On the Fence about a Tree: 5 Factors to Consider when Faced with a Tree in Your Fence Line

Trees and fences, while generally made of the same material, do not make good neighbours. While one is constantly growing, shedding, and sending out roots to seek out nutrients and water, the other remains stationary and rigid. That is usually a recipe for a natural disaster. However, as a homeowner, you may not want to lose the shade and aesthetic qualities a tree provides your yard with. In that case, you should consider the following before taking any further action.

The Tree's Condition

If you are considering incorporating the tree into your fence line, as a living fence post if you will, make sure you are dealing with a tree that is in good health.

Wilting leaves, dead branches and fungi growing on the branches or bark are all signs that the tree is in decline. Likewise, trees with co-dominant stems, i.e. two leaders that form a V-shape, are potentially hazardous as the two stems could split in high winds, destroying your fence and anything else in range.  

If you plan to incorporate a tree into your fence, carefully check the state of its health first.

The Tree's Age and Species

Apple trees tend to live for around 35-45 years, while a Giant Redwood can live up to 2,200 years. The point is you need to get to know your tree. Do your research and work out its age and species before deciding whether to remove it or incorporate it into your fence line.

Mother Nature's Influence

No matter how well you design your fence, Mother Nature will at some point in the future throw a branch in the works. Trees shed branches, their roots grow thicker and more expansive, and their trunks widen with age.

Your fence hardware could even become part of the tree itself in time. Consider this when thinking about the costs, both long term and short term.

The Appearance of the Fence

A good fence doesn't just provide you with privacy and a barrier to keep your dog from escaping. It should also add to the beauty of the landscape in colour and shape. For instance, if the rest of your garden is well-ordered and neat, but your fence is awkwardly designed and constructed to accommodate a tree, you may soon regret your decision to blend the two.

Your Neighbours

If the fence is on your property line, consult with your neighbours about your options. Together, you may be able to come up with a better idea than using the tree as a living fence post. For instance, your neighbours may allow you to move the fence two or three feet onto their property so you can go around the tree instead.

If you are unsure of how to proceed, hire an arborist to assess the tree before doing anything else. Bear in mind too, that even if you have to remove the tree you can replace it with another one that will provide you with the same benefits in 10-15 years time. Young trees can even be trained to become part of a fence using a process known as "espalier". Whatever you decide, make sure you have all the facts you begin as Mother Nature may have plans of her own.