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The benefits of planting a hedgerow

 
gardener
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Hedgerows are Awesome

This week's blog post - What is a Hedgerow and Why You Should Plant One is all about hedgerows and the benefits of them.

Here are the benefits of hedgerows covered in the blog post:

1. Serve as low-maintenance “fencing” once established.
2. Support local wildlife such as birds.
3. Create beneficial micro-climates and reduce watering needs.
4. Provide a harvest.
5. Add beauty to your homestead.

Ever since my wife and I moved to our homestead I have been planting hedgerows along the boundaries of the property. Each year I have added more and counting the new hedgerows that I planted last fall/winter/spring there are approximately 570 feet of hedgerows on my homestead. Over the next 5 years I plan to expand some of these and add approximately 700 feet of additional hedgerows.

I think hedgerows can be a great addition to your homestead. What about you? Have you planted any hedgerows on your property?



Hedgerows can Provide a Harvest



One of the great benefits of a hedgerow is that they can provide you a great harvest in addition to all the other benefits. Really, this benefit is a bonus but I wanted to include it as a reminder that you can design a hedgerow using edible plants.

That picture is showing some perennial greens I harvested just the other day from one of my hedgerow. These greens include dandelions, chard (that over wintered), miners lettuce, and Pacific water leaf. It was great getting these "free" greens!

But you can also plant fruit trees, berries, and many other edible plants in your hedgerows. I think hedgerows are a great place to plant perennial vegetables, especially the ones you are unsure about but want to try out.

Hedgerows can also blend very easily into a food forest.

I'm working on establishing a new food forest that is surrounded on 2 sides by an existing large hedgerow and I'm considering planting hedgerows on the other 2 sides. This way the inside of the food forest would become a nice little sanctuary for people to visit.

It makes sense that hedgerows would blend into a food forest since hedgerows are essentially mimicking the edge of a natural forest which tends to be much denser than the interior of the forest.

Have you added edible plants to your hedgerow(s)? Have you planted them alongside a food forest? Please share your experience in the comments.

Get Started with Hedgerows


*My front hedgerow which is in its 3rd year. It is still filing out but it is already providing some great benefits to my homestead.

Make sure to visit the blog post to get more information on hedgerows and how to get started.

Hedgerows really are awesome additions to a homestead. The blog post covers the basics of a hedgerow, the benefits they provide and some information on the steps to plant your own. There is also a cheat-sheet that covers some additional information including some useful questions to think through. You can sign-up for my weekly newsletter to get the cheat-sheet.

I would love to hear what you think about hedgerows and if you have planted one on your homestead! If you are one of the first to leave a comment on this thread there will likely be apples waiting for you. Plus, if you go to the blog post and are the first from permies to leave a "good" comment on the actual blog post I got a piece of pie for you! Just make sure to comment here too saying you commented on the blog post so I can give you your pie (if you use 2 separate names please tell me!).

Thank you!
 
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What a wonderful idea. This idea has come along at the PERFECT time & I most certainly will be instituting a hedgegrow along the length of my front yard - for several reasons.  

I was  in the backyard today and my dogs were going crazy about something they had seen in the front yard. After going to investigate, I discovered a lady with her dog on a retractable leash and the dog had just finished pooping in my front yard. The lady picked up the mess, however, no apology was forthcoming. I was gobsmacked & was rendered completely speechless. I told my husband that we needed to put a fence up ASAP.

I also like the idea of having more spaces for my backyard birds to hide and play. I’ll make sure to plant some goodies for them to be able to forage for.

So this hedgegrow idea came at the perfect time! Thank you & 🤗 😘
 
pollinator
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A word of caution - in my experience hedges don't play nicely with vegetable gardens. The root systems spread a considerable distance and I notice that my vegetable do less well near the hedge. I would consider 10ft a good distance to keep a hedge from a crop that needed optimal conditions.

That said, they are great on property boundaries, and when well maintained and laid can make good stock proof barriers.
 
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I've got a small meadow that I'm slowly enhancing with fruit trees, berries and veggie garden.  I've noticed that the bottom edge, where it drops off a bit too much for mowing, allows junk trees (sumac and honey locust) to volunteer and encroach.  I've begun cutting these down and mulching them for my beds.  My plan is to introduce hazelnuts along that line, but I'm not sure what else.  This will be my hedgerow.  On the other side, is a patch of wild blackberries that used to be productive, but is now overrun with honeysuckle.  Now that I've got the poison ivy controlled, I'm spending more time hacking back and pulling out the honeysuckle, which swarms over the junk trees too.  Suggestions for inter-plantings with hazelnuts?  I do have some young holly trees in there, hoping some are female, for the seasonal decorative berries.
 
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BTW the phrase 'dragged through a hedge backwards' is the look you get from forcing your way down the middle of a double hedge ie two rows of shrubs/trees planted close together. Ask me how I know(!)

Speaking of moving through hedges, I like that hedgerows provide wildlife corridors - areas for critters to get from place to place, as well as live with relative safety.
 
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Hedge rows can have amazing benefits. Helping to fix nitrogen in the soil, leaf dropping for fall/winter mulch. We have planted an juniper hedge. We wanted an evergreen hedge on the western edge of the front lawn. Around the junipers are bulbs by the and perennial useful flowers between the trees. We also use the space between the trees for our herbs. This hedge will eventually grow up an in to provide privacy, reduce dust from the road, provide afternoon shade, habitats and microclimates. =)

It does seem best to keep annual veggies a slight distance from perennial roots. Our trees are small so we haven't noticed this being an issue with our annual goods like nasturtiums, basil and lemongrass.

We are also looking at planting edible hedges around other key areas of the farm. We are on an interesting triangle shaped acres. Where the house and front yard are by the road and our acres of pasture and forest our splay out behind us.
Hazelnut, Viburnum triloba (high cranberry), glossy abelia, perhaps some muscadine and/or black raspberry trellis.

We, like many a mindful grower, stack as many functions into each element as we can. We keep our hedges and tree plantings to a minimum of three species for diversity. We select the plants that will thrive and provide the most benefits to that area. Which has been challenging going from Phoenix zone 13 to a zone 7 in rural western NC. It's been fun (and challenging) learning new patterns.

Love the idea of hedges surrounding a garden. What a delight it would be to spend some time in such a place. This year we are growing daughter a sunflower house.

Happy growing
~Sena
 
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Great post. I did extensive hedgerows on my site before I became nomadic. It was mixed Pacific Northwest natives, useful exotic, fruiting, pollinator, and ornamental.  I noticed a big increase in the birds, insects, and wildlife as the hedgerow developed. And the privacy on a main county road was wonderful. It was slightly analogous to a stretched out food forest. I planted close and planned on thinning and coppicing.
I hoped planting densely would discourage blackberries. There is probably threads on Himalayan blackberries, I’ll check. But one thing I noticed was between my conservation plantings, food forests, hedgerows I got overwhelmed by the blackberries. Because mowing is no longer applicable. And the increased bird population brought the blackberry seeds into the food forest and hedgerows. I’d do it all over however.
I didn’t gather data but it seemed the hedgerows helped create micro climates.
 
pollinator
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I saw a few nice hedgerows in England and so many more places where it looked like they were needed.

In East Africa, tagasaste or tree lucerne is planted to mark property boundaries and as a fodder crop. On a small farm it can make up a good percentage of the total area.

It provides more nitrogen than anything else that grows there and fodder comprable to alfalfa. It is grazed directly, but also harvested by hand. It also becomes the primary fuel for many families. Well established groves are populated by other plants that benefit from the leaf drop. Bird's nest in it and other small creatures take shelter.

Some areas can be quite windy. On windy sites that have loose soil, it can prevent wind erosion and it can even add to the soil by working as a trap for soil being blown off of scrubland. Similar to a snow fence. These hedgerows help to create livable enclaves in otherwise desolate conditions.
 
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A well planned hedgerow is supportive of bees also, according to a lady who was doing research in California. She said that they'd actually taken measurements of the increase in pollination of strawberries based on both the presence of a short hedgerow, and the width of the field (wider fields had pollination drop-off as the plants exceeded certain distances). She was particularly studying native vs domestic bees. She spoke at a local talk about bees that was so unexpectedly popular that they had to double the room size - people are starting to pay attention!

I would also expect that a hedgerow would help block/capture the dust and air pollution from roadways. We have trees in front of our house, but I'd like to improve the shrub layer if I could, but it's dry and shaded in the growing season, so that limits my options.
 
pollinator
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Hedges are excellent, they stop the wind dragging off all that lovely humidity my plants crave in summer, which seem to get dryer and hotter every year.
I've done a hedge of a rough red willow, which i use to make small gates, and i've done another hedge of basketwillow, which is facing south in front of that a row of sunchokes/ topinambour, in front of that row a line of sages/siberian pea shrub and in front of the sage rosemary. The rosemary loves that wall of green, i envision to have growing there. Not worried about it growing out of control, since i chop and drop and use everything as mulch which saves me feeding them and watering again. The mulchi use for the plants i  want to see growing, i don't see cutting plants into the shape i like to see as a chore any longer. Sharp quality tools and hedges for the win!
And mini hedges of thyme and rosemary and sage around my veggie patch are starting to take off this year. Sage hydrolat is a beautiful odor and rosemary hydrolat is great for hair and especially thinning hair, so hedges are superb!
 
Daron Williams
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Wow lots of great responses! Great to see!

Joann – A hedgerow would work great for solving that problem but depending on how big the plants are you plant it might take a couple years to fully solve the problem. You could also put in a short temp fence to keep the dog back while the plants grow.  I had to put in some temp fences around my hedgerows too so they could get established without deer pressure. Thank you for your comment and good luck with your hedgerow!

Michael – Good point with that though it does depend on the species you plant your hedgerow with. I have been growing vegetables in my hedgerows and they have been happy. But I can easily see some species (willows for example) causing the issues you brought up so good point and good reminder!

Ruth – I like your idea of planting hazelnuts and you could mix in some wild roses. Otherwise, you might try some currants or gooseberries. What do the rest of you think? Any ideas for Ruth?

Hilary – lol, yeah I know that look 😉 I agree—hedgerows are great for wildlife corridors 😊

Sena – Thanks for sharing! You and Michael both make good points about keeping a large hedgerow back a bit from the garden. But a lot of smaller shrubs and even some trees should be fine closer in. But I would still give 6 feet or so of space between the hedgerow and the garden.

I like your ideas and great comments about stacking functions and about the benefits hedgerows provide.

Thanks for your comment!

Jeremy – Thanks for sharing and sounds like you had some nice hedgerows. Your experience with wildlife sounds similar to mine.

That is an interesting point about the blackberries. I have been removing ones at my place but I could see it being an ongoing issue from birds dropping the seeds. I’m hoping mine will be wide enough to avoid this issue by casting enough shade. But I’m sure I will need to go in and remove blackberries each year.

Thanks for the comment!

Dale – Interesting! Thanks for sharing your observations from your travels. I really liked the ones I got to see from my time in England and that is a big reason why I got interested in growing them on my own property.

Thanks for sharing!

Jay – Very interesting! Thanks for sharing! I know the bees, bumblebees and hummingbirds love my hedgerows 😊

I’m hoping that my hedgerow along the main road will provide some of the benefits you mentioned. I’m growing much taller trees in that hedgerow to help block the dust and air pollution.

Thanks for sharing!

Hugo – Thanks for your comment! Yeah, willows can work great and it sounds like you have some good hedgerows setup. I like that you are adding other plants in addition to the willows. Always lovely to see a good mix of plants growing together.
 
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looking for ideas for hedgerow plants that deer won't eat.  freezing winter, lots of sun

 
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Hi thekla, in my experience there is very little deer won’t eat. If they’re hungry they will eat it. Of course there are exceptions. Daffodils, lavender, rosemary, oleander in my area. Not sure if these will grow in your area.
 
Daron Williams
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:looking for ideas for hedgerow plants that deer won't eat.  freezing winter, lots of sun



Hello! Jack had some good suggestions but this is a challenge. In my own case I decided to put up a temporary double fence (fence on the front and back of the hedgerow) around my hedgerows. This way I can get my hedgerows established without deer pressure and then once they are big enough to deal with the deer I can remove the fence.

But there are plants that are resistant to deer or can take the browse. In my area some of the wild roses can handle deer browse. The deer really like them but the plants don't seem to mind and still form nice dense thickets. I have planted these on the outside of my hedgerows on the side where the deer come. This gives them something to eat but also helps me get a dense hedgerow.

Here are some lists of deer resistant plants:

- https://permaculturenews.org/2017/08/04/deer-resistant-plants-trees-edible/
- https://lilliehouse.blogspot.com/2016/04/deer-proof-permaulture.html

I struggled with deer at my place and ultimately just decided to setup temporary fencing but it was a pain. But now my plants are doing great and deer are not an issue. I hope to be able to remove the temp fences in 3 to 5 years.

Thanks for the comment and good luck!
 
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