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Experience growing living fences from willow?

 
Posts: 167
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
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I've just been learning about living fences, made with willow. Apparently you can grow willow by shoving a stick of it in the ground - who knew?

I'm thinking this has many applications in permaculture, providing the obvious function of fencing off parts of a garden or yard, but perhaps also providing support for vertical elements in the garden. In perusing various videos and websites I got the feeling one could make living fences out of more than just willow, and wondered if there was a "polyculture" living fence that could incorporate some flowering vines to attract bees, birds, and other beneficials, even just using the willow fence as support.

For myself I am in a situation where I desperately need some fencing (mostly for the dog) and the budget for that just went to the tax man, so no money for this right now (and I don't want something ugly, if I can at all avoid it). We do have willows around here, so thought perhaps this could be a solution for us.

Anybody have any experience with this?
 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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there are hundreds of plants that will grow from cuttings just stuck in the ground..just remember to research the plants that you want to start and find out if the are best propagated from hard or soft wood and in the spring, summer or fall..most softwoods are early on (of course) and hardwood cuttings in fall or winter or very early spring before new growth.

willows are best done in the winter and NOT near your drainfield or house..by a long ways.

they'll clog your pipes

there are a few other threads on here on living fences so do a search..

lots of people are working on these as well as hedgrows or fedges (fruiting hedges) so there is a lot of info here, just do some searches
 
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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Trucs d'artan

google- living willow fence photos, or mixed species living fence photos- for design ideas
 
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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i prefer a diversity of plants in my living fence. so it gives me food, beauty, wildlife, a fence, fixes Nitrogen, and more. willow is a good plant to have in there though, free rooting hormone whenever you want.
 
steward
Posts: 7926
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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A few generations ago, hedgerows were the common way to fence perimeters, and cross fencing (how can you beat a free fence?).  I have never understood the reasoning behind getting away from this practice.  Many "spent out" monoculture farms tore out hedgerow cross fences to open up pastures, only to find that the soil along these fence lines was the richest and most fertile soil on the farm!
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
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I have never understood the reasoning behind getting away from this practice.



its simple. because when you put up a metal fence, its a fence right now. when you plant a living fence/hedge, its a fence in 3 or 4 years possibly a little more depending on the species chosen and soil conditions.
 
                                      
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you could also search craiglist for free/scrap chain link/deer fencing and then make a "living" fence out of it by training vining/caning plants through it. you're keeping those materials out of a landfill and get the right plants you won't even see the metal....
 
                                              
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L8Bloomer wrote:
I've just been learning about living fences, made with willow. Apparently you can grow willow by shoving a stick of it in the ground - who knew?



what a great topic!!! one im playing with as well. i hope more get into it. It offers the added bonus of diversity for the insects and the like i would imagine as well.....

I wanted to say though that you can make "willow tea", and then use it as a rooting hormone for other types of plants and trees.
 
                        
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Location: Berkeley,CA
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Got to love a living fence!  You can speed up the process by ground layering whatever you decide to plant as your fence.  Once you have a tree/shrub established bend branches down to the soil in the line you want your fence to go in and stake them down, cover them with soil, water and it will form a whole new plant.  This way you can plant a bit more sparsely than you have to and then fill in the gaps.  It works for anything that you can grow from a cutting and even some things that you can't, quicker too.
 
pollinator
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Location: Oakland, CA
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EricTheRed wrote:You can speed up the process by ground layering whatever you decide to plant as your fence.



*nods*

There's some room for layering in the process of traditional hedge laying, as well.

More:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedge_laying
 
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
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i believe it was MOTHER EARTH NEWS that had an article some months back on how to build a living hedge using osage orange.  seemed might simple process.  but there are numerous other type plants trees to use that will actually feed livestock.

honey locust was once a popular one.
 
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Also taken up in another thread:
https://permies.com/permaculture-forums/1437_0/woodland-care/planning-on-growing-a-hedgeliving-fence
 
Posts: 81
Location: Toronto Canada
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I'm with Paul on the cedars not having competition in dense stands, all that seems to grow with them are ferns in dense huge masses , here in southern ontario, but they dont seem to like grass that much, nor do they do so well , when they are scattered and single trees. I dont like them much in dense stands they shelter a ton of mosquitoes during the day.
 
                    
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John Polk wrote:
A few generations ago, hedgerows were the common way to fence perimeters, and cross fencing (how can you beat a free fence?).  I have never understood the reasoning behind getting away from this practice.  Many "spent out" monoculture farms tore out hedgerow cross fences to open up pastures, only to find that the soil along these fence lines was the richest and most fertile soil on the farm!



primarily impatience and the need to consume
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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I've really got no need right now for fences ..but have been building hedgerows and windbreaks around the property, and yeah, they do take forever to grow !! but they are worth it.

haven't ever had the $ to put in much at a time..and the deer to tend to browse down some of the plants when I put them in, so then I have to replant something else to see if I can outsmart them.

 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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I've really got no need right now for fences ..but have been building hedgerows and windbreaks around the property, and yeah, they do take forever to grow !! but they are worth it.



i would consider hedgerows and windbreaks as fences, just not in the way most modern people see a fence.

i got a few new plants i am going to make a living fence out of, just took a few hundred cuttings from most of them and have them propagating.

barberry
prinsepia
Szechuan peppercorn
willow
autumn olive
hazelnut
pyracantha

and a few trees to throw in here and there

should have a nice thick living fence in 3-5 years.
 
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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I would absolutely love to have a nice thick hedge surrounding my entire property, but unfortunately, there are some obstacles with that plan....

dry climate - willows, and most common living fence species require more rain than what we receive.  so, I have to look at what will survive locally.

slow with local species - I do have western junipers wild on my property, and there are some wild grapes, and acacia, but we are talking about a fence that will take decades to build.

availability of alternate species - I am sure there are other species that could work here, but getting them might be an issue.  Most of the nurseries I have access to have poor selection, and most species are invasive non-natives.
 
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Just found out about this idea. it is so cool. had to post a picture I found to share the beauty of it.



The image is from Living Willow Fences
 
pollinator
Posts: 173
Location: Henry County Ky Zone 6
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i found out by accident that if a horse eats hedge apples and you dump the manure in your garden, there are zillions of hedge-apple sprouts in the spring. So if you dump it where you want a hedge, they will come up in a useful spot. It was working wonderfully this spring until the sheep got out. Horses and sheep love hedge apple leaves.
 
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If you want your fence to be stockproof (which is generally the purpose of a fence) willow isn't such a good choice. Hawthorn and Blackthorn are better suited, they grow from cuttings, early spring flowering and also produce a reasonable amount of bird food. If you want fast growing, gorse will do the job though in some countries it is classed as invasive and is illegal to cultivate it, and it does require a lot of trimming, which is not a pleasant job, considering all those thorns.

We use willow on riverbanks where they block all the flood debris from ending up all over the farm.
 
Posts: 14
Location: Aroostook County, Maine
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I'd like to start a few fences between my rotating cattle pastures, in zone 4.

Can a tree be selected that's both cattle-holding, as well as cattle forage??
 
Posts: 86
Location: Northeast - 5B
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i looking into an "Espalier Of Fig Trees" to create some edible fencing...but more as a decorative element... locust seems popular as perimeter fencing...
 
gardener
Posts: 697
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Pokletu Staktu wrote:I'd like to start a few fences between my rotating cattle pastures, in zone 4.

Can a tree be selected that's both cattle-holding, as well as cattle forage??



You may want to look at CJ Verde's thread about feeding her cattle trees. If a tree is suitable for pollarding or coppicing then they should handle being in a hedgerow also. You'll want to protect the trees until they become established enough to create a barrier and probably do a form of row planting the trees with fodder trees in between two rows of barrier trees that are not so palatable to the cattle. This will give access to the outside growth of the tasty trees but protect them from being completely eaten/trampled.
 
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Abe Connally wrote:I would absolutely love to have a nice thick hedge surrounding my entire property, but unfortunately, there are some obstacles with that plan....

dry climate - willows, and most common living fence species require more rain than what we receive.  so, I have to look at what will survive locally.

slow with local species - I do have western junipers wild on my property, and there are some wild grapes, and acacia, but we are talking about a fence that will take decades to build.

availability of alternate species - I am sure there are other species that could work here, but getting them might be an issue.  Most of the nurseries I have access to have poor selection, and most species are invasive non-natives.



I live on the northern outskirts of the same desert, look into the natives more there are quite a few varieties that will work, some a little faster growing than others, I'm working with agerita, purple sage, some of the acacias, and mesquite now. I'm trying to stage mine in allowing for growth rate and bloom cycles for bee provisions.
 
pollinator
Posts: 519
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Those of us in arid climates may need to be content with living fence posts.
 
Posts: 248
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
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Osage oranges have been used as living fences strong (and thorny) enough to keep in big livestock. I read somewhere that they're even used to fence in bulls!

If you happen to be in the SoCal desert, you can find a few that have naturalized along west Avenue I in Lancaster, a couple miles west of the prison, they're growing along the ditch. (Unless the county has trimmed them into oblivion since I moved away...)
 
pollinator
Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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- Here's a little more on Daniel K's Living Fence Thread Extension ! Link Below :


http://www.westwaleswillows.co.uk/fedgeplanting.html


For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
Posts: 323
Location: Pittsburgh PA
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We just planted a living willow fence. Talk as you may, about the tree protectors, but we have serious deer pressure. We do not plan on weaving the trees, but cutting branches, stripping the leaves for fodder, and weaving the branches like a giant basket, around the coppiced willows. The autumn olive hedgerow to the left will be laid, when appropriate, and along the back, is a thick thrush of berries, honey locust, and black locust. If you notice, the willow are planted in a low spot, where the field drains, being the water lovers they are. The area is being created to protect a future tree system, containing all of our deer sensitive fruit trees, on contoured swales. The first picture, our aspirations, the later, reality.
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Posts: 92
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I struck hundreds of willow around my field this last winter. Hopefully some of them will take. The field is very wet, so heres hoping. I wove a lot of the willow canes together to form a living fence. We'll see what happens. You can strike willows in summer as well. (here in England at least).

I was walking through a garden (castle garden) that had large 800 yr old sweet chestnut. Some of the trees had fallen, one had been carved into a large bench. This bench was sprouting significant new growth. So, yes, anything will root.

I've seen Silver Birch do the same.

I have just planted an edible hedge around my newly planted orchard.
If you don't mind the hard work, brambles and dog rose are excellent, you just need to cut them right back every winter.
 
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I would recommend checking out what the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers has published on hedgerows. You can say "they wrote the book" (and illustrated it) It isn't cheap to plant a hedge: NB, you'll do better if you have local stock, which means mostly native, and propagate it yourself. Willows are easy- but rather particular about what ground they will grow in without LOTS of irrigation. And, to most large vegetarians, they look like lunch. If you've ever climbed in young willow, you know they're flexible. A large animal will just climb in and smash it down and eat it. To have a hedgerow growing while animals are in an area, you will have to have a temporary fence- electric or mesh or barbed wire, so you'll have double expenses. Then, to maintain a hedge, the hedge must be cut back every 9 years or so, (in English they say "laid") which is done in the winter. (lots of new back to the landers don't much care for working outside in the winter) All that said, I love hedges. Here in the Northwest Maritime, I use a plant "pallet" containing the following: Douglas Hawthorn, Suksdorf's Hawthorn, Oso Berry, Cascara, Western Viburnum, Western Crab Apple, Western Service Berry, Ocean Spray, Oregon Grape (Mahonia/Berberus) Mock Orange, Klamath Plum, and lots of smaller plants, like Rubus ursinus. Sometimes I'll add "standards", tall trees which stand above the rest, and widely spaced. In the above mix, there will be as many hawthorn as all the rest put together, and the Oregon Grape gets tossed in as extras between the rest. Most of the non-natives that like to grow in hedgerows are "invasives", but sometimes I'll use them too- Sloe or blackthorn, (Prunus) is a mainstay in Britain but here, although it's rarely seen, it's regarded as evil by the few nativists that know it. The BTCV hedgerows handbook is online for buying electronically.
 
Posts: 94
Location: Lancaster, UK
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I have 2 hedges (one of willow and one mixed) and a willow fedge on my allotment where they fulfill several functions.

The hedges (at the top of my plot) were originally planted to give me privacy and to intercept water from further up the slope (to try to dry my plot out a bit). The fedge (living willow hedge) was planted s an aesthetic experiment and also for more water removal. They've all been successful, but differently.

The mixed hedge (Hawthorn, Sloe, Beech, Rose, Elder, Cherry) grew rapidly and I lost control of it - it became a line of trees and the allotment committee was complaining. So, after 19 years of growth, I cut it all back to knee height - it is now bulking up again nicely and the idea is to keep it to about chest height.

The willow hedge didn't suck enough water out, so I had to dig a drainage trench as well. However, the willows are very happy and grow well. I pollard them every 3 years or so, which gives me useful material.

The willow fedge was never great - I ran out of willow cuttings so never put in cross pieces to stabilise it. it's also in quite deep shade. The biggest disappointment was that I expected it to fuse together where it was tied and it never did. However, it is still there, still doing a job of sorts. Last winter I cut it back hard and it is now shooting from lower down, so maybe it will still get a chance to shine.
 
pollinator
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Kris schulenburg wrote:i found out by accident that if a horse eats hedge apples and you dump the manure in your garden, there are zillions of hedge-apple  sprouts in the spring. So if you dump it where you want a hedge, they will come up in a useful spot. It was working wonderfully this spring until the sheep got out. Horses and sheep love hedge apple leaves.



I suspect horses love hedge apples because there were some on the trees and then none on the trees - and they weren't on the ground.
 
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It's not exactly a hedge, but for those in the Sonora or some other desert, you can also use cactus to form a fence.  Ain't nothing bigger than a rabbit going through a thick stand of prickly pear or cholla.  A nice dense row of prickly pear wouldn't provide a visual shield, although I have seen occasional examples that were taller than me.  Prickly pear and cholla would be easy to propogate.  Another possibility would be a row of prickly pear, with a row of something tall,like cholla, mesquite or acacia, and then another row of cactus.

My grandma used to cook me up prickly pear pads she would gather in the spring.  She had a spineless variety in her garden.  She would skin the young pads, steam them (to remove most of the slime) and then flour them with salt and pepper and fry in bacon grease.  They were delicious.  I think they are what okra hopes to be when it grows up!  I remember when I was  a little kid visiting relatives in eastern Arizona and they served us a prickly pear salad made with the pears.  As a kid I thought it was amazing.  Since then I've read that spineless varieties are raised in Crete as a crop, both pads and pears harvested, with what looks to me like a good yield.  If you burn off the spines, the pads make good feed for animals also, so you could view your hedge as a seasonal food resource and an emergency food backup since I believe all cactus are more or less edible.
 
Mick Fisch
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i found out by accident that if a horse eats hedge apples and you dump the manure in your garden, there are zillions of hedge-apple sprouts in the spring. So if you dump it where you want a hedge, they will come up in a useful spot. It was working wonderfully this spring until the sheep got out. Horses and sheep love hedge apple leaves.



I like to figure out all the uses I can get out of something, even if I don't currently use most of them.  I have them in my back pocket if needed.  

There are some osage orange trees near us and they seem to produce a lot of hedge apples.  I've read that the seeds are edible, but take an unreasonable amount of work to isolate.  I'm guessing livestock could eat the hedge apples if they were chopped up somehow.  Since your horse ate some, with I assume, no ill effects that you saw, it makes me wonder if they would be a useable resouce for animals, like chopping up a pumpkin makes eating it easier for livestock.  Maybe it would be too much work.  

I'm guessing if I had a chipper, it wouldn't be a problem to drop them in and chip them.  Of course that's kind of like the old joke, "If we had ham, we could have ham and eggs.  If we had eggs."
 
pollinator
Posts: 289
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Hey Jordan Lowery, how did your living fence turn out?
 
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I am currently planting a native streambank type Willow as a living fence around my gardens, the goal being to keep the deer out as there is tremendous pressure. Even with my brother and his coworker harvesting several deer each year, the herds seem to find their way over just about any traditional type of fence I put up. They ravage my hard work. I currently garden a very steep field that I have terraced on contour, approximately a 1/4 acre (?). I have tons of the wild streambank Willow all over the property, so I figured I'd give it a go. I have currently stuck cuttings in the ground on two sides of the garden - did one side yesterday, and one just this afternoon. I made cuttings about 8" long, opened up the ground with a lawn edger tool Ina a straight line path down the side of the garden, and shoved cuttings in about every two inches. I'm honestly not sure what I plan on doing after I get the other two sides planted. I've had so much heartache over the years from deer damage I don't really have high expectations anymore, but we'll see! Ideally, I would like for the canes to grow to about 4', at which time I would pollard them each year or two with the hope of creating very thick base stems that block out little ground dwelling creatures like rabbits and groundhogs, and the new canes would ideally reach such a height each year that the deer would move on and not attempt a jump. Like I said, I planted cuttings about 2" apart, because honestly I need more of an impenetrable wall than a nice looking fence.
 
gardener
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Gabe Smith wrote: I have currently stuck cuttings in the ground on two sides of the garden - did one side yesterday, and one just this afternoon. I made cuttings about 8" long, opened up the ground with a lawn edger tool Ina a straight line path down the side of the garden, and shoved cuttings in about every two inches. .



Gabe - try sticking alternate sticks in at 45 degree angles in front and behind of your uprights, then weave them behind the uprights.  This will give you the density you require at the base, and, with careful pruning of the outward growing shoots, will take up less space than pollarded trunks, which will be HUGE in a few years.  Although I love the look of pollarded willows!




living willow fences


growing willow for whips to use elsewhere

 
pollinator
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I saw many people mentioning osage orange, but here in zone 7 Hardy Orange grows pretty well   webpage

The fruits are like small sour lemons with tons of seeds. Put the fruits in a wet pot outside over winter, by spring each fruit will have 20 or 30 sprouts ready to separate and grow out directly in the ground. They start putting out thorns immediately, which limits browsing and once grown nothing gets through them. They reach a height of about 15 feet when allowed to grow unmolested, but be careful when planting near your house, they will need to be cut back often.

The fruit looks like a small orange, and can  be squeezed for a nice vitamin c rich drink like lemonade

One technique used to protect young trees, bushes, etc is to leave a tangle of branches, especially thorny ones, around them, this will keep out deer and many other animals, also of course bone tar is a good way to keep away critters. the easier equally repulsive potion is a mix of sheep fat and egg white powder that turns pretty nasty pretty quickly, wear gloves and use it fast cause you won't want to be around it the next day.
 
pollinator
Posts: 156
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That's helpful info on Osage Orange.  I tried using live willow states from these folks last spring.  They came in well, but deer browsed them down a lot.  Trying to build living arches.  http://foggymtn.com/LiveStakes.html

Also planting bamboo in certain areas for hedges, but because of how it spreads you have to use it in small clusters.  Trying to buy elephant grass from these people to use as hedge.  https://www.mapleriverfarms.com/

Turns out that deer love browsing my hollies, so they are of limited hedging use.  I'm getting a lot of Black Locust from https://www.buyvatrees.com/ (came up great last year, good quality, easy to plant in poor soil, just used a drill-mounted auger to loosen up the soil, no need to even break out a shovel).

Anyway, with the Osage Orange; do you interweave the branches or just let them grow naturally?  Are the fruits good for wildlife?  Can you trim them to a moderate height?
 
pollinator
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Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
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bob day wrote:I saw many people mentioning osage orange, but here in zone 7 Hardy Orange grows pretty well.



Just an FYI Osage Orange is more closely related to mulberry than orange, don' let the name fool ya. The fruit is rarely eaten due to its latex like sap. Both people and animals tend to avoid eating it.
 
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