Have you ever heard of wattle fencing? I had not until Tom was researching a project here at Fort Frederica and decided to use this method.
Wattle fencing is a woven, light-weight, sturdy method of making permanent or movable fencing. It is an ancient, English method and was used by British colonists all over the world. When Tom and I got to Fort Frederica in January, we noticed that the Colonial Garden was a mess. The fence was falling down and the planting beds were full of weeds. Ranger Bob told us they had planted the garden in the fall, but the deer squeezed through the fence and ate everything.
Tom immediately volunteered to build a better fence. Suzette Brumbaugh took on the weeding as one of her projects and did a great job clearing out the beds. After researching historical fencing methods, Tom chose a wattle fence. A wattle fence is a woven fence using green saplings. The saplings are sturdy but pliable. After they are woven into the fence, they dry and become lightweight. Then a section of fence can be moved as a temporary barrier.
Wattle fences can be woven horizontally or vertically. After some consultation, Tom decided to weave vertically. Wattle fences can also be woven so tightly that rabbits can’t get through. Deer are the big problem here on the island. Although we have rabbits, they are few and far between and they rarely bother the garden.
Tom recruited Ranger Thomas to help him with the wattle fencing. They went into the woods and cut down as many saplings as they needed. They mostly cut camphor saplings because camphor is invasive and the park is trying to get rid of it. Although most people who build wattle fences remove the limbs and leaves, Tom and Thomas decided to leave them on. The wattles are taller and look more rustic. For most of the month of January, Tom and Thomas spent every spare minute out by the Colonial Garden, weaving in the saplings.
Although the fencing isn’t as tight and secure as most wattle fencing, it is doing a great job of keeping out the deer. Of course, there isn’t really anything planted in the garden right now. Ranger Bob says he has a garden club coming out to plant the garden at the end of March. In the meantime, we are getting in the habit of opening the garden in the morning and closing it at night.
Tom and Thomas may decide to put in more saplings as time goes on, but the fence is light and sturdy. Best of all, it was free, built with materials found on the island. Just like the colonists would have done it.