Growing Your Own Privacy Fence
One of the things that has always bothered me about my property – ever since moving here four years ago – has been the lack of privacy. I live on a corner lot, and while there technically is a fence in the backyard, most of it is 4 feet high.
I’ve toyed with the idea of upgrading the current fence to something more substantial, but have continued to resist the temptation, largely due to the costs and potential hassles involved.
Rather than simply tolerating the extreme exposure again this summer, I decided to try something a little different – I set out to grow my own privacy fence!
My back fence-line (or lack thereof) in particular has bothered me the most since this is actually the only stretch of the 4 foot fence that directly borders one of my neighbor’s yards. This particular neighbor spends a fair amount of time in their yard, and sets up a swimming pool for the summer months, so I didn’t imagine that they’d mind having a little more privacy as well. Aside from that, they seem to have a somewhat different opinion on how a backyard should look (manicured, fertilized lawn), so I don’t imagine they would mind NOT having to look at my unruly (“all natural”) mess of vegetation for part of the year either.
The main task when planning a natural fence is of course deciding what type of plant(s) to grow. Some of the main considerations include: 1) maximum height, 2) growth speed, and 3) aesthetic appeal. While it was obviously very important to select a plant that would attain a height greater than that of the current fence, I also felt that it was fairly important for the plants to be reasonably attractive (no point creating yet another eyesore for my neighbor to look at!).
The first plant that came to mind was Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus). I can clearly remember how enormous these plants grew in my dad’s garden back when I was a kid. I also seemed to recall something about the roots being edible. Add to that the fact that Jerusalem Artichoke is also a perennial, and it’s no wonder I thought I had hit upon the ‘ultimate’ natural fence plant. What ended up changing my mind however, was the fact that this plant is apparently very invasive and tough to manage once it becomes established (something I learned from someone with more experience growing them). The last thing I wanted to do was create a future headache for myself (and potentially even my neighbor).
I thought about various types of shrubs (preferably ones with some sort of edible fruit/nut) as an option. I liked the idea of creating something permanent, but alas my impatience got the better of me and I decided I didn’t want to wait multiple growing seasons for my ‘fence’ to mature.
As such, I settled on sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) – more specifically, ‘pollen-free’ sunflowers – as my plant of choice for the natural fence-line. Rather than simply choosing a particular type – as tempted as I was to grow the monstrous ‘Kong’ variety – I opted for a seed mix known as ‘Monet’s Pallete’. I hoped this would provide me with enough height to make it worthwhile, and enough aesthetic appeal to catch peoples’ attention.
Overall, I have been a wee bit disappointed with the results thus far – but really happy I decided to try it out nevertheless. I suspect that the combination of planting the sunflower seedlings a little late, along with the cool, somewhat dreary weather we’ve been having this year, has resulted in the plants being a little shorter (and generally less impressive) than expected by now – here at the beginning of August. A number of the plants have grown above the 4 foot mark, but I certainly don’t have a nice 6 foot ‘hedge’ of beautiful sunflowers, the way I had envisioned.
Regardless, the combination of my tall sandbox corn patch and this stand of sunflowers makes for much more soothing atmosphere when I am puttering around at the back of the yard. I’m keeping in mind that ‘you gotta start SOMEWHERE‘, and feel really optimistic that next year’s ‘fence’ will be a lot more impressive!