Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How To Build a Picket Fence

Something is missing.  Our yard needs a little pizzazz.

I know this sounds silly but everything is just...so...green.  I've always wanted a wooden picket fence and since we have a farm house and a barn, I thought a picket fence with a garden would be a nice touch.  Yeh, that's it!

Here is what my garden looks like July 2013

The End Result

I want to show you a picture of the end result of my picket fence project, hoping it inspires you to proceed on building one in your own back yard.  Building a picket fence is more than a three hour project but it won't take you all summer either.   My tips and hints should save you time and money.  I have included a materials list, a budget and how many hours it took to build. 
Happy gardening!!

What did I learn about planting vegetable plants in my raised boxes?

  1. As you can see, don't plant two tomato plants next to each other. They get too big.
  2. Don't plant a yellow squash plant (one with big leaves) so close to the tomato plants.  They compete for light, space and water.
  3. Yes, I really needed the four feet walk space.
  4. There are pepper and parsley plants in-between the squash and tomato plants.  Poor things.  They can't grow much in the shadows of the other big plants.  Of course, the weeds have no problem!
  5. Stake and tie up your tomatoes as they grow.  If you wait until they start to fall over, you have problems.
  6. I underestimated how big the plants would grow.  Next year - I'll have a different planting plan.
  7. I need mulch on the walk path.

Hot Tip on Staking Tomato Plants

I can't take credit for this tip.  My neighbor Scott had a perfect solution - one that he uses on his tomato plants.
On one of the tomato plants you will see four black stakes positioned in a square.  (Next spring I will place these stakes in the ground when the plants are young.)  As they grow, wind twine around the four corners of the stakes.  When the plants grow taller, add another row of twine.  The plant will not fall over from the weight of the stems or fruit and the plants also have air and light vs. placing twine around the plant like the tomato plant to the left.  You learn some new every day!

How to Build A Picket Fence

I'm excited to start this project but Tom raises an eyebrow as I describe my next bright idea for decorating the outdoors.

Here is my plan:
1.  Purchase two raised garden beds.  Click here for my blog post.
2.  Plant variety of vegetables and herbs.  Click here for my blog post.
3.  Round-Up grass.
4.  White wood picket fence (no PVC for me!) and a gate.
5.  Add a few trellis irons for a pretty clematis to add color and texture to the backdrop view.
6.  Finish with mulch.
6.  Wha-La!  Picture perfect.

Size of Garden

The fence area shown below is 24' long x 12' wide.  I have plenty of room but I don't want a garden too big that is too much work.  Really?  Did I just say that?

24' x 12' wide
raised garden beds are 5' x 5'
In this photo, the Round-Up is starting to kill the grass and the fence frame has been installed.
The area around my raised beds is about 4 feet with an extra foot at the end.

The Picket Fence

Generally, picket fences are 36" high.  They are sold in panels with a gothic decorative top at Home Depot, Menard's or Lowe's.  This sounds O.K. except I do not want gothic tops.  I want the traditional pointy tops.  Picky.  Picky.  And, to be honest with you, I am not convinced the 36" high fence panels were going to look good for the size of my garden.  The 36" looked a little too "cemetery-like" for my taste.

Now what?  Making custom picket boards would be cost prohibitive.  I mean....really...I could buy vegetables at the farmers market for the next 20 years!  I found a very good reasonable price alternative.  Greenes Fence Company of Cleveland, Ohio makes a pointy top picket fence in wood, sprayed white, 2 foot high, in 15 foot long rolls.  Cost:  $19.97 per roll.  I bought the last 6 rolls at Lowe's.

Construction Must Be Sturdy

The goal is to have a nice straight fence, one that is secure and tight to withstand the Wisconsin winter winds, snow drafts, and the occasional bump with the riding mower.  It's time for me to recruit the help of my neighbor, Scott.  He is the master at building and fixing anything.

"Hey, Scott, do you have a minute?"

In this video Scott explains how to build the fence support.

18 support posts are spaced approximately 51" from the center of each post.  This includes the gate that will be built and installed in the front.  Holes were dug with a hand post hole digger and posts were secured with quick-set concrete.


I stained the fence frame with two coats of solid white latex stain.  Why stain and not paint?  Paint chips.  Stain slowly fades into a nice worn vintage patina.  Less maintenance.

The Best Tip I Ever Received From My Painter

I'll pass on the THE BEST tip I received from my painter, Jay Madisen.  He said, "when using latex paint or stain, brush out as much of the paint or stain as possible, wrap tightly in aluminum foil, and place in the freezer.  The next morning when you want to continue the job, let thaw for a few minutes and you are ready to paint.  No clean up until you are done with the project."  Yes, it works.

Attaching the Picket Fence to the Posts

In this video, Scott shows how to attach the picket fence to the support posts.

Crooked Picket

Be aware that the picket fence rolls are not perfectly constructed from the manufacturer.
H-m-m-m-m-m.  You can see this one is not aligned with the post.  If you don't fix it now the problem escalates.  Don't get ahead of yourself.

This view shows how the wire sits at the top of the horizontal support board.  This assures the fence is level.

Scott attaches the picket fence one section at a time.

The end result of all the hard work is a nice straight, sturdy fence.


  • Coming soon. 

How much did the materials cost?

  • $220.00 Materials:  Lumber, nails, one gallon of stain, brush, 6" slide bolt for gate, 2-8" hinges for gate, 4 iron trellis, black gloss paint, rebar rods.

How much time did it take Scott?   38 hours

  • select and pick up materials and unload
  • cut lumber, rip rails, build and notch posts
  • cut 2" off of posts and build fence panels
  • layout post hole placement
  • dig post holes, level panel sections and set sections in cement
  • fabricate gate and screw on hinges and latch, and attach gate to fence
  • nail on picket fence sections
  • rework metal trellis, connect two, add rebar for strength and added length 



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