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pollarding black locust trees for living fence posts  RSS feed

 
Ian Schwartz
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This summer, I plan to use live trees as much as possible for a perimeter fence around my property. It will be 1 or 2 strands of hi tensile electrified wire. My main question is: when a tree is pollarded (they will be mostly black locust), will the trunk continue to grow in diameter? Or will it stay basically the same size and only put growth into the new shoots? I ask because I would like to attach ceramic insulators directly to the trunk without using an intermediary board like I have read about. I'm hoping that pollarding would keep the trunk from swallowing the insulators. I'd appreciate any experience/info, as I have not been able to find anything about it through Internet searches. Thanks
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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The tree will continue to grow bigger around.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Yes, Todd's right, the trunks of pollarded trees grow and grow. I've been pollarding and watching pollarded trees for years in Ladakh.
 
Ian Schwartz
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Ok thanks for the quick replies
 
Cody DeBaun
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Location: Denton, TX United States Zone 8a
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One thought on this- it's important to be careful with the manner in which you string wire if you're intending to keep those trees alive. If any wire completely encircles the tree and is bearing weight or tension, natural movements and friction can cause you to girdle your tree.
 
David Wood
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Location: Sth Gippsland and Melbourne
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And if you plan to use nails or staples to hold wire to the tree, these holes can let various pathogens, insects etc into the tree
 
Eric Thompson
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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David Wood wrote:And if you plan to use nails or staples to hold wire to the tree, these holes can let various pathogens, insects etc into the tree


not to mention nails are a very powerful saw repellant
 
Liz Hoxie
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Location: Ellisforde, WA
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David, can you think of any alternatives? I don't like to harm trees either, but I wouldn't want to put in a post when a tree is handy.
 
David Wood
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I don't follow the logic of not wanting to use a post when a tree is handy. As discussed above, using living trees as fence posts to hold nails, staples or wire is poor design with respect to several factors.

Using living trees as hedges has some appeal but takes a while and once they've grown into a hedge it's difficult to see through them to what's going on in the next paddock. Live hedges are also liable to be colonised by wild mammals which may or may not be a good outcome. Foxes and rabbits like a bit of cover, for example.

Wattle fences can be useful for some livestock but are labour intensive to make and also lack see-through-ability.

I'd like to have a crack at pleaching to see how strong it can be but I don't have any data at the moment.

WRT sustainability, in my opinion a good solution is post and rail using durable timbers. In Australia, this might be a Class 1 or 2 inground durability timber for the posts and a Class 2 above-ground for the rails. But this is labour and materials expensive and while it will hold cattle and horses a fence of this nature may struggle with sheep, lambs and small calves. Putting an electrified wire at an appropriate height will help with this.

My understanding is that in traditional agricultural systems in Europe it was common to have someone handy to keep an eye on them for much of the time. So if animals did get through a pre-wire fence this could be dealt with before major damage to a crop etc But with labour costs under our current economic system it makes more sense to have a stronger fence. And can you see anyone these days showing a lot of interest in spending day-in, day-out keeping an eye on a herd of sheep?

You could try making a list of the objectives you're are trying to meet, prioritise them and then make a list of possible solutions with pros and cons. Match these up and a feasible, acceptable solution should become apparent.

On a related note, I think a more structured design approach would help in a lot of areas in sustainability but that's another topic

Hope this helps

David

 
Brett Hammond
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Location: Maryland, USA
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If you live in an area like I do where black locust grow like weeds, go for it. I have put lag bolts into black locust for a few years and never had a problem. If it dies, use it for firewood. Another will sprout up to replace it. Around here they seem to grow 5 or 10 feet a year.

I would recommend a high quality stainless steel long skinny (3/8 or 7/16 inch) lag bolt or eye bolt  that you can back out of the tree a little bit each year as the tree grows. Anything skinnier might break before backing out. If you predrill a hole the size of the bolt shank (excluding threads) you will reduce the likelihood of splitting the tree when you screw in the bolt. The tree will heal very quickly when you install it, but there is always the remote possibility of bugs getting in before it does. Do not put it in a crotch or other area that collects water. I'm not a tree expert, but I don't see the logic of installing a board that will quickly be engulfed by a black locust, and result in disrupting the flow of nutrients on one whole side of a tree. I would stick with a skinny lag bolts and doubt the tree would even notice it. Unless the idea is that it is easier to pry off a board and move it each year, rather than an insulator. But better to use a nut to hold the insulator on the end of the bolt, an inch or so away from the tree so the only thing touching the tree is the bolt, which can be backed out each year as the tree grow around it.

Locust grows fast, so don't forget to back the bolt out each year, or it will quickly disappear, and cause serious damage to someone using a chainsaw later.

If you run the wire on the inside of your paddock it will slacken each year as the tree grows but you might be able to rig some type of spring or weighted tensioning system to save you from having to re-rig it for a few years.

Best of luck!
 
Wes Hunter
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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I've seen Joel Salatin use small-diameter nylon rope for what he calls a "poor-boy" insulator.  I've used synthetic baling twine for the same purpose when dead-ending a hot wire into an existing barbed wire or woven wire fence.  I would think you could do the same thing here.  It might require trees planted/growing in a zig-zag or gentle arc to keep sufficient tension on the wire.
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