Choosing the right fence and making the right planting choices

Credit: visualdensity, via Flickr Creative Commons

Q: I’m replacing a fence between my backyard and my neighbour’s. The current 5′ fence is rotting with gaps, and I’m considering installing a pressure-treated 6’3″ “Privacy Plus” fence, which means that there will be no more gaps. What I’m concerned about is possibly jeopardizing my garden by reducing the sunlight and air flow. Would I be creating an undesirable microclimate by choosing the Privacy Plus fence?

How the airflow near this fence is affected partly depends on which direction the fence faces. My neighbours and I garden along a very similar fence that faces west. It can get warm on summer afternoons, so we’ve chosen drought-tolerant plants (it’s an area we don’t like to water more than once a week).

We’ve varied plant heights and textures as it’s a long fence and we don’t want it to look static. But for continuity, we’ve used similar plants and the colours meld well. The biggest mistake people make when planting near a fence (or other structure) is not giving the plants enough space in front of the fence. If a shrub will get to six feet across, then be sure to plant it three feet out from the fence (to the center of the shrub). The exception, of course, would be plants to be trained against the fence.

Pay attention to where the sun will hit, and take that into account when making plant choices as well.