The growing craze for green spaces and living privacy screens is taking root the world over, and I couldn’t help but think what is best for my backyard fence between a fence, a hedge, or both. Is trimming easier than re-staining the traditional fence? Here is why I prefer a hedge over a fence.
Properties built on sandier soils, uneven landscape spaces, or steep inclines like hillsides often have soil stability issues. While a solid fence is a good privacy screen, you might want to protect your backyard from being washed downhill during heavy flooding or storms. The hedge plants dig their roots deeper in the soil holding the particles together, effectively controlling soil erosion, especially in waterfront properties.
Hedges create an excellent background, especially if you have flowers around your backyard. Various flowers will look even more appealing against a dull sea of green backdrop from the typical hedge. You can punctuate the edges of a cedar hedgerow by shaping the hedge into a Topiary.
The fence wins for tighter spaces in the battle for space between a hedge and a backyard fence. A wooden fence will make more sense if the border between your property and your neighbor is small. You should plant a hedge one foot away from the actual border because it will eventually grow and creep into the neighboring yard decreasing the available space.
On the other hand, a privacy fence will only occupy a small space, making it better than the living hedge for smaller properties. However, the cost of installing a fence around a large backyard is too high compared to planting a living privacy screen.
Any real estate agent worth their salt will agree that a healthy, well-maintained fence will automatically increase the resale value of your property by up to 5%. A well-maintained solid wall will also have an almost similar effect. However, it all depends on the conditions because a falling fence with peeling paint has a similarly disastrous effect to a hedge with dead or dying shrubs. A hedge will fetch more than a solid fence if both are well maintained, making it a better investment.
A fence is a great visual screen if you want an immediate solution to nosy passers-by and neighbors peeking into your backyard. On the contrary, a hedge will take some time to grow and create a thick foliage wall to block the prying eyes. If I had a choice, I would go with a temporary fence and a hedge to provide the needed privacy before the shrubs and plants achieve the intended thickness and height. Thankfully, some species bloom quickly and achieve the desired screening quality within 12 months.
Dust, Noise, and Wind Barrier
A fence is an instant visual barrier but ineffective against dust and auditory pollution. A hedge effectively filters noise and traps dust from outside your property and nearby roads, making your garden quieter, cleaner, and more peaceful. Fence barriers consist of strong, rigid material that blocks the wind from passing through, making them vulnerable to breaking during heavy storms and speedy winds. On the other hand, a hedge’s thick foliage filters out and reduces the speed of the wind, creating a natural but effective wind barrier. So, if you live near a busy road or your neighbor’s loud music reverberates across your compound, you better invest in a hedge.
Installing a fence or a living privacy screen can be a costly affair, with a fence going for anything between $600 and $2000, while a hedge will cost $1,730 to $2,350. It all starts with digging holes using specialized equipment then pouring cement footings to set the posts. Next, fence panels are attached, followed by the attachment of pickets to the rails. Finally, caps are placed to make the posts watertight and finish the fence.
“Fences and walls can be effective and even soothing, at least for those who build them.”
Planting a hedge is much easier because you are almost done after digging a 1 foot deep and 3 feet wide trench. The next step is soil augmentation using compost and fertilizer, followed by plant spacing. During the first dry season, proper watering will help the “green fence” take shape. You should have a 10 feet tall hedge in three years if you planted the California Privet hedge.
Maintaining a living privacy screen is a laborious job compared to looking after a non-living fence. If I choose the hedge option, I will have to fertilize, lay mulch, and water my hedge frequently in the first few years of its life. It would get more labor-intensive if you hedged with deciduous shrubs that shed leaves during winter because you might need extra help sweeping dead leaves off your backyard.
A wooden fence will last long after the initial installation, especially if the wood is sealed and painted properly. I will only need to re-stain the fence panels every couple of years to keep the fence looking tip-top, making it easy to maintain compared to a hedge.
Climate change and loss of wildlife habitats are burgeoning concerns globally. Planting shrubs like cedar can help produce oxygen and reduce the carbon dioxide footprint improving the air quality. Furthermore, it will help counter the effects of artificial fencing materials like vinyl which leaches toxins in the soil and isn’t recyclable.
A living hedge offers shelter and food to birds and small mammals, effectively staving off pest animals like skunks and raccoons in your backyard. It gets even better when you plant mixed hedge species, including the flowering shrubs for bees and berries for small animals. On the contrary, a solid fence is dead and cannot offer most of the benefits above.
A solid fence and a living hedge have several benefits for your backyard. A fence offers instant privacy and protection compared to a hedge which takes years to grow. However, the benefits of a living privacy screen outweigh the time it takes to grow. So, a hedge is the best for your backyard, in my opinion.