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Wattle You Know? The Free Fencing, Construction and Erosion Control Method Your Ancestors Never Told You About

Chances are good that you have never heard the term wattle, but if you are a naturalist, a would-be homesteader or you just like finding ways to improve your property without spending a lot of money doing it, you owe it to yourself to read on.


Merriam-Webster defines wattle as “a fabrication of poles interwoven with slender branches” and refers to its former use as a building material. The fact that it is not in more common use today explains why wattle fencing is not more widely known, but among survivalists and homesteaders, the wattle process is alive and well.

Another term that is closely connected to the centuries-old use of wattle is hurdle. While you no doubt immediately conjure images of an Olympic runner, in this case a hurdle is a fence panel that was traditionally crafted from willow or hazel and used to corral livestock. Wattle refers not only to the process (as defined above) but also to the material used in the process.

Because there are so many applications and variations of wattle use, I’ll be writing about this across several blog posts. In this post I show how I am using wattle fencing and edging to control erosion.

Using Wattle to Control Erosion

I’ve mentioned before that the property is situated on a strong slope and as a result there have been decades of erosion issues. I made a short video last spring showing one of the methods we are using to solve the erosion problem, but because of the extent of the problem and the different areas and microclimates involved, we needed additional options. Enter wattling.

There are plenty of vines, small trees and felled limbs here, not to mention the particularly annoying and aggressively invasive Chinese privet.  All of these are perfectly well-suited for use in wattle fencing and edging. In this photo above, you see the first stages of one side of a small wattle fence panel that I am building along the driveway to deal with a severe water runoff issue.

To give you a better idea of scale, the posts that you see are only 18 inches high, and the entire segment measures about 3 feet wide. I use invasive vines and  flexible saplings to  weave through the posts to create a natural silt and debris fence.  This is one small example of how wattling works for erosion control.


This photo shows the same waddling as above from the other side. Here you can see the severe water runoff crossing the driveway and into a drainage ditch beyond. The overall plan is to incorporate several wattle gates along the runoff course to break the hard flow of the water as well as to act as a natural silt fence. In the higher wattles, I will incorporate vine and smaller flexible branches to make a finer weave and stop more silt. In addition, this entire side of driveway will have wattle edging for both aesthetic and practical purposes.

In the photo below you see another section of wattling. This time we are on the other side of the driveway and I am building a protective surround for the opening to the runoff ditch. The neighbor had it lined with rock so it looks nice, but I want to make it look more natural with plants that will make use of the wet environment. Here the posts that have been driven in the ground on a slight curve beginning at the driveway and moving out toward an oleander shrub. There will be another similarly curved section on the other side of the ditch as well, allowing for added protection for this unique microclimate.


I will share more about wattle soon, including my first attempt at constructing wattle hurdles as fence panels the way our ancestors did.

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