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! Help me design my living fence

 
Todd Parr
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I need a living fence that is 100% dog and human proof.  I would like to base it on osage orange, but I have read that is only good to zone 5.  I'm zone 4b.  I'm still going to use primarily osage orange, but want to diversify plants used "just in case".  I want to plant the OO in the traditional manner, planting a foot or so apart and when the little guys get to be a foot or two tall, bending them over and burying the tops so they overlap and the branches grow up making a dense hedge. 

I have as many black locusts as I care to dig up from a friend's property.  I have young Seaberry and Siberian Peashrub plants that aren't producing seed yet, but hopefully will be soon.  I have rugosa rose growing in another area, but could dig a few babies up to transplant.  I don't have many of those.  I have wild black raspberry available as well.  The fence will be at the bottom of a reasonably sloped, north-facing hill in heavy clay soil.  If anyone has any input, it would be appreciated.  I would like to combine these in such a way that I have resilience, good bird habitat, and a living fence in as short a period of time as possible.
 
Tyler Ludens
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You might want to look at various instructions for the traditional "cut and laid" hedge.  In this style, the tops are not buried, but instead bent at an angle.

http://www.woodlands.co.uk/blog/woodland-activities/how-to-lay-a-hedge/

 
Todd Parr
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Thanks Tyler, I'll check it out.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Todd Parr
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It's very odd to me that this doesn't kill the trees.  I guess since the cambium is intact on one side it stays alive?  I think I'll give this a try on some willows I have in that same area and see how well they do.  In my experience, if you can kill a willow, you're apt to kill any plant you touch
 
James Freyr
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I would give the wild blackberries a go. Thorns are really good at keeping humans out, and for dogs, it may depend on thickness of their coat, but if the blackberries were so dense and it was an impenetrable thicket, it may not matter. I just like the idea of a human/dog barrier fence also providing food.
 
Mike Jay
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I'm not sure if wild blackberries are a solid enough barrier.  They are certainly painful and annoying to get through but in the process of picking them I can definitely work my way through them by stomping them down ahead of me.  Bears go through them just fine, not sure about dogs.  Maybe my blackberries are wussier than those from other regions.

What about willows as your fence?  They grow fast and can be propagated by poking in the ground.
 
Todd Parr
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Mike Jay wrote:
What about willows as your fence?  They grow fast and can be propagated by poking in the ground.


That was the original intent of them.  Had I done them all when I started, I would have a good fence by now.  That part of my property is furthest from the house, so watering is a chore, and that is part of the reason I stopped planting willows.  They are still alive and growing, but not like they would be with more water.  The best bet would probably be to dig a small swale just uphill of the willows so they will get more water.  Or plant willows directly in the swale.  I may go ahead and finish the willow row (or two) like that and then plant a couple more rows with more diversity in them. 
 
Hans Quistorff
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Willows as a structure for the thorn bearers. The roses I was depending on for my living fence got fattened  this winter by a sudden wet snow.  Where there was some tree structure it is still good. If you do some pruning and weaving of the willows or other trees to make a narrow fence then weave the berry vines through that lattice  you could have a living fence that is not too thick and the fruit is accessible.  I use a berry scoop to pick my rose hips but the center of the patch is not accessable.  I have trained my black berry vines to be a crop that I sell.
 
Todd Parr
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Good idea Hans, thank you.
 
Rez Zircon
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Osage orange will survive down to -10F; we had some that had naturalized in the high desert, and the parent tree was probably past 50 years old last I saw it. The offspring were growing along the ditch where they got seasonal water, but there were none out in the dry ground.

I've seen Siberian pea trees woven and trimmed into a fence; they grow long whips and don't seem to mind this abuse, and they're about as hardy as they come.

If they haven't gotten outlawed in your area, Russian olive can make a helluva barrier, are tough as weeds, and feed a lot of birds. I've seen them planted close together and coppiced into a hedge, much as is done with osage orange.
 
Robert Hayes
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Oak, maple, privet, chestnut, willow & holly, are some of the varieties used in traditional hedge work.  Willow and Elderberry might just become rooted now if you just poke them into the ground.  You can see 1000 year old hedge fencing in UK.  This might be a slow fence unless you've got a standing thicket right where you'd like your fence.  Devon or Leeds, for instance, this spring you can take a great course on this craft for £60 - or for free if you are "on benefits". You'll have to hop over the pond to get there however.  Or study a few videos about hedgelaying maybe?

http://www.countryside-jobs.com/Training/short-courses/skills

Hedging (1942)  quaint


How to ...Traditional Hedge Laying in the South of England Style


Hedge Laying with bill hook ( 20 or 30 yards per day )
 
Francisco Monteiro
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Berberis Vulgaris... they don't call it BARberry for nothing.
Paul Gautschi says that its the best living fence there is for eveything. And Paul Guatschi is the Gold Standard!
 
Tom DeCoste
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Here are a few more ideas.  It's the search results for hedge on jiovi's website https://jiovi.com/collections/plants-for-permaculture-gardens-all/hedgerow  ;
 
Sean Dembrosky
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Zone 4B and basing it mainly on Osage Orange = not too resilient (in my opinion).  I'm in 5B and I've seen Osage get hurt by -20F or colder in some serious ways.  Especially younger plants.  I get the interest in it, it's so spiky, high BTU, rot resistant, etc... but if its marginally hardy it shouldn't be the keystone for your design I'd think.  From a stacked function standpoint, shouldn't the fence be building soil and providing food and medicine as well?  I'd lean more on seaberry, rugosa rose, maybe get Hawthorne into the mix, wineberry even?  There are some exquisite black cap raspberry cultivars available that would be super spiky as well.  If it were me, I'd really want to invest more in seaberry because a) it's incredibly hardy to your zone, b) it improves soil massively, c) it has an incredibly high value (both use wise but also financially) yield in the fruit, d) it suckers and spreads and makes a crazy robust thicket naturally, e) would be compatible for additional vining layers to complexify and thicken the system. 
Osage has appeal for high btu and rot resistance, but if you think through your management goals, even if it did thrive in your zone, you'd never see firewood or bow staves coming out of it.  So the main yield is inedible, beautiful, grapefruit scented spider repellent...
 
Todd Parr
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Rez, you make a good point about Russian Olive.  I have lots of Autumn Olive growing here and it thrives, so I'm guessing Russian Olive would do well also.

Sean, I have seaberry that I planted and is doing well.  I think it would work great for keeping people out, but not sure it would keep my dogs in.  I may be wrong about that, especially if I planted a double or triple row.  I was looking at osage orange for several reasons, but as you said, it's marginally hardy here and I will probably lose a lot of trees trying to get it established.  I would like to use a tree for added strength in the hedge.  I may go with black locust as a backbone and then add in the various bushes, shrubs, etc.

Robert, those are beautiful, but frankly, the more I look into it, the less likely I am to follow thru.  I'm more of a "plant it and forget it" kind of guy

Francisco, another good point with barberry.  And Paul is kind of an idol of mine

Thanks everyone for your inputs.  Right now I'm leaning toward planting black locusts with the other plants mentioned as the backbone of the hedge.  I'm still going to try to establish a large number of osage orange and the winters here will select for hardiness.  If I can get some to survive, who knows, maybe I'll become the Johnny Osage Orange of the Midwest.

Forgot to add, Tom, thanks for the link.  I'll look into it today.
 
Mike Jay
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I didn't look up all of these suggestions, but Russian Olive, Autumn Olive and Black Locust are all restricted invasive species in WI so we're not supposed to introduce them.  I'd personally use black locust if it weren't for that restriction.
 
Sean Dembrosky
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The people that create and enforce those restrictions are also the people that support and allow widespread use of massive monocropping of GMO crops and huge huge volumes of poisons to be used in the landscape for destructive agriculture, so I'd make your decisions based on your needs and goals and the repairing of the land you are stewarding over the rules of folks who say no to early succession pioneering plants that mainly threaten annual crop farming.  It would be one thing if destructive and toxic farming was banned or restricted as well, then I could understand, but these rules are obscene if you zoom out and look at the situation objectively.
 
Mike Jay
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True, but those are also the same people that enforce all our other laws.  Just because I don't like one law doesn't give me permission to ignore all of them.  I can ignore them but it's at my own risk.

The main reason for my comment was to let Todd know that there is a law here and that by planting those species he'd be on the wrong side of that law.  It's up to him to follow or not, I'm just making sure he's aware of the law.
 
Todd Parr
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Mike Jay wrote:I didn't look up all of these suggestions, but Russian Olive, Autumn Olive and Black Locust are all restricted invasive species in WI so we're not supposed to introduce them.  I'd personally use black locust if it weren't for that restriction.


Hey Mike, I haven't read that law, so I don't know the exact wording, but Black Locust is growing on my friend's property.  He lives about 3 miles from me and he has them growing all over the place, so I'm not sure what the law would consider "introducing them".  My buddy will let me dig all I want at his house, so I'm really just moving them a bit   It's true I don't have them on my property right now, so the law would probably apply to me.  I wonder if anyone has ever been fined or the like for doing it, or it's just a law that is on the books but never enforced? 
 
jenni blackmore
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Hi Todd, I was on a 'fedging' kick a couple of years ago and wove together some lovely willow fences, which were super successful except for one Big Mistake! I 'fedged' willow around one of my most fertile in-ground veggie beds. The willow grew like crazy and was great at keeping the geese out. It wasn't until it came to harvest time (potatoes that year) that I realized the full extent of my mistake. The willow had sucked all the nutrients out of the soil.

Yes, I definitely should have known better and certainly it's a mistake I probably won't make again, especially as it was a massive struggle to remove the mega root systems that had developed in less than two years from a bunch of twigs pushed in the ground. I still advocate 'fedging' but only in places where the nutritional demands of the living fence aren't detrimental to surrounding growth.
 
Todd Parr
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Wow, I just looked over that list here:  Wisconsin invasives  Siberian peashrub, autumn olive, black locust, common and Japanese barberry, burning bush, crown vetch, garlic mustard, multiflora rose, white mulberry...
 
Todd Parr
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jenni blackmore wrote:Hi Todd, I was on a 'fedging' kick a couple of years ago and wove together some lovely willow fences, which were super successful except for one Big Mistake! I 'fedged' willow around one of my most fertile in-ground veggie beds. The willow grew like crazy and was great at keeping the geese out. It wasn't until it came to harvest time (potatoes that year) that I realized the full extent of my mistake. The willow had sucked all the nutrients out of the soil.

Yes, I definitely should have known better and certainly it's a mistake I probably won't make again, especially as it was a massive struggle to remove the mega root systems that had developed in less than two years from a bunch of twigs pushed in the ground. I still advocate 'fedging' but only in places where the nutritional demands of the living fence aren't detrimental to surrounding growth.


Jenni, I'll keep that in mind.  I would love to see pictures if you have some.
 
Karen Martindale Orite
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As a person who's done the work to become a master naturalist and who is all about habitat and stewardship, I'd vote against the non natives even if they weren't banned. The OO will work great if it survives and hawthorn, native locust (if any is native where you are in the north), are good picks. Using roses and black berries/raspberries to interweave should help thicken things up. Good luck with this and let us know how it works out.
 
Mike Jay
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You found the list Todd    I just put an email in to the DNR to see if they actually enforce it and what the penalty is.  I'll let you know what their response is...


 
Todd Parr
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The list is especially ridiculous when you consider Black Locust is native to Wisconsin.  I'm betting other plants on the list are as well.
 
Mike Jay
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According to this link from the DNR site Least Wanted, the Native range is the Southeast US with a few outliers up to southern Illinois.  It's been introduced/naturalized to the upper Midwest so that's why it may seem native but not be.  When I click on the distribution map on the DNR site there are a number of counties in the state that don't have it yet (mine is one of those).
 
jenni blackmore
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I do have pictures but (shame on me) have not yet figured how to post them on this forum. I will hopefully figure it out soon.
 
Todd Parr
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jenni blackmore wrote:I do have pictures but (shame on me) have not yet figured how to post them on this forum. I will hopefully figure it out soon.


Jenni, to post pictures, just click to add a reply and then directly under the box you type in there are two tabs, option and attachments.  If you click on the attachments tab, and then the browse button, you just browse to the picture on your computer and click submit.  Easy peasy.

Mike, I found a different site that said Black Locust is native to the southern part of Wisconsin.  Maybe no one is sure? 
 
Mike Jay
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Todd Parr wrote:Mike, I found a different site that said Black Locust is native to the southern part of Wisconsin.  Maybe no one is sure? 


That could certainly be the case
 
Rez Zircon
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Todd Parr wrote:Rez, you make a good point about Russian Olive.  I have lots of Autumn Olive growing here and it thrives, so I'm guessing Russian Olive would do well also.


It's like a weed in Montana, very hardy under tough conditions. In fact the state declared it and saltcedar noxious weeds and started cutting them down along riverbanks, only to find that wildlife had become dependent on these trees since they're such a good habitat. So last I heard the destruction program is on hold, tho you're still not allowed to deliberately plant them. What birds plant for you, well, that's out of your control.
 
Erwin Decoene
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The universe must be in tune or something . I just finisched writing an article about hedgerows. Most of what is written above, i aggree with, but you should indeed take care not to introduce strange species or varieties in your area. You might end up with more problems.
I'm organising a bus tour to the Avesnois region of northern France. Specifically to visit the bocage country. I'll try to make time to post pictures here. I attached a recent picture of an Avesnois hedgerow that was used as source for wood for stakes and tools in combination as a boundary/catle fence - stacking functions you know.

Hedgerows are great but i you have to start planting now - i will take a while before you have a barrier sound enough to keep dogs in. I added a picture of a hedge that has been just trimmed in the mechanised way - not the traditional way to do it. That picture is taken in St Pieters Voeren in NE-Belgium.


If you are interested in willows to establish a live hedge fast and impregnable to smallish dogs you should look at this site http://devossalix.be/en/products/mats/

BTW It is also an alternative way to establish a complete wood fast is to use woven mats of live willows. Our conservation group is managing such a willow wood in Menen. That wood was more or less the proof of concept. Instead of planting the willows upright they were put on top of soft sludge.

Native willow species are probably available. Check them out.


If conditions are to dry for willow, you may use hazel or something like that.


Around here hedgerows used to contain many species - 4 to 5 structural ones - including tree species kept small by copicing and up to 2 or 3 dozen others who contributed to the mix and were usfull.










Foto-4-St-Pieters-Voeren-EdFoto30082012.JPG
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Todd Parr
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Erwin, thanks for that.  Any more pictures and information you can post would be very helpful.
 
Travis Johnson
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I guess I am missing something. I know Black Locust and other trees are rot resistant, but if it is a LIVING fence then isn't that a very mute point? I think I would go with something like willow.

I would be hesitant to plant species of trees on the invasive species list as well. While I understand that government often does bureaucratic things, at the same time, they typically start from well-meaning ideas. A case in point is currant bushes. While it is true a person can get tasty currant juice, they also are host to the White Pine Blister rust and on our farm where White Pine used to be prolific here, only the occasional tree is left. It is kind of sad considering Maine is the Pine Tree State and that we have ideal soil for it. While I understand people may enjoy currant juice, if they introduced currant bushes to their farm and it bordered mine, and subsequently killed what few White Pine I do have, I would be irate for having them break the law at my expense. I am not one to sue or send the law after them, but a farm does have the potential for such action if they do.
 
Todd Parr
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Travis Johnson wrote:I guess I am missing something. I know Black Locust and other trees are rot resistant, but if it is a LIVING fence then isn't that a very mute point? I think I would go with something like willow.

I would be hesitant to plant species of trees on the invasive species list as well. While I understand that government often does bureaucratic things, at the same time, they typically start from well-meaning ideas. A case in point is currant bushes. While it is true a person can get tasty currant juice, they also are host to the White Pine Blister rust and on our farm where White Pine used to be prolific here, only the occasional tree is left. It is kind of sad considering Maine is the Pine Tree State and that we have ideal soil for it. While I understand people may enjoy currant juice, if they introduced currant bushes to their farm and it bordered mine, and subsequently killed what few White Pine I do have, I would be irate for having them break the law at my expense. I am not one to sue or send the law after them, but a farm does have the potential for such action if they do.


Travis, the reason I am thinking of black locust doesn't have to do with it being rot resistant, at least while it is being used as a fence.  The fact that I can use wood that come from the fence after pollarding and it is rot resistant is a plus.  It's also a nitrogen fixer, has great flowers for my honeybees which are also edible by humans, grows fast and makes lots of high nitrogen biomass, has thorns to aid in keeping humans out.  It also coppices well, attracts hummingbirds and creates shelter for other small birds, leaves are super-high protein food for my chickens, makes great firewood (and hopefully charcoal) and is said to live up to 200 years.  It just has so many great things going for it.  In bloom, it's also a beautiful tree.

I agree about being conscious of your neighbors rights.  I wouldn't plant it if I lived next to a farmer's field for instance.  The area I'm "fencing" is on the lower border of my property between my land and a very swampy low area that I think will keep it from spreading.  I have some runoff at the bottom with some erosion.  The locust trees are supposed to be really good at stopping that as well, and I don't have machinery to dig swales, so I haven't started that there.  The only place the trees could really spread would be upwards on my own land and if it becomes an issue, I'll use my customary black rubber roofing material to make a strip 6 or 8 feet weed to kill off sprouts.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Todd Parr wrote:The area I'm "fencing" is on the lower border of my property between my land and a very swampy low area that I think will keep it from spreading.  I have some runoff at the bottom with some erosion.  The locust trees are supposed to be really good at stopping that as well, and I don't have machinery to dig swales, so I haven't started that there.  The only place the trees could really spread would be upwards on my own land and if it becomes an issue, I'll use my customary black rubber roofing material to make a strip 6 or 8 feet weed to kill off sprouts.

Willows love swampy land so they might be most appropriate there. They might spread into the swampy area, rather than uphill, though. Huge numbers of willow can be planted as cuttings at this time of year before the leaf buds swell. Cuttings of any size work great -- in Ladakh we use pollarded poles that are 2-4 inches dia and 6 - 8 feet long, and in the US it seems people use little pencil sized things.
 
Sharon Kallis
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Lots of great info in this thread, the couple bits I would like to throw in having woven living willow to keep dogs out is be hyper attentive to keeping your rods the same diameter to start... And be methodical about measuring your gaps between rods. I would intermix species, but in a row formation- ie, a row of willow rods 5 inches apart, woven in a grid with a wider space row of locust or other species parallèle.
If rods are different sizes the fatter quickly outcompete the skinnier rods and you end up with a hole in the fence dogs will find.
My other thing to add is regarding native versus invasive conversation- we often oversimplify this topic, but the reality is some " invaders" do have benefical impacts for non humans, while some native species get classed  as invasive or noxious because they are vigourous, hard to control and have environmental impacts on other human managed crops or eco-systems in an area- so research is good and talk with neighbours.😊
Berberis species, osage Orange are both great dye plants btw!
 
Travis Johnson
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Hey thanks Todd, that makes a lot of sense now, and I don't blame you for wanting those trees with properties like that.

We really do not have that tree here, though I do have one on my farm, though I do not think it is native. It belongs to a house we own across the street and is about 4 feet in diameter, so I am guessing from the history of that particular farmhouse, it was planted by settlers many years ago.

I know there are people around here that allow currant bushes to grow despite the law, but I would not say anything anyway, I am just not like that. Goodness knows I have been ratted out enough by neighbors as is, so I know what that is like. Here though, the forest service has the right to go onto private land and destroy it, that is how much currant bushes are feared.

I did log a tract one time and the owner wanted the place clearcut so that he could grow Popil trees. Here they are considered a weed, yet he liked to hunt partridge which like that ground cover. The thing of it was, he had all this nice oak. I cut just about everything but this nice tall, straight oak and finally he was like, "I want it all down." His neighbor was some upset because he was introducing popil where oaks had grown before. Its native and allowed, but boy was that guy upset. The oak he had was well on its way too saw logs, but just a bit small at the time. I could not bring myself to send it for pulp to make paper so I sawed it for myself on my own sawmill. They were narrow oak boards, but a better end result then making paper.
 
jenni blackmore
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Thank you for your help Todd. I now know how to post pictures so here's a couple of my fedges when they were newly woven a couple of years ago. First picture is of the Big Mistake fedge which grew like crazy and robbed my ground of all nutrients   The other is of a smaller one which runs along the perimeter of the property and has thrived wonderfully well. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of it in summer but now it has filled in all along the bottom with straight new shoots which I keep woven in and it has also grown much higher than as shown.
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The Big Mistake fedge
 
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