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Growing A Living Fence

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Project by Radicalfarmergal posted 12-27-2009 04:12 AM 5173 views 1 time favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch

We live on a fairly busy street. In an effort to increase our privacy, minimize the noise of the traffic and reduce the amount of lawn that needs to be mowed, my biggest garden project (at least in terms of area) has been creating a living fence, modeled after a traditional farm hedgerow. People have planted hedgerows since the Bronze Age for a variety of purposes including confining livestock, defining property lines, creating shelter from wind as well as a source of food, herbal medicine, fodder, building materials and fuel.

I started the living fence project shortly after we moved into this house, about four years ago. Because of the size of the project, I have been using very young plants and expanding slowly to spread out the work and reduce the cost. The width of the hedgerow garden currently ranges between six and ten feet wide but I plan to expand portions of it to twenty feet wide to ensure depth and variety. Annually, I add small and medium-sized trees, shrubs and perennials to slowly form a vibrant, low-maintenance, living barrier between our house and yard and the street.

I want both winter and summer coverage, so I have chosen a mixture of evergreens, such as spruce, cedar and fir and deciduous shrubs such as lilac, forsythia, willow, dogwood and vibernum. I have been trying to vary the height, width and bloom times to create an interesting collection of plants, planting in groups and using multiple rows to create a more natural looking depth. To leave space for the plants when they mature, the garden has wide gaps between plants that are slowly filling in as the plants mature. To keep the weeds down, I have used bark mulch over cardboard which has worked fairly well with a little light weeding. This year I plan to fill in gaps with more annuals and small perennials to provide color and interest while the hedgerow matures. Bon generously gave me some flower seeds she collected and I plan to add some of them to the sunny edges of the hedgerow garden.

I also intend the hedgerow to serve as wildlife habitat, providing food and shelter for native insects, birds and mammals. (Native reptiles and amphibians will probably live more happily in the wild, wet portion of our land behind our house.) To this purpose, I have been trying to incorporate native plants, such as the Hawthorn, Eastern Red Cedar, Paper Birch, Winterberry, Holly and native viburnums (Arrowwood, Maple-leaved and Nannyberry). I wanted to plant Eastern Hemlock, but the four young hemlock trees I planted died, probably because the trees were too young to be planted in full sunlight. Also, I am concerned about planting hemlock when the wooly adelgid (an invasive aphid-like insect) is seriously threatening the survival of hemlocks in our area. Instead I planted four Norway spruce, which are fast growing and hardy and will produce shelter and some food for both winter and summer birds, even if they are not native. This spring, I planted six Frasier Fir, more closely together, thinking that I could harvest every other one as a Christmas tree when they grow too large for the space I have provided.

To attract beneficial insects, as well as create a beautiful and colorful border around the front lawn where the children play, I am trying to incorporate native wildflowers with large flower heads and multiple flowers, to provide plentiful pollen, nectar and wide landing pads.

Winter is the time to plan and prepare, so I have ordered eleven shrubs to add to the living fence in the spring: six American Holly trees (Ilex opaca) and five additional female Winterberry shrubs (Ilex verticillata). This year I also plan to introduce patches of poppies, buckwheat, yarrow and coreopsis. My goal is to have this garden firmly established, in its “final” borders, within the next five years. I posted a few pictures to show how pieces of the garden looked this year, winter and summer. It is difficult to capture the entire garden because it spans our entire piece of property along the road. If anyone on GT has had any experience with hedgerows or living fences to share, I would be interested in reading your stories.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout



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Radicalfarmergal

4300 posts in 1891 days
hardiness zone 5b

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28 comments so far

View Iris43's profile

Iris43

3807 posts in 2258 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 12-27-2009 06:01 AM

I only know what I like…....and I like the looks of your hedge. You are doing a great job. It is already very attractive and will eventually be very useful for your purpose. Good job!

-- 'To plant a Garden is to believe in Tomorrow'

View Greenthumb's profile

Greenthumb

2287 posts in 2448 days

posted 12-27-2009 03:34 PM

I like it but I wouldnt want to weed it. beautiful now, should be quite stunning as the years go by.

I also live on a fairly busy road but the topography near the road is such that the salt from winter ploughing collects in that area so the blue spruce (salt tolerant) shou;ld be big well after I’ve passed on.

I sure wish folks here were as ambitous as you are Robin. Nice Job.

-- just one more rock, and the garden is done ; )

View Bon's profile

Bon

7374 posts in 2408 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 12-27-2009 05:53 PM

Your living fence is looking great already Robin.I like the mix of color in there.Your flower gardens are coming along nicely too.Like we all say “just wait till you see them next year” (lol)

-- Bon,Hastings,Ont.....zone 5a....Always room for one more

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4300 posts in 1891 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 12-27-2009 07:23 PM

Thank you for your kind words.

Iris. I was thinking about your quote “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” It certainly applies to most of my gardens. I choose small trees and shrubs, often only a foot tall, and enjoy watching them grow. Most of the Norway spruce are finally taller than my sons.

Greenthumb, the cardboard and mulch keep most of the weeds down and the weeds that grow pull out of the mulch easily. There are still more weeds than I like, but at least they are manageable. I am hoping that as the plants grow, they will block out the weeds. Our land is significantly higher than the road and salt is used sparingly in our town so thankfully we don’t have too much trouble with salt build up. I love the looks of blue spruce. Do you have a row of them?

Bon, the ‘mum flowers in the photos are primarily located at one corner of the hedgerow where I started. Each year I expand a little further. I seem to plant in stages: trees, shrubs, flowers. Your seeds will be the first time I try directly sowing seeds into the hedgerow garden. I imagine I will have to push away the mulch in the areas I want them to grow and add some compost to get them started. I will add photos as they grow. As you say, just wait until you see them next year. : )

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

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sharad

1634 posts in 1845 days
hardiness zone 11

posted 12-27-2009 07:49 PM

Thanks for the beautiful photographs. You have undertaken a massive project and wish you all success in completing it. Your choice of plants is very nice. We will wait for your photos.
Sharad

-- Bagwan-- “If someone feels that they had never made a mistake in their life, then it means they have never tried a new thing in their life”.-Albert Einstein

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MsDebbieP

14682 posts in 2628 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 12-27-2009 07:56 PM

thumbs up; thumbs up; thumbs up

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View FenceWorkshop's profile

FenceWorkshop

15 posts in 1730 days

posted 12-27-2009 09:41 PM

View jroot's profile

jroot

5063 posts in 2258 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 12-28-2009 03:26 AM

There is nothing like a living fence. I put one between my neighbour and us. We love the neighbours but sometimes, one just wants to be alone. They are hsppy as well. Win! Win!

-- jroot ....... Southern Ontario .......... grow zone 5A ...................."Gardening is an exercise in optimism." ....... . . Author Unknown

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Greenthumb

2287 posts in 2448 days

posted 12-28-2009 05:38 AM

the only thing better then the neighbor you cant see…........is the neighbor you cant hear…..lol

-- just one more rock, and the garden is done ; )

View Orchids77's profile

Orchids77

268 posts in 1877 days
hardiness zone 5

posted 12-28-2009 06:10 AM

Oh what a massive project but it is going to be beautiful. Great idea of mixing them so you have coverage all season!!Thanks for sharing.

-- Orchids77

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4300 posts in 1891 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 12-28-2009 02:09 PM

Come April, when all these little mail order shrubs arrive, that’s when the work starts and I realize that I am crazy. By then it is too late for sanity because all those precious little shrubs that will arrive need a good garden home or they will die so I just have to do it. Ordering plants in December is the easy part. Buy now, dig later.

Jroot – what types of plants did you use for your fence?

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

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jroot

5063 posts in 2258 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 12-28-2009 03:49 PM

I’ve got weigela bush, beauty bush, mock orange, clematis, tree peony, and some other variegated bush that I don’t recall the name right now. All jammed in together. On the neighbour’s side we put a zebra grass, plume poppy, shrub rose, and a good sized fern.

Nice and thick, .... nice and private. LOL and yet, we have a pathway to each other’s place as well which we can use when we wish to be more social. ... which is a lot of the time.

Mine is quite short compared to the distance covered by yours. You do indeed have a lot of work to do, but it will pay off in the end.

-- jroot ....... Southern Ontario .......... grow zone 5A ...................."Gardening is an exercise in optimism." ....... . . Author Unknown

View Iris43's profile

Iris43

3807 posts in 2258 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 12-28-2009 07:56 PM

Robin, your beginnings are so pretty already…..summer and winter. I think you should be very proud of the work you have done and the beautiful area you have and are going to have for years to come. You are never going to regret the effort you have put in.

-- 'To plant a Garden is to believe in Tomorrow'

View Brad's profile

Brad

101 posts in 1864 days
hardiness zone 5

posted 12-29-2009 05:25 AM

That’s the neatest and smartest idea I’ve seen in along time!!

Way to go!!!!

-- Brad, http://www.container-gardening-for-you.com

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4300 posts in 1891 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 12-31-2009 03:22 PM

Thank you everyone for your kind and supportive comments; I really appreciate them. It is fun to share what I have done with people who also love to work in the soil and see the natural magic that comes from seeds and the growing and tending of plants.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View daltxguy's profile

daltxguy

882 posts in 1726 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 01-01-2010 08:42 AM

Nice work Robin and a great hedge/fence/border.You’ve included a lot of diversity ( btw, the more the better and the less likely you will have any pests as the plants will begin to create their own balance) and you’re using the density of the planting for keeping the weeds down and you’ve provided food for the critters.
Have you considered that you can also plant food for humans as part of the planting? maybe some fruit or nut trees for the canopy, some currants or gooseberries or blueberries as lower shrubs, maybe even some vining annuals like squash or zucchini – just let them go wild into your ‘forest’.

You’ve incorporated a lot of the ideas of permaculture in your planting. If you incorporated some food plants, you would have what’s called a food forest and you can benefit from its presence ( and the work you’ve put into) in other ways than just shelter and privacy.

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

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Radicalfarmergal

4300 posts in 1891 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 01-01-2010 03:57 PM

Thanks for the good advice, Daltxguy. I would have incorporated plant food for humans except that the hedgerow is along a state route and I have read that if you grow food by a busy road, there can be a buildup of heavy metals (such as lead) in the food from the vehicle exhausts. Second, many of the berries planted in the hedgerow are poisonous to humans so the rule for the children is they can “forage” all they like on the bushes behind the house but the plants in front of the house are off-limits, strictly for the wild animals. For these two reasons, I have kept my edible landscaping efforts behind the house and away from the road.

Behind the house we have clustered areas of blueberry, high bush cranberry, red currants, elderberry, mulberry, cherry, seaberry, apple, heartnut and hazelnut trees and vegetables. I am very interested in permaculture and I have tried to incorporate the idea whenever possible. I realize that I still have much to learn, and your advice is very appreciated.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View soobee's profile

soobee

204 posts in 1835 days
hardiness zone 3

posted 01-02-2010 11:35 PM

love the mix of colors – that red is so lovely in contrast with the winter snow! You grow girl!

-- bee with what is...:) soob

View FenceWorkshop's profile

FenceWorkshop

15 posts in 1730 days

posted 05-30-2010 04:14 PM

View lavender22's profile

lavender22

85 posts in 581 days
hardiness zone 8a

posted 02-23-2013 11:04 PM

All I can say is AMAZING!

-- I love hostas:)

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Radicalfarmergal

4300 posts in 1891 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 02-26-2013 01:07 AM

When I saw your comment, I looked back at the old photos and saw how little the trees were when I wrote this post. In the three intervening years, the spruces have grown so high that I can no longer reach their tops.

And here is a photo of a Red Twig Dogwood behind one of our Frasier Firs.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14682 posts in 2628 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 03-02-2013 11:28 AM

isn’t it wonderful to have a photo journal of the plant growth?

I am reminded of when I planted the Canadian Maple in my yard. My hubby had said that I would never get to see it as an adult tree. Well here I am 25 years later and I have a beautiful “teenager” tree that is the focal point of my yard. And I smile.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View Iris43's profile

Iris43

3807 posts in 2258 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 03-03-2013 04:07 PM

Thanks for the picture update, Robin. I love the green of the spruce and the red-twig dogwood looks againt the white snow. I’m looking forward to more pictures of your ‘living fence’ as the seasons change this year.

-- 'To plant a Garden is to believe in Tomorrow'

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4300 posts in 1891 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 03-03-2013 06:03 PM

Thanks Iris. I will have to take some photos when everything is blooming. This late in the winter, birds have eaten all the red berries on the winterberry bushes but the dogwood branches keep some bright red in the garden. I will try to take some good photos this spring and summer. : )

Debbie, I enjoyed your story of the Canadian Maple. I find trees so satisfying as they grow. Each year they add to their size, providing more shade, fruit, nesting opportunities and beauty. Planting and tending trees makes me think of Iris’ quote, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Tell your grandson stories about that tree because his children might have a swing hanging from a branch or a tree house hidden inside the canopy of leaves someday. What an incredible gift we can give future generations by planting trees.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

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Radicalfarmergal

4300 posts in 1891 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 04-25-2013 12:40 AM

Spring bulbs blooming in the living fence garden.

And the pussy willow bushes are in bloom as well:

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14682 posts in 2628 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 04-29-2013 12:32 PM

re: trees, I am hopefully giving my grandson a love and respect for trees. He will stop at most trees on our walks and say, “hello tree” and caress the bark.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

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Radicalfarmergal

4300 posts in 1891 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 04-29-2013 07:26 PM

Oh Debbie! I can just imagine him doing so. I try to instill a reverence for all of nature in my sons. I love it when one of them comes running in to share something he observed with me: a cool spider, a snake, a tree frog, a salamander, the first blossom on their peach tree or the first strawberry of the season.

We were at a baseball game Saturday and my sons watched some boys digging up earth worms, chasing one another with them or else throwing them through the air. They were horrified that anyone would treat an earthworm that way. I suggested that perhaps those boys had never learned how beneficial earthworms were and how much they help the soil. It shows me the importance of having backyard, community or school gardens so that children can learn about nature. When I went to go speak to the boys about the role earthworms play in creating soil and providing nutrients to plants, they stopped playing roughly with the earthworms. Some put the worms back where they found them and some decided to take them home to put in their gardens instead.

You are blessed with your grandson and he is blessed to have you!

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14682 posts in 2628 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 04-29-2013 08:48 PM

what a wonderful story!!! Such a difference your son and you made.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

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