No-Dig Fencing

Try this fencing option that’s easy on your back and pretty as a picture.


Photo by Flickr/USFWS National Elk Refuge, B.J. Baker

The first thing we needed to do after moving onto our dream farmstead, even before we’d completely unpacked, was to build some fences. We already had horse pens, but our dogs and kids needed to be kept in, and wild critters kept out of, our backyard. So, there we were during the hottest days of August, sweating and pounding with all our might to drive in T-posts that bent instead of going into the ground.

We’d discovered that a hardpan clay laid beneath our property on the eastern slopes of California’s Mendocino National Forest. This ground wouldn’t willingly receive a fence post until the spring rains came several months later.

That’s when we decided to build a fence that didn’t require postholes. Although it’s relatively easy to build fences with vertical posts sunk into the ground, and they use the least amount of material, sometimes the situation demands a different approach. Fortunately, there are many ways to build a fence. I once built a classic zigzag split-rail barrier using discarded wooden fence posts. This fence wasn’t suited to holding large livestock, though, and wild burros were constantly rearranging the rails. Stone fences are another classic posthole-less enclosure suited to areas with plenty of rocks, and they can be made without mortar. One way to use stones is to create a stacked rock stanchion inside a wire cylinder, and leave room while stacking the rocks for places to receive the rails.


Photo by Renee-Lucie Benoit

But the best enclosure without posts for livestock, in my experience, is the buck and rail fence, also known as “buck and pole,” or “jack leg.” Although buck and rail fencing requires more material than a standard fence, you won’t need to dig postholes, and the resulting barricade will be sturdy enough to contain large animals.

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