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Planting hedge in shade/deep forest?

 
Posts: 3
Location: Central Virginia
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I've read a number of threads about living fences and hedges, and have started some hedges already on our 26 acre homestead, using osage orange (maclura). These hedges are to enclose and divide pastures for our livestock (goats, sheep AND PIGS). We are using electric fence to protect the young hedges as they grow, and want to gradually replace all electric fences here with hedges.

The problem is that about half of our perimeter runs through mature oak/hickory/poplar forest. That's too much shade for black locust, honey locust and hawthorn (and hazel, though that would never keep our goats contained anyway). We have plenty of BL growing along the forest edges but it just doesn't thrive as a deep understory tree. Honey locust is even worse in shade. We haven't tried it yet, but the internet claims that osage orange is intolerant of full shade, which means we probably cannot extend our current hedges into the forest.

We've been putting up electric fence all over, but that's not a sustainable option. Additionally, we've had some serious problems with flightless bipedal (human) intrusions, and even 7-strand galvanized electric wire fence doesn't hold up for more than a minute if someone has bolt cutters. Same for barbed wire. Last year, we lost our rare-breed, registered sheep ram to some poacher who decided to trespass and shoot him, just for fun. The police made no real attempt to find the poacher (we live in a rural area with a small town culture). We have also had dirt bike and atv-mounted intruders tearing around in our pastures and forest, again just for fun. Politely contacting the various neighbors has only accomplished but so much ("teenagers will be teenagers"). The understory is very open, so there's no particular choke points or trails that would be good for a trail camera, although after 4 years of this nonsense, we are also putting one up.

So, we need a real, physical barrier that can stop an ATV or a human on foot. It needs to be easily installed on steep terrain (we live in the foothills of the Appalachians and have very little flat ground). It needs to go through a forest with a dense deciduous canopy. Ideally, whatever we put in can also secure the forest pastures to eventually keep pigs and goats from escaping, so we can wean ourselves off of electric fences.

Sassafras and elderberry bushes grow well in the understory here, but neither will stop a human poacher from walking under their branches, much less keep a pig in. Yew could possibly make a human-proof hedge, but it's slow growing, and toxic to goats, so we'd rather not introduce it here.

Does anyone have experience with hedgerows in a forest? Any species that will grow in the Mid-Atlantic that can thrive in the shade and form a human-proof living fence? Must we really cut some of the forest giants down to break the canopy, in order to have a hedge, or is there some other way to enclose our perimeter? There's not much loose stone here, so dry-stacked stone walls aren't an option, and the terrain won't allow big dirt-moving equipment in to make ditches or berms, even if they could fit between the mature trees.

We are not going to start shooting our neighbors, nor placing mines, nor punji sticks, fyi. But advice on shade-tolerant species and any personal experience with planting hedges in the understory would be welcome!
 
pollinator
Posts: 182
Location: Nara, Japan. Zone 8-ish
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That's a tough situation.

You might consider a kind of brush fence, just like a big, continuous brush pile. My parents have had success keeping atvs and hunters off their land. After much pleading with trespassers and much signage was not effective, they cleared some underbrush and piled it all along their border. It's big and wide enough that it's a pain to try and cross and has kept people out.
 
Sadb O'Conner
Posts: 3
Location: Central Virginia
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That's a good idea! We'll do that.  Brush piles don't last more than a few years in our warm, wet climate, so it's only a temporary solution. But it's also a good way to protect young hedge plants from deer...

We're looking at gooseberries as a potential shade-tolerant, thorny, easy-to-propagate hedge plant. Maybe in combination with a line of some slow-growing understory tree like ironwood or dogwood, it can form the more permanent barrier, as the brush barrier turns into soil.
 
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I also have been looking for plants, and/or information, to grow privacy hedges in an existing wooded area. Depending upon how wide or thick you want your hedge to be, you may consider native holly trees which will grow in the shade, being fuller and denser where they receive more sun. If you don't plant them all in a straight line, but rather stagger, or zig zag the planting, you could place them about 3 feet apart and even if they are in deep shade and don't get much light, they will still be difficult for homo sapiens to pass through. You can mix in some native rhododendrons which tolerate significant amounts of shade. Add some green briars in amongst the hollies and it will become pretty unwelcoming to human traffic on foot or all terrain tire. Around here the Southern Arrowood Viburnums are native and grow pretty dense in my shaded woods. They don't flower as much in the deep shade but still grow and get pretty dense. Such a hedge probably will not keep hogs fully contained, although may work for larger less aggressive livestock. Good luck !
 
Posts: 38
Location: Saskatchewan
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I dont have any experience in your climate but think that rose bushes would be a good addition to a shaded hedge. I would take a slow walk through the woods especially the thicker parts and take note of what plants are already there growing in the conditions that are same as where you want your hedge, I'm sure there are native plants that will fill your need.
 
pollinator
Posts: 621
Location: Ashhurst New Zealand
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I don't know if you could even find it in the US, but we have a plant here in NZ called tātaramoa or bush lawyer which thrives in the understory. It's in the same genus as blackberry, but even more vicious. Imagine razor wire with leaves, growing 5m canes that form a tangle you will not cross without losing blood. They have berries, which are edible but not anywhere near as tasty as a blackberry. Rubus cissoides is the most common species.

If that's not a deterrent, you could add another NZ favourite, although every place I've come across it was in a bit of a clearing so I don't know if it would handle full, deep shade. It's ongaonga, the tree nettle (Urtica ferox), the big brother of the tame herbaceous nettles most folks are familiar with. Picture a bush completely covered in venomous spines, waiting for you to just innocently brush past. The pain level is very similar to stinging jellyfish (ask me how I know this), and at least one death has been attributed to the plant.

Both of these charming species grow nearby but I don't have any on my property. If I were in your shoes I might. And yes, there are online sources for seed for both of these plants. Check Wikipedia for info and look up images if you want nightmare fuel.
 
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