The floppy fence is a type of fence designed to primarily keep possums, wallabies and rabbits (and other undesirables) out of your food garden. We’re a fan of this low-tech, effective system which can be easily replicated in most contexts.
What materials do you need?
The material list is fairly straight forward and easy to source, it includes chicken wire (rolls at either 1.8m high or two rolls at .9m high), star pickets (at least 1.8m high), tie wire, high tensile wire and vermin mesh or small chicken wire (optional). As a general rule I try to avoid using any timber posts as possums can climb them much easier compared to steel posts. If you have particularly vigorous possums you might want to consider eliminating 100% of any timber from your fence line. In our current home we’re using timber corner posts as the possums in our area are pretty tame.
Is it expensive?
Depending on the area you’re fencing the cost will vary – fencing isn’t cheap and it can quickly add up. However you can salvage a lot of the materials or find them second hand which helps keep the costs down. Just remember that long-term, it’s well worth the investment in time and finances as it results in a safe and productive food garden.
How do we keep out rabbits, wallabies AND possums? Well there are a few key elements behind this design which specifically targets each of the three animals: Here’s how…
At the bottom of your fence dig in an additional 20-30cm of chicken wire straight down into the soil, this will create a barrier to the rabbits digging under/through the fence. Alternatively you can put a 20-30cm ‘skirt’ on the bottom of your fence where, instead of being dug into the ground the wire is fanned out along the soil’s surface. Something to be mindful of is BABY rabbits who can squeeze through extra small fencing wire. You’ll see on the diagram above that additional wire has been added to the bottom strip of the fence to deter these babies from waltzing into your garden. This is where you can use either vermin mesh or small chicken wire to keep them out.
The element which prevents possums from rampaging in your garden is the top floppy section. Possums hate climbing on unstable, shaky branches – so we’re imitating this with the floppy top. They’ll climb up the fence like normal, but once they reach the top floppy section they’ll turn around and retreat. Simple!
You can see the high tensile wire in action here – creating a beautiful curved shape
The high tensile wire is spaced approximately 1m apart to ensure a consistent and strong floppy top
The wonderful thing about wallabies is they don’t jump very high – yay! Technically all you need is a standard fence up to approximately 1.5m high – that’s it. No floppy top or skirt required. Currently most of our garden is only fenced with this standard fencing approach which is keeping the “hoppies” out brilliantly (touch wood).
There are quite a few variations of the floppy fence which people do, it all depends on the materials available and the context in which they’re working. For example Pindari Herb Farm have incorporated corrugated iron into their fence structure to act as a wind/seed break. I’ve also seen this used to keep out wombats, but you have to dig the iron into the soil a good .5m as well.
One very important this to realise is that the height of a floppy fence will vary drastically depending on the vigor of your possums/wildlife. For example we live in urban/peri-urban Hobart and our floppy fence is around 1.5m’ish high, however we know people living in the country who build theirs well over 2m high with an electrical wire on top of that to keep out the possums. Please have no illusion about possums – there are some hard hearted ones out there who will stop at nothing to get to your crops. It seems the possums in our neighbourhood are just a bit more relaxed and casual… For which I am eternally grateful.
The main thing to remember is that fencing is your friend, get over any ‘oh, but fences create a bad vibe’ feelings you might have. Do what you need to do to make sure you can grow food without a constant battle with the wildlife. I’ve seen too many half-hearted attempts at fencing which has resulted in huge amounts of energy, time and resources being wasted and ultimately people decided that growing food is ‘too hard’. Generally it’s not too hard you just need to consider the right fencing design for your situation and get into it!
*Your blogger is Hannah Moloney, co-director of Good Life Permaculture and lover of all things fun and garden-esk.