Growing Hedge Rows for Privacy and Security

We’ve all heard that particular proverb. Good fences make good neighbors. For those of us reading this venue, we all have a specific mindset that probably keeps that at the forefront of our minds. We have our space. We have our preps. We have spent time and effort placing a lot of emphasis on keeping ourselves one step ahead. So how do we keep out everyone else?. Better yet… how do we keep prying eyes out? Still best, how do we create our sanctuary without drawing any attention to ourselves whatsoever?

We can build a fence, but a fence can be cut. Fences cost money. …Money that perhaps we would like to spend on other things. We could conceivably dig a moat, but if our land isn’t flat (let’s face it, it’s probably not). A moat also isn’t much of a deterrent unless it’s filled with something particularly unsavory, like crocodiles or piranhas. Furthermore, a moat is going to take a lot of effort, probably employing heavy equipment, and again, costing a great deal of money.

What we really need is something that serves as a hardy physical and psychological barrier, screens what is behind it, costs very little, and mostly takes care of itself. Maybe it could even get more robust as time goes on… Impossible, you say? Perhaps not.

In Europe, one long standing tradition of creating a fence against neighboring property is to plant a hedge. Now before you scoff, push out of your mind the juniper bushes freshly trimmed at waist height. What you want is something a bit more robust. Something wooly and wild and impenetrable…

A customary European hedge is initially a row of one particular type of woody shrub or tree planted about 1-2 feet apart. Once the tree reaches approximately 10 feet in height, an axe or hatchet is used to notch the tree at the base so that it can be bent over, and it is laid over at about a 35 degree angle from horizontal. When the entire row is done this way, the branches are woven and tangled together to form a rough and difficult to penetrate screen. As time passes, new vegetation grows up through the toppled trees and adds height to the hedge, further screening from the neighbors. This was primarily designed to contain livestock.

What we need is a system to keep out a much more ingenious invader than neighboring livestock. We want something that will stop anything short of a bulldozer or perhaps a tank. And best of all, if it’s all the same, we want something that looks nondescript and uninteresting to the passerby. If the hungry refugee has nothing to stop and look at, he likely will keep on going. The roving gang isn’t even going to slow down if they see nothing of interest. So what we need is something much more robust than the European hedge.

European hedges are often grown from the local native shrubs and trees. Locally, here in the midwest US we have several tree species that would work especially well for this type of application. Your local flora may differ a great deal where you are. My particular favorites for my location are the honey-locust, Osage orange (notably named the “hedge tree”, locally), and western red cedar. All three of these are known throughout the region as a pest. They are all fairly prolific and fast growing. The best bet is to look around and see what grows where you don’t want it to. Those will grow into the most robust living fence you can imagine.

I have not made these three tree choices lightly. These trees are chosen because of their quick growth ability, resistance to insects and blights, and ability to interplant very closely with other trees. Hardwoods such as Oak, hickory, and especially walnut, tend to crowd out other trees with chemicals secreted by their roots. However, you can interplant fruits such as mulberry, apples and pears among the locusts, Osage, and cedars.

Now, plant your trees spacing them out in a row approximately 12 to 18 inches apart. Water them. Fertilize them if necessary. Let them grow to about 5 feet in height (tree tubes may help them achieve this height but are by no means necessary). Make sure that all trees are trimmed of most side branches and splits split trunks are pruned to one side or another. This makes the final arrangement easier.

Once the trees have reached the appropriate height ( I said 5 feet, but this is not necessarily the case) you will need to notch the trunks approximately 3 inches above ground level. To notch the trunk, you should take a sturdy knife and carve approximately 2/3 of the trunk out. Alternate which side of the tree you notch, as you will be weaving the trunks together.

Once you have notched your trees, beginning with one pair, lay your trees over to about 30-to-45 degrees crossing in the middle. Go to the next set, doing the same, making sure that you achieve a true weave (in front of one, behind the next, etc). Once done, make sure that where the trees cross the second row is done in the same manner. What you end up with should look a little something like a chain link fence.

Next you need to wait for the tree to grow some more, and repeat the process as it gets taller. Since trees don’t grow at angles, it’s likely that either your initial stem will grow straight up, or perhaps a side branch will take the initiative to take off. But either way, you will be trimming from a ladder and weaving in the same way.

Obviously, one should grow other things outside the wall. Poison ivy, stinging nettles, thick brambles and rose bushes all serve as a primary deterrent long before anyone actually comes to the hedge. Making it look natural helps all that much better. Eventually your hedge will bush out and look less like a giant lattice and more like an impenetrable wall of vegetation.

Like anything, this process can be as big or as small as you want it to be, and it’s all about how much you put into it. I envision two hedges side by side about ten feet tall. The inner hedge mostly fruit trees and honey locust, while the outer hedge is made up primarily of cedar and Osage orange. Between the two is a wall made up of old tires with one sidewall cut out, filled with sand. The tire wall is about 5 feet tall and serves as a bullet stop for stray small arms fire. Above the tire wall the two hedges have been intertwined to hold it all together. The occasional observation post (OP) has been fashioned into the design and only accessible from the private side (inside) of the wall.

With a setup like this and an alleyway to a locked gate, access could be controlled in such a way that the vagrant who wandered in would automatically be covered and unable to escape. In the same respect, anyone who attempted to raid a place reinforced in such a way, would encounter a lot more resistance than they would want to, if in fact they even knew it existed.

Obviously this process takes time. Lots of time. And that is its primary downfall. Time may be something we all lack in these uncertain and trying times. It also takes a lot of work. Hard work. Expect to have scars. Consider that as better than the alternative.

For those of us who may have that place in the woods, and are just biding our time, this might be a thing worth doing, even if just for facing a public road. If one life is saved because of this information, then it has all been worth it. Good luck and God bless to all of you.


Published in: on April 11, 2009 at 1:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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