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

Hedges enclosed cottage gardens

Hedge around a cottage gardenThe traditional cottage garden had to be enclosed by a fence, hedge, or wall to prevent wandering sheep from eating up the plants.  Of these three options, a hedge was the most traditional enclosure since it was cheap and relatively easy to create.  A well developed hedge kept livestock and wind out of the garden with ease.

Traditional British hedges often contained a mixture of native trees, roses, hazelnuts, blackberries, forsythia, quince, damsons, and hawthorns.  Christopher Lloyd noted that hedges did double-duty, both keeping out unwanted livestock and providing edible plants without taking up valuable garden space.  The hedges did require trimming once or twice a year, but that was a small price to pay for free and tasty fencing.

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This post is part of our Cottage Garden 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'll be interested to see how your experiment works out. We plan on having a gray water system for the washing machine and perhaps the shower. I'm not sure that we'll do the kitchen sink because of the bits and pieces of meat, particularly, and food, in general, that may be mixed in with the water. We'll probably allow that to go to the septic tank. But, if your system works well, it seems that small amounts of protein from food products would not be a problem. Keep us posted.


Comment by Dennis Wed Mar 10 15:15:39 2010

Roland --- I've read about systems like that over here too, though they're usually set up as water treatment below parking lots. If our mycoremediation fails, I'll have to give some kind of wetland treatment a shot.

Dennis --- I'll definitely keep you posted! I suspect the meat scraps won't be a problem --- we scrape our dishes quite well since all food scraps go to the chickens. Mostly, the food that runs out the pipe is in liquid form, which I suspect the fungi will deal well with. But only time will tell...

Comment by anna Wed Mar 10 16:05:57 2010
Oops, thought both of those comments were on the same post. Going over to answer Roland on the post he actually commented on. :-)
Comment by anna Wed Mar 10 16:08:18 2010

Sorry Anna. I thought that I had posted that comment to your posting on mycoremediation.


Comment by Dennis Wed Mar 10 16:45:28 2010
In one program in a series on the BBC about three people living for a year on a victorian farm using period tools en techniques, I saw them actually weaving a hedge. The plants (not sure what they were; engineer, not botanist ;-) ) were laid flat and woven through each other to create a very dense hedge that sheep couldn't get through.
Comment by Roland_Smith Wed Mar 10 17:43:51 2010
The hedge book I've ordered on interlibrary loan still hasn't come in, so I'm hungry for bits of info like this --- thanks! It probably would make sense to do some weaving during the first few years to make the hedge grow up impenetrable.
Comment by anna Wed Mar 10 17:52:33 2010
No worries --- you confused me, but that's pretty easy on these stunning days when I spend all day in the garden and come inside worn out. :-)
Comment by anna Wed Mar 10 18:10:19 2010
Google "hedge laying techniques" or similar to see how the English do it. They actually cut part-way through tree trunks (leaving enough bark/cambium for the tree to survive) and then bend it down horizontal. They then use pruned branches and weaving techniques to peg/anchor the trunk in place while it grows back. The end result is a pretty solid wall of trunks and branches.
Comment by Darren (Green Change) Wed Mar 10 19:37:32 2010
Will do! I suspect it'll vary a lot depending on which species you use in your hedge. Luckily, I won't have to do any pruning for months since I haven't even planted our hedge yet. :-)
Comment by anna Thu Mar 11 08:34:29 2010
A shrub that is very common where I live (Alberta) is the Siberian Pea Shrub or Caragana. As its name implies, this baby can survive any freezing temperatures and in the spring makes a beautiful display of yellow flowers with the seeds setting as tiny pea-like pods. They self-seed readily (but usually just where the mother plants are) to make a really thick hedge. Their stems are rather spiny as well. A lot of people don't like them here (not sure why) but they are really effective for wind breaks and such and get to about 10' or more. They also can be grafted and pruned into a nice weeping type of tree. Farmers use them to fence off their fields. They grow really fast (faster where you are) and no doubt can easily be propagated either by seed or cutting. We just bought 1 year old sticks and planted them, pruned them down, and they went to town. Another popular hedge here is the lilac, though more so in the east. Can't beat the nice smell too.
Comment by HeatherW Thu Mar 11 11:08:59 2010
I'm going to have to do some research on the Siberian Pea Shrub. Its name sounds so familiar --- I think they talk about it in several permaculture books I've read. Having a nitrogen fixer as a hedge could make a lot of sense...
Comment by anna Thu Mar 11 17:30:29 2010
Why would having a nitrogen fixer as a hedge make sense? Any nitrogen fixed would stay firmly in place under the hedge until you dug the hedge out.
Comment by ET Thu Mar 11 20:41:20 2010

That's a good question, and I don't really have enough data to back up my feeling.  But I have read that roots extend past the dripline of trees and shrubs, so the hedges should be fixing nitrogen out in the pasture itself.  Also, people have experimented quite sucessfully with alley cropping --- using nitrogen-fixing trees on the borders of fields to fertilize the plants growing in the sun in the fields themselves.  I'd think having a nitrogen-fixing hedge would work similarly to the alley cropping system.

Comment by anna Thu Mar 11 20:58:22 2010

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