When I was working with a variety of community gardens in Baltimore City, fencing was one of our most frequent requests from our gardeners. Produce theft was a common problem, and gardeners wanted a solution to protect their crops with a fence that was attractive but also low-cost. While researching fence-post prices at the local big-box hardware store, we stumbled across a low-cost solution in a surprisingly different aisle: the electrical section.
If you are looking for small metal posts to build a fence, a hoop house or even sturdy permanent garden trellising, metal EMT conduit is often lower-cost than the metal fence posts found in the gardening section and more sturdy and functional than the green u-channel fence posts.
The EMT conduit can be found in 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch width and 5 feet tall, which is an ideal height for a fence that is tall enough to be a theft deterrent, but is still low enough that other neighbors can enjoy looking at the garden and not at a high fence. Remember, once the posts are pounded into the ground, your fence will be about 4 feet high.
An August 2015 visit to a local Lowe’s confirmed the pricing difference in fence posts. In the fencing area of the gardening section, a 6-foot-tall, 5/8-inch metal post cost $12.85. Too expensive! The 5-foot-tall green u-channel post, also in the gardening section, has metal teeth that are used to attach trellising twine, but can be more difficult if you are modifying them to attach fencing panels, and at $4.23 each, they’re relatively expensive.
The 5-foot sections of EMT conduit only cost about $1.70 each. They can easily be pounded into the ground with a manual post driver, and a roll of fencing can be zip-tied to the posts.
EMT conduit is also a popular choice for gardeners interested in building their own low-cost hoop house or low tunnels. I keep the posts around for building sturdy trellising for peas, tomatoes and beans, as well.
For your next fencing project, you might want to wander around the hardware store. The equipment you’re looking for might be where you least expect it.
About the Author: Aliza Sollins spent five years working in urban agriculture as a co-founder of Boone Street Farm in the beautiful, gritty heart of Baltimore City, teaching canning classes, learning how to raise backyard poultry, and gardening with refugees from Iraq, Bhutan, Sudan, Burma and more. She is now the assistant manager of the Lexington Farmers’ Market in Kentucky.