A picket fence is a very natural form of demarcation. Made of chestnut or oak wood, this older version of the picket fence consists of upright poles that are either tubular, square or slightly slanted in cross-section. The special naturalness of this type of fence is that only untreated wood is used and hammered directly into the ground. The individual poles are only connected by a galvanized wire mesh. In contrast to a picket fence, there are no crossbars here. In France, picket fences have been a part of the streetscape for centuries and are also becoming increasingly popular in Germany, and not just for the fencing of authentic cottage gardens. With a little manual skill and a good sense of proportion, any environmentally conscious gardener can build their own picket fence. The following assembly instructions not only provide comprehensive assistance, but also contain numerous valuable tips and tricks.

Preparatory work and list of materials

The more detailed the planning of the picket fence is, the more precisely the material is ordered, with the result that the already very inexpensive fence costs no more than necessary. The length of the fence and the spacing of the poles determines the number of slats and posts. The distance in turn depends on the intended use of the picket fence. If it serves to enclose or limit, you can choose a larger distance than with a privacy screen or windbreak. This original form is often used as a design element in a garden that is in touch with nature, for example as a trellis for greenery. In this case, the distance between the poles is also chosen to be a little wider. The distance chosen determines not only the number of poles, but also the number of posts,which ensure stability at a distance of 150 cm to 300 cm:

Sample calculation for a 150 cm high fence

  • Post length: 200 cm with a diameter of 8 to 10 cm
  • Recommended post spacing: 133 cm
  • Height of winding wire at top: 135 cm
  • Corner post length: 200 cm with struts
  • Length of corner post: 250 cm without struts

If the fence is to go around a corner, it is necessary to support the corner posts with two other posts at a 45° angle. With regard to the type of wood, experienced experts recommend local sweet chestnut and oak trees. Both grades will withstand the elements of water, soil and air for many years without suffering damage, even if left untreated.

This weather resistance has the advantage for the busy gardener that the picket fence does not have to be impregnated or painted even after assembly. Once the fence has had its day, the untreated wood is burned or composted. Wood from sustainable forestry gives gardeners the good feeling of being environmentally conscious when purchasing the material. The sweet chestnut trees, for example, are harvested after a growth period of 15 to 20 years. At the cutting points, they immediately sprout again through shoots, only to be used again after another 15 to 20 years. In principle, robinia wood is also suitable for a picket fence; however, it is much more difficult to process and it is poisonous. Both factors would unnecessarily increase costs.

Material list:

  • Fences as a rolling fence
  • alternatively individual fences
  • wooden poles
  • wood saw or chainsaw
  • galvanized wire bracing
  • auger
  • cordless screwdriver
  • stainless steel screws
  • Pincers or combination pliers
  • sledgehammer
  • level
  • guideline
  • wire or tape
  • Garden grill or gas burner
  • Pencil for marking
  • possibly ear protection

You don’t have to buy an auger separately. This device can be rented inexpensively in many garden centers and hardware stores. Alternatively, you can use an iron bar to drill the holes in the ground.

Instructions for assembly

Once the material and tools are ready, the work can begin:

  1. In order to increase the durability of the wooden posts, they are briefly placed in an open fire in the area where they come into contact with the ground. The garden grill is ideal for this measure. The wood should burn until a layer of char is formed that is 2 mm to 3 mm thick. Incidentally, experienced hobby gardeners do not simply dispose of the wood ash, but keep it for use as fertilizer or to treat wounds in plants after pruning.
  2. The places for the corner and end posts of the fence are marked. A hole is drilled there with the auger to a depth of at least 50 cm. (Don’t forget ear protection.) The diameter of the hole must not be larger than the diameter of the wooden post. If it is a corner post, the next one should not be more than 150 cm away. Otherwise, the distance can be up to 300 cm, depending on the purpose of the picket fence.
  3. Before you ram the wooden stakes into the ground with a sledgehammer, the clever hobby gardener wraps the heads with wire or strong adhesive tape. In this way, it reliably prevents the wood from splintering as a result of the blows.
  4. Drive the fence posts far enough into the ground that you can later attach the upper row of wires with the stakes to them. The poles themselves protrude a few centimeters from the post.
  5. Now the wood saw is taken and each post is sawn off at an angle. This measure serves to protect the wood constructively because the rainwater can run off better.
  6. Each corner post receives two support posts that are screwed on at a 45° angle. Hold the wood for the struts at an angle to the post and mark the cut surface with a pencil. Cut off the marked piece with a wood saw or chainsaw and screw the strut to the fence post using the cordless screwdriver and two nails. In the case of round corner posts, first cut the relevant area smooth with a saw for a better hold.
  7. The guideline is stretched between the corner and end posts so that the picket fence is straight. Then the places for the intermediate posts are marked, the holes drilled in the ground and the fence posts driven into the ground.
  8. The roll-up fence with the stakes is rolled up. The first batten is screwed to the first fence post at wire height. It is important that this pole is a few centimeters above the ground. In the event that you have to connect several roles with each other, the garden friend proceeds as follows:
    1. Remove the last batten of the first roll of fence.
    2. To do this, unscrew the wire with the pliers.
    3. Lay the first rod of the new roll between the open ends of the wire.
    4. Twist the wire back together with the pliers.
  9. A helping hand is now required to tension the roll-up fence to the next wooden post in order to screw the wooden slat there again. Those who work alone take a spade and stretch the fence with it. This continues until the fence is complete. Should it form a square, the fence rolls that meet are tied together as described above. Alternative: If you don’t want to use a roll-up fence, but rather individual slats made of chestnut or oak wood, place them on the ground at the desired distance. The poles are connected at the top, in the middle and at the bottom with a galvanised, twisted wire and staples. Otherwise, the structure does not differ from that of an already rolled picket fence.
  10. In order to prevent the poles from coming into contact with the ground and to prevent the fence from sagging in the long term, small stones are placed under individual slats. A less visible solution is to drive a galvanized nail with an extra wide head under every third or fourth batten.

This is how a gate is built into the picket fence

What good is the most beautiful garden fence if the hobby gardener has to climb over it to get to his property or the fenced bed? It is better to plan a gate for the picket fence right from the start, because the installation is not difficult. Since such a fence construction is particularly flexible, the gate is built first and the fence is later adapted to it.

Panels of a picket fence are usually reinforced with a ‘Z’ shaped underframe of slats or posts and have the necessary hardware. In addition to the moving part, namely the goal, two setting posts are required as a fixed part.

  1. Lay the complete gate including the setting posts in the desired position.
  2. Saw two roof battens to fit across the gate, reaching from one post to the other. There they are screwed in the upper and lower area. This gives the input element more stability for installation. The roof battens are removed later.
  3. Drill the holes for the posts in the ground along the line of the fence.
  4. The posts are now rammed into the ground with the sledgehammer. It is important to ensure that they do not go so deep into the ground that the goal scrapes the ground later. On the other hand, however, deep enough for the posts to find sufficient support there. If you want to be absolutely sure, you can use ready-mixed concrete, which is poured into the holes before the setting posts are placed in them
  5. After two days the concrete has dried and the battens are removed. Only then is it time to set up the entire picket fence. If no concrete was used, the stabilizing battens are removed when the side posts are in place.

Design pole heads creatively

Nowhere is it mandatory that the heads of the pickets are sharpened. With a little imagination and the right tools, they can be transformed into decorative eye-catchers. Using a self-made template and a jigsaw, the heads of the slats are machined before they are assembled to form a fence.

So-called fence stools are even easier to make yourself. You need:

  • Flower pot 15 cm to 20 cm high
  • possibly small flower pots
  • air-drying modeling compound
  • acrylic paint
  • clear coat
  • paint brush
  • stones
  • wood wool
  • hot glue

The flower pot is placed upside down on cardboard or newspaper. Use the modeling clay to create a funny animal head, a dwarf or another motif on the bottom of the pot. Once the mass has dried, the pot and figure are painted in bright colors and then sealed with two coats of clear varnish. If you like it, you can now make arms and legs out of stones or very small flower pots, which you can attach to the large pot with hot glue. Then the fence stool is already finished and is put over a stake. Finally, stuff in the wood shavings from below so that everything is firmly in place. This measure also has the advantage that it creates a place of retreat for many a useful garden dweller, such as ground beetles, centipedes or ladybugs.

With an original picket fence made of weather-resistant chestnut or oak wood, the garden lover creates a natural garden element that does not require any chemical treatment. The possible applications of such a construction are diverse and are by no means limited to the fence of a property. The picket fence is an attractive solution as privacy and wind protection or as a climbing aid for climbing plants. With the right instructions for assembly, it is easily possible to build a picket fence yourself. Some decorative fence stools don’t just dress up the slat heads; filled with wood shavings, they offer many a beneficial garden dweller a safe retreat.

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