The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Bouche-Thomas hedges

Bouche-Thomas hedgeThe last forest garden tidbit that caught my fancy was Robert Hart's Bouche-Thomas hedges.  He planted apple trees diagonally so that they grew into each other and created a rigid fence like the one shown in the drawing here.  Since I'm currently in the research stage of including hedges on our property, these looked intriguing.

Overall, I found Robert Hart's Forest Gardening to be a bit disappointing since it was low on how to information and on plants suitable for North American climates.  His book isn't a reference work so much as it is a dreamer's manifesto.  But it often takes a dreamer to bring an idea like forest gardening to a temperate climate.  The next generation of forest gardeners are still working to make his dream a reality.

Mark is also a dreamer, bringing the automatic chicken waterers used by the pros to the backyard.

This post is part of our Robert Hart's Forest Gardening lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I'm glad you mentioned this. I have much hedge planning over the next few years as I am considering an orchard on some of our land. The hedges will be for wind deflection and with the hope of keeping deer out. I am thinking carriganna tho, since I think it can grow thick enough to dissuade the deer. Then on the lee side of the hedge a couple of rows of various evergreens. Luckily its a pretty big field.
Comment by SoapBoxTech Sat Feb 27 17:40:32 2010
I forgot to ask, wouldn't the apple trees just bend themselves back upward to growing straight up?
Comment by SoapBoxTech Sat Feb 27 17:41:47 2010

I don't know if these hedges would be much good in a real hedge situation --- apple trees are just too tasty to keep any animals back! I think your idea is good, or using some kinds of thorny plants like wild roses or the osage-oranges we're going to try. I suspect the Bouche-Thomas hedges are more of a method of saving space and adding in more species in a small area, something Robert Hart was obsessed with.

I suspect you'd have to keep training/pruning the trees every year, like an espalier. A lot of work if all you want is a living fence! But not so bad if you've just got a bit of space in a city setting and want to line your fence with apple trees.

Comment by anna Sat Feb 27 20:01:30 2010

I have had 5 cherry trees and six apple trees planted as B-T hedges in my back yard in Tasmania since 1983. The system is effective at maximising output from minimum area but requires constant attention to pruning to prevent the hedge becoming a thicket of vertical stems.

The system depends on reducing the dominance of the apical bud (the top bud on the leader stem or laterals, thereby inducing heavier and earlier fruiting, which in turn reduces vegetative growth. It works reasonably well, but in my experience needs a winter prune and a summer trim. Miss either and pretty soon the natural desire of the trees to grow UP will take over and all the laterals will grow vertically.

This is just one version of a range of cultural systems intended to increase fruit production at the expense of branch growth. It would not work to contain stock or exclude wildlife: the structure must be kept open for light to penetrate to the far side of the hedge to ripen the fruit

Comment by Tony Fri Jun 15 00:01:33 2012
Tony --- I really appreciate you chiming in! It's good to know that this isn't the kind of low work, animal-proof hedge I'm looking for, but might suit someone who needs to maximize output from a small space.
Comment by anna Fri Jun 15 07:13:07 2012

Thanks for this post and the comments which are valuable. I really love your site and what you are doing.

I am going to try this at our urban local.

Keep up the great work.

Comment by Sam Tue Mar 17 14:18:15 2015

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