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Trip back in time: hedging or live fencing video

 
pollinator
Posts: 189
Location: Italian Alps, Zone 8
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I came across this lovely retro video of a farmer couple building a live fence. I don’t know if it has been posted on the forum yet. Feel free to remove if it has.
I just enjoyed watching this, and those outfits are on point! I’m impressed by the level of skill applied at keeping his pipe in his mouth through all of that work!

I was wondering what kind of plants could be used for anything like this. I can imagine many shrubs not surviving such a rigorous chopping at their base. Seems like you would need some very hardy plants; Or do they not care if the plants die?

 
pollinator
Posts: 486
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Well that was about the coolest thing ever! My mind keeps coming back to mimosa trees as a decent start for a new hedge. Yes, I’m well aware of the issues with this tree but I still love them. Of course once you have the hedge going I’d want to use the entire thing as a trellis for climbing vegetables. The use my mimosa trees in this fashion often by planting cucumbers along a the bottom. You just have to be aware to keep that side of the tree free from too much growth. A couple years ago I made a small wattle fence from cedar post and fresh mimosa slashings. It was dry and brittle by this spring but may offer a fast growing, nitrogen fixer hedge. Scott
 
S. Bard
pollinator
Posts: 189
Location: Italian Alps, Zone 8
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Scott Stiller wrote:Well that was about the coolest thing ever!. Scott



Isn’t it? I really like the look of the hedges too. And the farmers wide pants. I want me a pair of those!

What would be the issues regarding the mimosa trees?

I was thinking if black locust could be used for a hedge like this. They are certainly fast growing and will likely survive the rigorous cutting at the base. And the added thorns are a bonus to help keep intruders out, be they of the two legged or four legged kind.
Do you think that would work?
 
Scott Stiller
pollinator
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Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Locust trees don’t grow well where I live. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one up close. They are nitrogen fixers and the thorns are definitely a plus.
Mimosa trees are also a nitrogen fixer but they do aggressively spread by seed. I don’t feel like they are an issue on the land I work though. The seedlings are very easy to spot and remove. They can take all the cutting and chopping you can throw at it and continue growing.
 
S. Bard
pollinator
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Location: Italian Alps, Zone 8
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Scott Stiller wrote:Locust trees don’t grow well where I live. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one up close. They are nitrogen fixers and the thorns are definitely a plus.
Mimosa trees are also a nitrogen fixer but they do aggressively spread by seed. I don’t feel like they are an issue on the land I work though. The seedlings are very easy to spot and remove. They can take all the cutting and chopping you can throw at it and continue growing.



I’m fortunate to have black locust growing wild on my property already. They do really well here.
I want to transplant a few of them that have sprouted on difficult spots and move them to create a hedge to border the property. Plus I love the flowers on them so tasty and they smell incredible.
I wonder how old your trees would need to be for you to bend them over into the hedge.
 
Scott Stiller
pollinator
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Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Maybe a year old. They are very flexible and grow like mad.
 
pollinator
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That was an excellent video! I've seen pictures of the layering process, but it was really helpful to actually see it in action. It's awesome how the trees only need a small sliver of bark/cambrium intact for the cut trunks to continue growing. I just wonder how many years he'd been doing it in order to be that fast/efficient...

This makes me want to go plant all of the willow whips and Osage orange seeds I have waiting to be planted to make a hedge.

I love mimosas, and could see them working for a hedge. The only negative I could see is they tend to be short-lived; but it would probably be easy to replace them as they died just from letting well-placed seedlings grow up beside the parent trees.

Thank you for sharing that very cool video!
 
Scott Stiller
pollinator
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Location: North Carolina zone 7
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They are very easy to replace, They’re everywhere!
They are such a great pioneer plant that I’m not even sure they could grow in a rich environment for long. They could give it a great start though. I’ve got some rock hard clay that I have no idea how it even found a crack to grow out of. But, it does.
 
Posts: 245
Location: Wales, UK
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Hedge laying! The art is seeing a bit of a revival here in the UK, or so it seems when driving around the countryside. The hedging mixes for sale for the establishment of new hesges generally comprise of mostly hawthorn and blackthorn but can also include hazel, willow, cherry... Most of our native deciduous trees can be layed although elder isn't considered desireable. Not sure why but possibly just tradition/superstition.
 
gardener
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Any plant that would coppice or pollard well, should be able to handle this type of abuse.  

I can imagine many shrubs not surviving such a rigorous chopping at their base. Seems like you would need some very hardy plants; Or do they not care if the plants die?  

 Many plants would die if treated like this, true.  But many plants can and will shoot up from an established root.  The point is that you have to get an established root on your tree or shrub first.  In my area, willow, cottonwood, poplar, alder, birch, hazel, and maple would be good candidates.  It is important that the plants not die, as a completely dead hedge becomes brittle (which a cow could force its way through, if it was hungry at corn time), and in my opinion is far too much of a fire hazard to keep around.  There is a structure called a dead hedge, and you can search about it on this site, and some people advocate them as well.  
 
pollinator
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I posted about this a few months ago. It is a lovely video :D

The term is hedge laying, and there are lots of regional styles and techniques. It is making a comeback it the cycle of cutting leads to a healthier and more vigorous hedge.

Hedge Laying
 
Michael Cox
pollinator
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Sam White wrote:Hedge laying! The art is seeing a bit of a revival here in the UK, or so it seems when driving around the countryside. The hedging mixes for sale for the establishment of new hesges generally comprise of mostly hawthorn and blackthorn but can also include hazel, willow, cherry... Most of our native deciduous trees can be layed although elder isn't considered desireable. Not sure why but possibly just tradition/superstition.



Elder - it grows faster than everything else, shading and smothering the plants around it. A hedge with elder left to grow ends up with gaps and won't be stock proof.
 
pollinator
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Autumn olive (invasive) and rose of Sharon (bush hibiscus) can handle this type of "abuse".

Loved the video, thanks for posting.
 
pollinator
Posts: 156
Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
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I don't think Black Locust would work in this fashion, as it does not really coppice; it just root suckers.  But you could keep it pruned down to say 8 ft with a long hedge trimmer, and it would fill in and get denser.  Osage Orange is supposed to grow very dense and thorny in this fashion, along with hawthorn.  I think some crab apples get thorny too.

Helpful video on some hedging plants:
 
pollinator
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yeah i saw this when it was posted earlier. very cool little vid.

while everything about it is cool, watching them do this...one of my fave things about this video is the girl helper/intern.
now- it's more gender politics than i like to get into, but for the time and place i am happy to see sister helper there. and she kicks ass too =)

 
Kc Simmons
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas
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J Davis wrote:Autumn olive (invasive) and rose of Sharon (bush hibiscus) can handle this type of "abuse".

Loved the video, thanks for posting.



I wondered about Rose of Sharon (also called Althea around here). I sell a lot of them at the market, but typically have a bunch of cuttings/seedlings left over at the end of market season that I just plant in random places to free up the pot & space, so it might be worth some experimenting to use them in a hedge.
 
Scott Stiller
pollinator
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Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Rose of Sharon is a great idea! A mix of them and mimosa would be my pick for around here.
 
Posts: 62
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We had cows when I was young on the farm , this live fence only worked on animals that were well feed & had lots of good grazing pasture. I like Joel Salatin fence for my animals, less work & never needs trimming.
I do understand many farmer worked with what they had, many had polycrops as well as lots of animals. The history is good, we may need it some day.
 
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Awesome technique! And ditto on seeing a woman out there learning and doing! Thanks for posting this.
 
Posts: 91
Location: Poplar Hill, Ontario (near London) - Zone 6a
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There are scarce resources that I've found about traditional hedgelaying in North America, but this type of hedge is what was used, and likely from what I've heard even originated, in the USA in the Delaware region. Once there was a shortage of wood to make fences from after European settlement, people experimented with different techniques. By the way, a very good example of hedgelaying in action is in one of those historial farm documentaries put out by the BBC, though I can't recall which one or which episode.

I was recently talking to someone involved with trying to document and bring back this type of hedge in Ontario, Canada, and have a few details to share about this type of hedge in Eastern North America.

Species selection: here are some ideas that have a long history of working well:

For hedges intended to keep animals in (or out), and a long history as a primary species in the mix: hawthorn, osage orange. For a stock-proof fence, you'd likely want about 50% of these in the mix, because of their tendency to get thick and dense with thorns.

Others potentially good to keep animals in (or out): seabuckthorn, rose.

Others in the mix: hazels, chestnuts, serviceberries/juneberries, nanking cherry (careful - cherry leaves can apparently make some stock sick or dead from eating damp foliage), apples (especially thornier crabs), plums (again, thorny wilder ones), aronia, red ozier dogwood (might be a bit 'stringy' and leave places for stock to escape). Obviously this list is mostly targeted at species with multiple uses. There are other trees that were traditionally used. Note that with the most of these, you will be able to get crops most years, though likely not as much as if the the trees were allowed to grow to full size.

Worth experimenting with: autumn olive, elderberries, black locust - though I share the excitement about using black locust, I feel like it might be better served in a longer rotation where it is allowed to get larger, to take advantage of it's use as rot-proof posts, or very dense firewood on a 10-15 year coppice system. I would do testing before assuming it would work in this type of hedge, or find someone who has done it.

There are definitely other species appropriate, but I recommend trying to find out if someone else has used them successfully first, since this is a long-term project.

Starting one:


Documentaries often focus on the maintenance, or 'laying' of a hedge, not initial establishment. Here's the very basic technique I've had described to me:

Plant out the hedge with the trees fairly dense. Your first challenge will be protecting the young trees from rabbits, deers etc. I'm planning to use electric fence for this, but others will find different ways to solve that challenge. Unfortunately, I've not found definitive information about plant spacing as of yet, though the link at the bottom has some ideas on this. Maybe others can share their experience on that?
Let the trees grow up for a few years until they are about 4' tall, then do the hedgelaying technique shown in the video above, or other places.
Then let them grow up to about 4' again, and trim them to that annually.
An important note for long term health is every couple of years after that, add a couple of inches to the height you trim to. So, after a couple of years trim to 4'2", then a couple of years later, 4'4".

Don't take any of this as gospel, as I can't find my original notes at this time to confirm all details.

One of the only books I've found on the subject is a British book called Hedges and Hedgelaying by Murray Maclean. I've not read the whole book yet, but it's pretty good. More on the history and reasons why, but there are some technique things too. There are also plenty of websites, some with more info than others. This is one of the best I've found: https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/sustainable-farming/living-fences-zmaz10onzraw

I'm planning a hedgerow of over 1000', but likely won't start it until next year or the year after. I'll have more to share after that, as I'll have had more conversations with the local researcher who has been working on hedges for years.
 
Rob Read
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Location: Poplar Hill, Ontario (near London) - Zone 6a
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I agree about hungry stock getting into this type of hedge, and in the case where that's your primary purpose, 75-100% osage orange or hawthorn is likely best. Also, some breeds of cattle are more browsers than grazers, and would go for even the super thorny stuff in theory. Goats would likely devour them. Sheep might do serious damage, especially when the trees are young.

Another hazard - I've heard that cattle that consume or try to consume Osage Orange fruit can choke on them and die.

All that said - based on what historians say, a lot of farmers in North America used to use these before barb-wire was invented and available, as their exclusive fences, especially if they lived somewhere with no trees available for wooden fences. They must have found solutions to these problems, and I'm sure we can too, if we desire this kind of fence.
 
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You can also see excellent video of how to lay and/or repair hedgerow in "Tales From The Green Valley" and either "Victorian Farm" or "Edwardian Farm" or both? It's been a while since I watched it.
 
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leila hamaya wrote:yeah i saw this when it was posted earlier. very cool little vid.

while everything about it is cool, watching them do this...one of my fave things about this video is the girl helper/intern.
now- it's more gender politics than i like to get into, but for the time and place i am happy to see sister helper there. and she kicks ass too =)


Did you hear the narrator called her a "land girl"? They went out into the countryside in WWII to replace the men gone to war...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_Land_Army_(World_War_II)
 
Posts: 2
Location: North Central Arkansas
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Good to see and know hard work hasn't shrunk from land work.
Honey locusts growing out dense on my East. Hope the roots haven't upset Septic.
Been here just a year on an acre +/-. Lots of work. Hope to rehab house with hempcrete.
Not enough growers of hemp yet. Admittedly, a damn Yankee. Folks around here sure look but do not talk. ☯
 
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That was a cool and useful video. I bought Osage orange seeds to make a living wall.
I have 29 seedlings growing now.
Does anyone know the maximum spacing to plant trees to create a live edge?
 
Posts: 87
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I lived in the West Midlands for awhile where hedges and dry stonewalls made a beautiful patchwork quilt of the rolling countryside.  Dotted with white sheep, it'll brings tears to your eyes.
I bought books on both the art of the hedge and dry stonewalls, equally fascinating and inspiring.
 
gardener
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Location: Denver, 6a / BSk, rental house dweller, going back to Wheaton Labs soon
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At Wheaton Labs, they have a box labeled "Living Fence," with a dozen envelopes of seeds inside.

Josiah planted them recently: https://permies.com/p/1095637

He and Fred were also kind enough to share with me the species (my photo was so bad, everything but "Hornbeam" was illegible):

Hornbeam,
autumn olive,
jujube,
russian olive,
rosa rugosa,
black locust,
sea berry,
osage orange,
hazelnut,
black thorn
Hawthorn
Black Locust
 
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Absolutely love the old video! Perfect pace and Camera work to really see what he was doing.
I did a lot of research on Osage Orange and the thorns appeared to do more harm than good – some even puncturing tractor tires.
I settled on a mix of Washington Hawthorne and crabapple. I wanted the hedge to flower but also provide some thorns for deterrent. There is a planting article from Mother Earth News that shows the initial work. I didn’t follow those instructions and now my trees are fairly large but the hedge laying video makes it look like I could probably salvage them. Motivated to try now!
 
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Since this is the most recent post regarding traditional fencing  methods, without starting a new thread I thought I'd ask if anyone has ever seen a modern application of a "HAHA"
Have y'all heard of a haha?? For keeping critters out/in? Lol


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ha-ha
 
master pollinator
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Jotham Bessey wrote:That was a cool and useful video. I bought Osage orange seeds to make a living wall.
I have 29 seedlings growing now.
Does anyone know the maximum spacing to plant trees to create a live edge?



I just put in 200 of them on a property line to start my living fence/hedgerow.  Osage orange is the outer row.  I put them in at 1 foot apart.  I don't know what the maximum is, but 1 foot is the traditional spacing for making a living fence from them.  It would depend on your goals I guess.  I want mine to be dog and stock proof.
I won't be laying them the way they did in the video.  I'm letting mine establish this year and next spring I'll bend the tops over and pin them to the ground so the branches grow up and can be woven together.

I walked the line of them yesterday and found that a half dozen or so of them had been snipped off barely above the ground by rabbits.  Hopefully they only cut off a few.  It took quite some time to plant 200 of them.

Other trees will be added inside the osage orange.  I have wild plum that are a food source and hiding place for birds and animals.  They have pretty good thorns on them as well.  I also have lots of ninebark, autumn olive, seaberry, honeyberry, lilac, hazelnut that I can take cuttings or seed from to add to the row.  It's a multi-year project and I'm sure many more species will be added and volunteer over time.  The hedgerow will be 30 or 40 feet wide eventually and should provide a wonderful habitat for birds and animals in addition to keeping my animals on the property.  The birds living in it should provide lots of volunteer plants and I like the idea that they can help plant their own living space.
 
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