Friday, August 29, 2014

The Edible Hedge Experiment





Two borders of the house and barn area of the Small-Hold sit alongside a county maintained gravel road and a State Maintained blacktop road. One thing I have always liked about our location is the line of sight view we have. In every direction we have a minimum of at least a half mile or so of open ground, at least until the Corn get's up above head height anyway.

Of course this is a double edged sword. It means we are pretty exposed for all to see as well. A set up like this is common North of where we are located and kinda comes with the territory of large agricultural areas but it becomes much more rare South of us as you enter the Ozark highlands. The plus side to this arrangement however is all around us the land closes back in and becomes a series of rugged ridge lines,  creek beds and hardwood gulleys that are not easily traversed on foot. Basically to enter the open areas locally any group of people would easily be funneled into a few points of access which means while we maybe exposed it isn't hard to figure out which avenue of approach those on foot would be forced to make.

The other big disadvantage of the open borders we have is that they are situated under power lines. I hate powerlines. It seems like everywhere the government has put a road the electric company has seen fit to demand, and get easement right of way and build a damned power line. In order to avoid what they consider their right if you have road frontage you almost have to choose between a house and a tree really. While I know we all love electricity and I certainly like the loads of wood chips the tree trimmers bring me from cleaning out these power lines they are a real pain when it comes to strengthening your borders.

I tried a number of things over the years but nothing really satisfied the power companies. I say companies because I actually have two different ones to deal with here. One on my side of the road and a different company that provides service to the other side but runs it's lines on our side.

I grew small hedges that were not suppose to grow more than 8 foot in height. They didn't believe me and poisoned them.

I grew a large hedge that did moderately well. It was actually a form of Elm tree that proved resistant to their poisons and grew fast enough that when they came by and cut it within a year it was a nice hedge once again. It also had the advantage of being large enough to burn as firewood if I caught them cutting it and asked em to leave me the large logs. The trouble is over the years this hedge has been loosing ground very slowly to the cutting, poisoning and Elm disease we have in the region.

Then about five years ago I had an epiphany. Actually while I was trying to push through a gulley that had become filled with Wild Plum I realized it was as impenetrable as any hedge I had ever seen. I also knew that trying to get rid of these trees is a real pain unless you get em down enough to constantly mow over them to keep them from coming back.

So I started transplanting Wild Plum seedlings along the half of the hedge that had been killed off over the years by the power line crews. The picture at the top is the part of a section almost 30 yards long I got established and have been letting it grow. It's well over 12 foot tall in some places and almost impossible for a man to push through without making a lot of noise and a good bit of cussing.

The best part about this is that this entire section was cut completely down to the ground only about 3 years ago. It grew back to a hedge within the first year after being cut completely and is already producing fruit within 3 years.




The power line guys come around every seven years like clockwork and cut the lines out completely. Sometimes you can actually talk them into just shearing off the tops but since you never know for sure when they will come by that's an iffy proposition. The poison spraying guys come by twice a year but this little belt of Wild Plum has proven more than resistant to their sprayers and the belt is now thick enough that they only get the side facing the road. This hedge also cuts down on gravel dust as well and gives me a nice batch of Wild Plums to pick from the inside.

One of the local Prepping partners has even used these Plums to make preserves and stuff with although I never have. I have eaten them raw and they are actually very sweet but as things progress around here I am finding I am getting much more produce of various kinds than the Wife and I can harvest each year so I am happy to let my local partners have all they want.

It's taken years but so far this type of natural hedge has proven all I hoped it would be. Resilient enough to withstand the cuttings and poisonings. Thick enough and fast growing enough to act as a hedge and the added benefit of producing much needed fruit within only 3 years of being totally cut down.

Oh.. Ya... And the Bees LOVE the early Spring Blooms!!!

There is nothing I can do about the power companies sending their crews through. I could abandon the  right of way completely but I would lose a lot of ground in doing that. At least I know that this type of hedge can bounce back from their devastation within only a few short years though. After planting these trees I had to wait for them to come by and attack them then wait to see how they bounced back but after all these years I think I finally found the perfect fit for a hedgerow under these conditions.

And I am pretty sure this hedge will be here long after the crews stop coming.

Keep Prepping Everyone !!!!!




16 comments:

  1. I have some of those plum trees started and based on your experiment I will be planting them on the property borders where I don't want surprises. A corridor of sorts would be easier to defend. I already have deep ditches in place. I haven't had any plums yet but this is the second year since I set them out along the garden fence to help break up some of the wind. Sounds like I need to be careful where I plant them since they are so hard to kill.

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    1. SF - They are hard to kill unless you mow em regularly then they stay down. The other advantage I found to them this year which I should have mentioned is that the tent caterpillars seem to prefer the Plum trees over my Apples that are nearby. Since the Plums grow so fast I can eradicate the caterpillars before they start eating my Apple trees.

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  2. dear gawd....do i HAVE TO LEAVE you another comment full of praise. well, i'm not gonna do it. just not. your head is already too big - bahahahahah! buddy, yer setting a standard that we all have to follow!

    your friend,
    kymber

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    1. Ya know I love ya kymber :)

      And thank you!!!

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  3. We have lots of wild plums. In this climate we only get fruit every 7 years or so, and then I make jam. Really good jam. Have to fight the deer for the fruit.

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    1. Tewshooz - Ya know I never really checked to see if the individual trees produce every year here or if each clump of em has different trees producing on different years. The Plum trees here never seem to come as individuals but in clumps and each clump seems to have Plums every year. Hmmmm I should check that out.

      The ones I have as a hedge are not even the tip of the iceberg. Theres a stand of em down by my Western Bee hives that is about 100 yards long along the road edge and so full of Plums some of the limbs sag and break each year. One thing we have a lot of around here are Plums.

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    2. Around here beating the coons and birds to em is the problem though.

      Coons will clear em out in one night if you aren't quick

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  4. i would plant as many around the outside of your property. If the power co. cuts say 10 ft from the road I would plant 12 all around. What do you think?? Just think how happy the bees would bee......

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    1. Rob - The power company will cut almost everything in about a 30 foot strip. 15 foot either side of the pole at least and claim they can go out to 40. They are very touchy about it honestly and I have seen em demand to cut down trees that had no way of getting into their lines and the courts backing em up.

      I seen em kill a line of dwarf fruit trees that couldn't grow more than 12 foot high and were 20 foot away from their lines. Then come by and spray anything they missed. This clump of plums seems to be surviving their efforts though so I keep helping them expand.

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  5. Hmmm, my local power company isn't so horrid about it thankfully, but I've been trying to find something that'd grow along the road side, under the power lines.....I'd about settled on the American Hazelnut, but I'd love to have plums.....any idea on what variety this is (other than wild) and how it'd do in a very cold zone 5 climate?

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    1. Ruth - I do not have a clue as to a variety. These Plum trees are so thick around here they literally grow everywhere especially under powerlines and fences where the birds drop their seeds. Most people just mow em down or try and get rid of them and consider them a nuisance I just decided to try em as a hedge because the first few had already started on their own. They don't look like any domestic Plum I have seen more like a small CrabApple to me in many ways.

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    2. Looking up "wild plum" nets me a USDA page that says they're reasonably native to this area, so I may have to take a closer look at them!

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  6. I had always thought that I might use blackberries as a natural hedge. I'll add wild plum to the list as well.

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    1. K - Black berries would be an ideal hedge too around here as would Goose Berries but both of those seem to be less tolerant of the power line guys spraying poison and they grow low enough they can spray the entire plant. The Plums seem to get tall enough the guys only spray the outside facing the road so the trees survive.

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  7. Not at all familiar with them. But I look at the distribution map and can see why. I seem to choose locations to live just a little outside of their main growing area.

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