of our property, which is not deer-proof. I will not plant “deer food” there anticipating a possible visit.

But with the new fence, I will take a chance (and it is a chance given the abilities of deer to jump) and rebuild a hosta bed that I had before deer moved into our neighborhood. I have learned to use the internet and found sources for unique hostas and there are splendid ones for the hosta nerds… amazingly huge to very small, almost white, yellow to blue-green and enumerable shapes. Hostas are easy to grow without deer and splendid beds can be made using only hostas.

And then the lilies! Oh, how I love them! And so do the deer! I will take the chance and plant a good assortment of them. Vegetables, however, may prove to be too inviting to our local raccoons and I will need to take appropriate preventable measures. And then there is the threat of birds pecking holes in the tomatoes…

As always, learning to garden peacefully with our fellow critters is a neverending challenge, but I feel the fence is a big step in the right direction.

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067.

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