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Creating a Living fence

I've got another exciting project on the horizon, and just like my previous experiments, it's a long-term commitment. So, you'll want to stick around to stay in the loop.


My upcoming endeavor involves creating a living fence. Ever heard of it? The history of living fences goes back to ancient times. Landowners used them for generations to cleverly tackle different challenges on their land. Farmers or gardeners would plant thorny shrubs and trees around certain areas to create natural impenatrable borders, keeping animals safe, away from crops, or houses and preventing soil erosion. In medieval Europe, they crafted hedgerows as both property markers and livestock enclosures. Today, with a growing focus on eco-friendly farming and high fencing prices living fences seem a good avenue to again visit as a culture. They offer practical benefits while also contributing to biodiversity and sustainable agriculture in farming. They are essentially a boundary made from living bushes or trees, woven together to form a solid barrier or planted close to naturally interweave into a thick mass. The goal? To create a barrier that discourages anyone or an animal from attempting to cross it.


There's a variety of bushes and trees to choose from depending on the purpose. In my case, I want to build a living fence along our meadow bordering the road. After extensive research, I settled on a combination of plants that meet three essential criteria.


Firstly, they must be thorny or grow thick, creating an unwelcoming barrier. Secondly, they should grow fast because who wants to wait generations for their fence to fill in? And lastly, the chosen plants must be easy to contain and not overly invasive.

So, here's the lineup: Honey locust, black locust, horse apple, and I'm contemplating adding buckthorn. The locusts, with their hard wood and fast growth, were pioneers' favorites for fence posts. Horse apples, despite their misleading name, have large thorns and grow rapidly. As for buckthorn, I'm still weighing its invasive tendencies.


Now, getting these plants wasn't as simple as a trip to the nursery. Buying saplings in the quantity I needed would've cost a fortune. Instead, I've opted to grow them myself, despite the extra time it'll take. Remember that post asking if anyone had osage orange and pawpaw fruit that would save some and get them to me? I was collecting for this project! A friend helped me get osage orange fruits, and I'm using their seeds to start seedlings. Honey and black locust seeds were ordered online.


To ensure successful growth and protect them from curious animals Kenny built an "airbed" – a raised bed fully enclosed with wire fabric. This design promotes healthy root systems, and it'll keep pests from stealing my seeds or nuts. These seeds need a cold, freezing, wet season for stratification, a natural process that aids germination. Fortunately, as we're heading into winter, I won't need to mimic these conditions.


The bed is set, filled, and planted, and I've thrown in a few extra experiments, like pawpaw seeds, plums, cranberries, and even some dried apple seeds from 2016 that my dad saved. I'm also trying my luck with American chestnut seeds from a tree in our upper orchard, aiming to contribute to the resurgence of this near-extinct species.

So, the air bed is sealed up for winter, and come spring, we'll see what sprouts! Stay tuned for updates on this green venture. 🌱



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