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Steve - Transforming a Hedge

 
David Livingston
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Location: Anjou ,France
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Here in Le RavardiƩre http://www.permies.com/t/31583/projects/Permie-Pennies-France we have about a mile of Hedges what I call French style . 90% hawthorn , black thorn and laurel both edible and a yukky bright green type . never laid and not cut for years about 5 yards high in places
I was wondering about transforming these monsters in to a food hedge using grafting .
Hawthorn - apple pear medlar
Blackthorn - plum and maybe almond
Laurels -
Is this a viable idea ?
Have you any other suggestions ?
I was also thinking of adding vines - kiwi and grapes

David
 
Steve Gabriel
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Location: New York
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David:

What a fun spot you have - I love all the stone buildings.

My neighbor buddy Sean at Edible Acres (http://www.edibleacres.org/) has been grafting pear onto his hawthorn with decent success. You could contact him to learn more.

What is the latin name of "black thorn" - unfamiliar with this common name.

Have you ever considered hedgelaying? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Andv7a0NPEc) We have some hawthorn that we might try doing with at our farm. This is the best use of the material, I think!

Steve
 
David Livingston
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Prunus spinosa is black thorn . Apart from making sloe gin I have not really thought of much else use for it .
As for laying a hedge I have thought about it but its a lot of work frankly for little return as I have no plans to keep animals in these fields . I have lots of hazel anyway to use with this .. It would cause a sensation locally here as they are great fans of electric fencing
We shall see ,I far prefer the idea cutting the hedge to six feet high and three foor across grafting fruit trees on top of the hawthorn and black thorn and then letting the hawthorn and black thorn grow to six foot wide and six foot high whilst then growing the fruit above .
I got the idea after someone local gave me a medlar (Mespilus ) grafted on to hawthorn

David
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I think you may struggle with a fruit tree graft high on a hedging plant. The root stock tends to be much more vigorous than the grafted wood and, unless you are committed to regular pruning, your graft may not thrive. I have thought about similar lines, but with the graft much lower and simply letting a standard apple, for example, grow up in the row. Also, with a wide thorny hedge most tree fruit will be challenging to pick!

Regarding laying a hedge, I agree it is a lot of work, but it also revitalises a hedge and is an opportunity to fill in gaps and thin spaces. For example, most hedging plants can be propagated by layering. Take a stem and bend it to the ground. Where you want it to root use a spade to split the soil and press the stem into the ground, leaving the end with some leave exposed. You can peg it in place using another stick cut down. Give it 6 months and you will have a new rooted plant in place.

Hedgelaying itself is an enjoyable past time, and there is no need to feel you need to do the whole distance at once. 100m a year (or even 50!) could be done in a weekend in the winter, and on that kind of scale you can make small incremental changes. Graft a few trees here, plant a new fruit or nut tree there etc... You can also pick a few existing plants to let grow to become standards for pollarding (eg for firewood or tree fodder - ash is pretty traditional here in the UK for that purpose). Maybe make a shortlist of species that you might like to add into your planting mix - a nitrogen fixer would probably be a good bet. If I recall correctly there is plenty of black locust in France? What about berry bushes in the understory (blackcurrants, redcurrants, blackberries etc...)? All of these should be easier to introduce if you coppice or lay the hedge.

Infact, now I think of it - selectively coppicing sections of hedge to ground level is not a bad way to get it to thicken up, so long as you can keep livestock off it for a while.

Also, an old hedge, with a burden of thick trunks, will give you a decent amount of firewood at the same time as being laid/coppiced.
 
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