Category Archives: General Commentary

Selecting the Right Bark Mulch

There are many options for wood chips or bark to mulch planting beds. Which one is the best or the right fit for your project? In this video we walk through the options from our local supplier Sonomarin Materials in Petaluma.

Bark Advantages
-Reduce evaporation
-Build soil
-Reduce weeds
-Hide and protect drip irrigation
-Create a uniform look

Bark Types Shown
-Dyed chips: Shadow and Mahogany
-Yellow Chips: Golden Nugget, Blond Chips and Playground Chip
-Economy Mulches: Blended Mulch and Arbor Mulch
-Red/Brown Barks: Walk-on Blend, Shredded Redwood, Mini and Small Fir Bark

Questioning Lawns

A thing of the past?

Dan Zak, writing in the Washington Post had a great article this week about America’s love of lawns. Still in drought parched California we get clients unaware of current drought restrictions and turf installation bans. Many folks want a lush patch of grass where their dogs and kids can play. The reality is one decent sized lawn can use the same amount of water as an entire household. My dad’s gardens (on well water) are a great example- just one lawn zone used 10,000 gallons of water a month in the central valley heat, in excess of my home’s (with pool) total usage.

Here’s a good quote from Dan Zak’s article:

Lawns, still, somehow.

The planet has accelerated its revolt against us and still we tend our lawns, one part of Earth we can control. Society falters, resources dwindle and, still, lawns.

Lawns: burned out, blond and dead, in the air fryer of August. Lawns: emerald green — no, alien green — and kept that way by maniacal vigilance and an elaborate system of pipes and potions, organic and otherwise, in defiance of ecology. And for what? To have, in this chaos, dominion over something? (Lawn and order?) To drape a veil of verdancy over a world gone to seed? To feel equal or superior to Ron, across the street, whose lawn always looks like the 18th at Pebble Beach?

We’ve been sweeping our anxieties under these green comfort blankets for quite some time. A “smooth, closely shaven surface of grass is by far the most essential element of beauty on the grounds of a suburban home,” wrote Frank J. Scott in 1870, around the time of the first lawn mower patent, in a book titled “The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds of Small Extent” (Chapter XIII: The Lawn).

In California, a mediterranean climate, things will be ever drier. Stately Oaks and timeless Bristle-cone Pine are dying at increasing rates.

Low water use plants with a few accents of vegetables or a Japanese maple here or there are the new reality. And still, in Petaluma, we see lush green front lawns with stage 4 water restrictions mandating two days per week watering. Eventually things will change, if only because we have no choice.

Turned Earth Turns 600!

18 years of blogging and 600 posts later we continue to publish Turned Earth as a window into our landscape projects, a venue for our rants, and platform for hokey YouTube videos of our projects. It’s a great way to keep our website fresh and to share the type of work we do. Thanks to all that read us!

And now our most popular hokey YouTube- How to build a gate

Exaktime- Squeezing Small Business

An Exaktime Brochure from 2008. Look at that antique Palm Pilot!
Keeping track of employee time cards is one of the challenges faced by many construction companies. Fortunately, good tools have been available for quite some time to assist in streamlining this paperwork. For almost 15 years we have used Exaktime software to allow employees to enter their time and sync it with the office. That’s so long that in 2008 the crews entered their time on a shared Palm Pilot. In the years since, with the advent of the iPhone and cloud, the software went online, making it easier and more instantaneous.

Great, another business challenge solved! That was true until Exaktime, the independent company based in Southern California, was purchased by Arcoro. Two things happened, our small business account was too small, and our yearly fees were too affordable for Arcoro.

Last year we were caught flat footed, Arcoro’s yearly renewal would be almost 300% more expensive, from around $550 yearly to $1,500. We protested, management reviewed. They would deign to renew us at the bargain rate of $1,000.

This year another renewal, and a return to a $1,500 yearly fee.  Enter ClockShark an Exaktime competitor based in Chico, CA. We met with a sales rep and found that ClockShark was a better system with more features for us than the old software. The bonus, all this at a cost less than half that of Arcoro/Exaktime.

We again protested the rate increase to Arcoro this year, their response:

Yardzen Partner Program- The $6,650 Fee

Yardzen is an online landscape design service that markets to both homeowners and landscape contractors. They are part of a growing online landscape design service segment, with competitors such as ShrubHub and Tilly. Like other disrupters such as AirBnB and Uber, Yardzen seeks to be an all-digital platform to design and build landscapes. While Yardzen designs are affordable, for some clients there may be a hidden fee in the service’s partner program. We’ll get to that in a bit, but first a little background on the company and their services.

Over the past several years we have bid a few Yardzen designs provided by potential customers seeking bids. Yardzen design costs currently range from $650 to $2,400 depending on the design package. Here are a few impressions of their designs:

Yardzen’s strength is in their 3D renderings, which are quite good. The designs we have seen (half a dozen or so) tend to be similar- modern looks, with somewhat generic elements. Designs are conceptual, they don’t get into finer detail drawings. In plans we have bid, their understanding of site topography, grading, and drainage is often lacking.

A main reason for these issues is Yardzen never visits the property or meets face to face with the client. Their work is all done using digital using photos, aerial photography and other digital resources.  All the technical work of fine grading, construction detailing, irrigation, permits and compliance fall on the owner and landscape contractor building the project.

Yardzen has grown rapidly, according to a sales rep we spoke with, from 30 employees to over 75 within the last couple of years with 200-300 independent contractor designers. Their designers are from all over the world, a quick LinkedIn search will show Yardzen designers offshored in central and eastern Europe and Asia.

So back to Yardzen partner program and the hidden $6,650 fee. We were repeatedly approached by Yardzen to join their partner program. This is an opportunity for Yardzen to make additional revenue from each design project. The partner program is a referral program for landscapers and costs nothing for the landscaper to get leads- a fact they heralded to us in repeated email solicitations. Once a landscaper signs the partner agreement and then contracts with a Yardzen client, Yardzen takes a 7% fee, dubbed a “revenue share” according to the 2021 agreement we were provided in the solicitation to join. So, a large project of say $95,000 would run $6,650 in this revenue sharing agreement. Fees drop to a 5% share of projects over $100,000 in size. This includes any and all work a contractor would do for a Yardzen partner program client. To put it mildly, these fees strike us a quite high for the service of mutual referral of client and contractor.

Do you think the partner landscaper is going to absorb a 5-7% fee in an industry where a 10-15% net profit is common? In all likelihood, those costs will get passed on to the client as part of the contractor’s overhead and will make the project that much more expensive for the customer.

Shortly after posting about the partner program, we were contacted by Yardzen’s COO. This post has been updated in response.

More on Yardzen
From Modern Living Sonoma Real Estate
From Water and Earth Landscape Design
Yardzen’s Overview of the Partner Process

Redwood Prices 2018 vs 2022

New Redwood Pergola

The pandemic, supply chain issues, high consumer demand, and inflation have affected the price of just about everything. Fuel costs have soared. Diesel in California has hovered near seven dollars at the beginning of 2022. Lumber prices were one of the first items to spike during the pandemic, and redwood lumber prices had been high and volatile before the pandemic. As we were updating some estimating and pricing for fencing, pergolas and other woodwork we compared past pricing with current vendor pricing. Here is an overview of five commonly used redwood lumber sizes and their price change.

Lumber Price Per Foot
Con Heart Redwood 2018 Price 2022 Price Total Change
1×6 Redwood Fence Board $1.50 $2.15 43%
2×4 Redwood Rails $2.20 $2.87 30%
2×6 Redwood Cap $3.30 $4.30 30%
4×6 Redwood Fence Post $4.80 $8.84 84%
6×6 Pergola Post $7.40 $14.27 93%

Looking at the table above, the post prices for larger dimensional redwood are what really stand out, with the cost of a 6×6 post almost doubling in 4 years. While other lumber prices have fallen from their pandemic peaks the likely combination of reduced redwood supply, higher demand, fires and other stresses have contributed to continued high prices.

Taking Stock of the Drought and Water Restrictions    

A View of the Mt. Tam Watershed

As the drought stretches into another year, water restrictions remain in place for Marin and Sonoma County. Despite a promising start to the rainy season in the fall, a historic dry January and February leave many water supplies severely constrained. Here is a look at some of the current water restrictions and their impact on new landscape projects.

Sonoma County

Petaluma: The City gets its water from Sonoma County Water Agency, and has set up restrictions on outdoor watering. With the city’s stage 4 restrictions currently irrigation is only allowed Tuesday and Saturday evenings with an objective to reduce water use by 30%. Additionally, and important for new landscape installs, no planting is allowed for those customers that use municipal water supplies. We had several projects where we needed to defer plantings until the restrictions were lifted. Read more on the City of Petaluma Drought Page 

Santa Rosa: Has also established a 20% use reduction goal. There are no restrictions on watering days, other than night time watering is required. There are no restrictions on new plantings. More at the City of Santa Rosa Drought Page

Marin County

Novato: Novato is separate from Southern Marin County and is served by North Marin Water District. Current restrictions were established in October. Watering is only allowed 3 days per week, with a conservation goal of 20% reduction. Hand watering and drip irrigation is currently exempt. There is no specific prohibition on new plantings. However new plantings would need to establish under the required restrictions and any future conservation requirements, which are likely. Read more at North Marin Water District. NMWD also has surcharges in place to encourage conservation- more here

Southern Marin: San Rafael to Sausalito are served by Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD). MMWD is an interesting case, as it’s reservoirs empty first and fill first, with high rainfall events in the Mt. Tamalpais watershed. Restrictions were loosened after the districts reservoirs filled to near capacity. Watering is allowed two days per week (not assigned). More information at MMWD

Unless we have a miracle end of March and April, storage conditions will only get worse and restrictions will increase. Adaptive strategies like removing turf, high water use plants, overhead irrigation, and other higher water use elements are critical to meeting the required water conservation measures. A water audit of use per irrigation zone in a great way to get an idea of how much water each area of your garden uses. Updating your controller to a weather adaptive smart controller that you can review, turn on, and edit via smart phone and computer is another great tool. Synthetic turf, very low and low water use plants, and native plants are key to creating successful landscape installations in what will be a drier and hotter California.

Now Hiring

Landscape Construction- Hiring Laborers and Crew Leaders
(Español abajo)


O’Connell Landscape, a full service design/build landscape construction company is looking for landscape construction crew members and landscape construction crew leaders for our residential projects in Marin and Southern Sonoma County.

This is a full time, year round field position.

This posting will be deleted once the position is filled, if this posting is still active the job position is still available.

Duties Include:
-Active participation in landscape construction (field position, physical labor required)
-Installation of patios, fences, lawns, plantings, irrigation systems, etc.

Experience Required:
1-5 or more years past experience in Landscape Construction

-Clean California Drivers License
-Bilingual English/Spanish
-Field position: Physical labor required and ability to lift 80 lbs.

Benefits and Compensation
-$20-30 per hour depending on experience
-8 Paid holidays, 1 week vacation time
-Performance based bonuses
-Health coverage

Job Applications:
You can apply online at:
Or send resumes via email or fax; or call us for more information. View our website for examples of the scope of work required.

We are a family owned and operated company, with a long term work force that has been with us for decades. We believe that good employees are a foundation to our success. As such, we try to cultivate a good work environment, believe that our employees’ families come first, and treat our employees with respect.

Michael O’Connell
O’Connell Landscape
Phone: (415) 462-9729 extension 2 – (texts ok)
Fax: (415) 462-8932
O’Connell Landscape, una compañía de construcción de jardines, está buscando miembros del equipo de construcción de paisajes y líderes de equipos de construcción de paisajes para nuestros proyectos residenciales en Marin y el sur del condado de Sonoma.

Esta es una posición tiempo completo, durante todo el año.

Esta publicación se eliminará una vez que se ocupe el puesto, si esta publicación aún está activa, el puesto de trabajo aún está disponible.

Los deberes incluyen:
-Participación activa en la construcción del paisaje (posición de campo, trabajo físico requerido)
-Instalación de patios, cercas, zecate, plantas, sistemas de riego, etc.

Experiencia requerida:
Experiencia de 1 a 5 años o más en construcción de jardines

-Limpie la licencia de conducir de California
-Inglés / español bilingüe- una gran ventaja

Beneficios y compensación
-$20-30 por hora dependiendo de la experiencia.
-8 dias pagos feriados, una semana de tiempo de vacaciones
-Bonos basados en el rendimiento
-Cobertura de salud

Solicitudes de empleo:
Se puede applicar:

Envíe currículums por correo electrónico o fax a la siguiente dirección o llámenos para obtener más información. Visite nuestro sitio web para ver ejemplos del alcance del trabajo requerido.

Somos una empresa operada y de propiedad familiar, con una fuerza laboral a largo plazo que ha estado con nosotros durante décadas. Creemos que los buenos empleados son la base de nuestro éxito. Tratamos de cultivar un buen ambiente de trabajo, creemos que las familias de nuestros empleados son lo primero y tratamos a nuestros empleados con respeto.

Michael O’Connell
O’Connell Landscape
Phone: (415) 462-9729 Extensión 2 (habalmos español, textos ok)
Fax: (415) 462-8932

Our Favorite Fire Safe Plants

We were recently contacted by Marin Living Magazine for a story they are putting together on innovative ways to incorporate fire safe landscape practices. With the drought this year and California’s ever increasing fire danger, it’s an important subject.

A good fire safe landscape scheme is one that mitigates risk by using appropriate plantings, defensible space, smart design (especially next to buildings), and appropriate construction materials. One great resource  is Fire Safe Marin and their list of fire resistant plantings.

Here are some our favorite choices for fire safe plantings from the Marin list via our awesome Plantmaster database online software.

See this in the interactive Plantmaster Presentation View

Fire Safe Plants

Botanical Common
Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree
Cercis occidentalis Western Redbud
Feijoa sellowiana Pineapple Guava
Pistacia chinensis Chinese Pistache
Prunus laurocerasus English Laurel
Punica granatum Pomegranate
Rhus lancea African Sumac
Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’ Dwarf Strawberry Tree
Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea Nana’ Dwarf Deep Red Barberry
Buxus ‘Green Beauty’ Green Beauty Boxwood
Camellia japonica Japanese Camellia
Camellia sasanqua Sasanqua Camellia
Coleonema pulchellum ‘Sunset Gold’ Golden Breath Of Heaven
Coprosma x kirkii Creeping Mirror Plant
Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ Bowles Mauve Wallflower
Euonymus japonicus Japanese Euonymus
Lantana montevidensis ‘White’ White Trailing Lantana
Liriope gigantea Giant Lily Turf
Punica granatum ‘Nana’ Dwarf Pomegranate
Ground cover
Achillea hybrids Yarrow Hybrids
Coreopsis auriculata Eared Coreopsis
Epilobium canum ‘Calistoga’ Calistoga California Fuchsia
Erigeron glaucus Blue Beach Aster, Seaside Daisy
Heuchera maxima Island Alum Root
Iberis sempervirens ‘Little Gem’ Little Gem Evergreen Candytuft
Lantana montevidensis Trailing Lantana
Trachelospermum jasminoides Star Jasmine
Agapanthus ‘Storm Cloud’ Lily of the Nile, Storm cloud
Agapanthus ‘Tinkerbell’ Dwarf Blue Lily of the Nile
Epilobium canum ‘Bert’s Bluff’ Bert’s Bluff California Fuchsia
Hemerocallis hybrids Daylily hybrids
Kniphofia ‘Poco Red’ Poco Red Hot Poker
Lavandula species Lavender varieties
Thymus praecox arcticus ‘Elfin’ Elfin Creeping Thyme
Tulbaghia violacea Society Garlic
Tulbaghia violacea ‘Silver Lace’ Silver Lace Society Garlic
Festuca rubra Creeping Red Fescue, Red Fescue
Broadleaf Evergreen
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ Emerald Gaiety Euonymus
Podocarpus gracilior Fern Pine
Podocarpus henkelii Long- Leafed Yellowwood
Polystichum munitum Western Sword Fern

Fire Safe Plants- All Images by Plantmaster



The Pitfalls of Free Estimates

We offer free estimates for new landscape projects. Like anything free, these estimates are a loss leader to get new work, each consultation and estimate can take 1-5 hours or more of our time, equaling about $200-500 and up.

One frustrating thing about this process is that many people take this time for granted, or are not responsive when we send out our estimates. A colleague of mine summed up his feelings on the matter- “You were worth several hours of my time, surely, I am worth 5-10 minutes of yours.”

This too has long been a pet peeve of mine (see this post from 2010). Yet, sometimes people to acknowledge the work we put in. Last year a prospective client gave me a $250 restaurant gift certificate for my time, even though we didn’t win the job. Yesterday, I got this delightful note following a consultation:

A delightful client email

Large Installation Projects

We install projects of all sizes, from small intimate spaces, up to estate size landscapes. This diversity of experience gives us a practical design sense, which is more than just ‘throwing money’ at a project. Rather we can leverage those landscape elements that will generate the most value. Here is a Houzz portfolio of some of our larger installations in Marin and Sonoma Counties, enjoy…


Working with Subcontractors

We don’t use a lot of subcontractors on our projects. We are jacks of all trades and do most of the hardscape, woodwork, softscape and sitework in house. That being said, there are places where a good subcontractor is essential. Do you really want landscapers finishing your concrete? Building your brick pizza over? Don’t think so.

When we do use subcontractors, we prefer good ones (read not cheap). We don’t want to have to chase down a contractor who is a day late and dollar short. Scott over at Essential Craftsman explains the importance of subs beautifully in this video.

Nine Favorite California Native Plants

California natives are versatile garden anchors, which are well adapted to our climate and wildlife. Here are 9 of our favorites that fit in almost any landscape scheme- whether it is to provide color, texture, or mass, these plants can do it all!

Photos from our awesome Plantmaster Online Database.

Our Favorite CA Natives

Botanical Common
Cercis occidentalis Western Redbud
Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’ Manzanita Emerald Carpet
Ceanothus ‘Julia Phelps’ Julia Phelps California Lilac
Salvia clevelandii Cleveland Blue Sage
Epilobium californica ‘Everett’s Choice’ Ghostly Red California Fuchsia
Juncus patens ‘Elk Blue’ Elk Blue California Gray Rush
Penstemon het. ‘Margarita B.O.P.” Margarita Bop Foothill Penstemon
Deschampsia ces. ‘Northern Lights’ Northern Lights Tufted Hair Grass
Muhlenbergia rigens Deer Grass


Western Redbud

Cercis occidentalis | Western Redbud


Manzanita Emerald Carpet

Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’ | Manzanita Emerald Carpet

Julia Phelps California Lilac

Ceanothus ‘Julia Phelps’ | Julia Phelps California Lilac

Cleveland Blue Sage

Salvia clevelandii | Cleveland Blue Sage


Ghostly Red California Fuchsia

Epilobium californica ‘Everett’s Choice’ | Ghostly Red California Fuchsia

Elk Blue California Gray Rush

Juncus patens ‘Elk Blue’ | Elk Blue California Gray Rush

Margarita Bop Foothill Penstemon

Penstemon het. ‘Margarita B.O.P.” | Margarita Bop Foothill Penstemon


Northern Lights Tufted Hair Grass

Deschampsia ces. ‘Northern Lights’ | Northern Lights Tufted Hair Grass

Deer Grass

Muhlenbergia rigens | Deer Grass

West Petaluma Yard- 2 Years Later

I had the pleasure of revisiting one of our past installations in preparation for some additional fencing and gate work we are going to do on the property. This landscape has really grown in since it was first installed two years ago and looks great.

Our Favorite Small Scale Evergreen Trees

For many modern homes the back yard can feel like a fishbowl. Higher density housing often means more eyes peering from neighboring second story windows. In these situations plant screening becomes a great way to create privacy. The challenge here becomes selecting the right plants that screen, but don’t turn into monster trees over time.

Small scale evergreens are the solution, but what are some good selections? Many times these plants are either trees proper, or large shrubs that can be used as a tall hedge or trained as a small tree (standardized to a single trunk). Here are some of our favorites shared via our Plantmaster online database.

View these in the cool Plantmaster Presentation Modes

Small Scale Evergreen Trees

Botanical Common
Arbutus ‘Marina’ Marina Strawberry Tree
Feijoa sellowiana Pineapple Guava
Ilex X altaclarensis ‘Wilsonii’ Wilson Holly
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ Little Gem Dwarf Southern Magnolia
Olea europaea ‘Wilsoni’ Wilson Fruitless Olive
Prunus caroliniana Carolina Laurel Cherry
Laurus nobilis ‘Saratoga’ Saratoga Sweet Bay
Pittosporum tenuifolium Blackstem Pittosporum
Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis’ Schipka Cherry Laurel
Rhamnus alaternus Italian Buckthorn
Rhamnus alaternus ‘Variegata’ Variegated Italian Buckthorn
Podocarpus gracilior Fern Pine


Marina Strawberry Tree

Arbutus ‘Marina’ | Marina Strawberry Tree

Pineapple Guava

Feijoa sellowiana | Pineapple Guava

Wilson Holly

Ilex X altaclarensis ‘Wilsonii’ | Wilson Holly

Little Gem Dwarf Southern Magnolia

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ | Little Gem Dwarf Southern Magnolia

Wilson Fruitless Olive

Olea europaea ‘Wilsoni’ | Wilson Fruitless Olive

Carolina Laurel Cherry

Prunus caroliniana | Carolina Laurel Cherry


Saratoga Sweet Bay

Laurus nobilis ‘Saratoga’ | Saratoga Sweet Bay

Blackstem Pittosporum

Pittosporum tenuifolium | Blackstem Pittosporum

Schipka Cherry Laurel

Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis’ | Schipka Cherry Laurel

Italian Buckthorn

Rhamnus alaternus | Italian Buckthorn

Variegated Italian Buckthorn

Rhamnus alaternus ‘Variegata’ | Variegated Italian Buckthorn

Fern Pine

Podocarpus gracilior | Fern Pine

Feeling Like Mr. Blandings

Working in home improvement contracting can be very interesting. As a contractor you get to work with clients to build something that will improve and enhance their home. It’s typically something that people are excited about, and that makes the work rewarding and fun.

As with any trade that deals directly with the public, it can also at times be extremely frustrating. It’s at these moments that I think of the classic 1948 film, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, starring legends Carey Grant and Myrna Loy. The Blandings, tired of apartment life in New York City, move to the country to build their dream house. Whoever wrote some of these scenes felt my frustrations.

My favorite two scenes (see clips below) are when Mrs. Blandings picks paint colors and when the Blandings are helping their architect design their dream home. In 1948, their custom home budget was $10,000! That might get you a patio now-a-days – Enjoy!


Why People Dislike Contractors

Contractors get a bad rap. Sometimes however this reputation is deserved. We are working on a project in Marin that needs extensive demo, grading, and excavation. On the client’s behalf we are soliciting bids for the work. We meet on-site with one prospective company.

“When can you get me numbers?” I ask.
“Two days” says the excavator.

I think to myself this is either an efficient estimator or he is putting me on. A week rolls by, no response. A second week comes and goes. I decide to reach out:

“Just touching base on our site visit from a couple weeks back. Let me know if you have any questions or need anything additional from us in putting together an estimate.”

I get back this reply:
“We appreciate having been given the opportunity bid this job. However, we are not bidding any new projects at this time.  We are in contract with many other jobs and do not have the man power to take on any others at this time.  Therefore, we are regrettably not in a position to submit a proposal.”

This type of bush league business practice is the reason for contractor’s bad reputation with the public. Clearly they were too busy to be bothered, and we are on to do business with a more professional outfit.


Tiburon Hilltop Project Video

It is always fun to visit a project a while after installation and see the transformation as the garden starts to fill in and mature. This project in Tiburon was a complete transformation of a front and back yard. It benefited from the great Tiburon climate, with its mild bay-side influence. We installed all new plantings, walkways, rear patios, retaining walls, extensive fencing and driveway for this remodel project. Enjoy!

2018 Project Highlights

Another year of interesting projects is in the books. 2018 was a year of delightful clients, marked by surpassing twenty 5-star reviews on Houzz. Here you will find projects from Petaluma, San Rafael, and Santa Rosa- Enjoy!


Building a Deer Exclusion Fence

We recently completed a bit of a different project for us, a quarter mile of agricultural fence designed for deer exclusion of a 3 acre area. We build a lot of wood and welded wire fences, but not being as familiar with the construction of these types of fences we did a lot of research on proper construction techniques for deer fencing. Here are some of the tools, techniques, and tips we learned along the way.

What we installed
-1500′ of 8′ fencing- 6′ of netting plus a smooth wire. We used 75″ tall Bekeart Solidlock Pro 20 Fixed Knot 12.5 Gauge Fence (17-75-6), combined with a high smooth tensile wire to top the fence
-5 HN corner braces with kicker posts using 2 3/8″ OD schedule 40 posts with galvanized schedule 20 cross bracing
-Corners joined using Fence Bullets instead of welding
-Wire tied to posts using Gripple T-Clips, wire joined using medium Gripple Plus connectors
-10′ T posts (1.33 weight) installed at 15′ spacing
-Gate corners built using 6×8 pressure treated crossed braced members set in concrete
-Gates: 16’x7′ Martin Farm Supply Deer Gates

Specialty Tools Used
-Dewalt Abrasive Saw to cut pipe, generator, air compressor
-High tensile wire pliers

Instructional Resources
There is a lot of good information out there from a few different sources. These were the most helpful:
-Stay Tuff Fencing Installation Manual (for wood braced systems, but easily adapted for metal corners)
-Bekaert Corner Bracing Guide
-Bekaert Instruction Videos

Building an ag fence is different from other types of fencing. There are some specialized tools that make the work much easier. These are often special order materials that you can’t find at your local Home Depot or even Tractor Supply:
-Post Pounder: While you can drive metal T-posts and pipe corners with a standard post pounder, there is an easier way. There are lots of options out on the market, but we chose to purchase a Man Saver Post Pounder to assist in driving posts. The Man Saver is a pneumatic pounder that can work with a fairly small air compressor in the field. After trying a smaller size twin tank unit, we swapped this for a larger but still mobile 8cfm Devilbiss compressor paired with a 5500 watt generator to run the Man Saver. We used 2 3/8″ schedule 40 galvanized posts for our fence corner bracing. The Man Saver lived up to its name, it was very handy in driving the posts. We were working in heavy clay soil driving corners to between 4-5′ in depth. The Man Saver did a great job in the softer layer up until about 3′ and then struggled in some harder sections where we finished the posts with a manual pounder. Given the size, weight, and cost of the Man Saver, these were acceptable trade-offs. We ended up doing all the T-posts by hand. These we 10′ posts driven to 3′ and it was easier to level and faster to install by hand than to set up and level the Man Saver 12′ in the air for each post. For shorter traditional 6′ T-posts the Man Saver would be dynamite. Two main tips in using the unit, keep it oiled (their accessory kit and in-line oiler is a must) and switch to the hard soil/ground counterweight if you encounter problems with the unit not cycling correctly in heavy ground.
-Corner connections: We knew we wanted to use pipe braces for their longevity and ease of driving, but wanted to avoid the time and expense of welding the corners. We settled on using Bullet Fence connectors based out of Oklahoma. These sleeves improve on traditional chain-link fence style cup and strap connectors by having two bolts, one connect a strap to the post and and the other to connect the sleeve around the brace pipe. This sleeve is the novel part of the design that helps prevent movement and separation common in traditional brace bands. Installation is simple but a bit time consuming using open ended wrenches. We installed 34 brace assemblies and by the end we had gotten very good at installing the bullets and very tired of open end wrench work. We used a Husky ratcheting wrench, which made the work a bit easier.  Time will tell if these braces will outperform their chain-link counterparts, but from the installation and design it should be a good brace.
-Stretcher Bars: You may be tempted to try to build a stretched wire fence without using appropriate stretcher bars. There are many YouTube videos showing novel and frankly dumb ways of stretching fence. The tension is part of the beauty of a high tensile field fence system. We used two Kencove 8′ stretcher bars combined with 3 Kencove Boundary Strainers. For short runs we did end pulls, straining the wire from the corner and then connecting with Gripple T-Clips.

Sources: Finding good Ag Fence Supplies can sometimes be a challenge. We reviewed different wire types (e.g. Redbrand vs. Bekaert), and different sources for tools and accessories. We liked Bekaert fixed knot the best in terms of quality, wire size options, gauge, and price. We used to following vendors for this Northern California project:
Kencove Fence Supply (national supplier)- best price we found on good quality tools. They shipped UPS Freight for free.

O'Connell Landscape Blog