Our little smallholding is surrounded by very appropriate but rather ugly stock fencing. We needed something that would fit in well with the rural nature of our village, but that would keep our livestock safe (and, frankly, would keep other people’s dogs out). However, the stock fencing that was in existence when we moved in was rather more hole than fence and so we decided to have it renewed. When this was done we were left with a functional but rather ugly fence that had bare earth all around it and allowed passers by to see right in (which we don’t mind up by the orchard and sheep paddock but would like to curtail a bit down by the house where the children will play).
We’d always thought that we’d like to border the property with native hedging and our foraging adventures in the autumn suddenly made us realise that we’d be wasting a major opportunity if we planted anything other than edible plants along the boundary of the paddock we’re going to convert into a kitchen garden. Surely it should be productive as well as practical? With three acres of land to fence, we decided that we’d start small and try to plant bare-rooted whips during the dormant period along the sunnier of our borders. We did think about buying more established plants but we’re in no enormous rush, and it occurred to us that as we’re in this smallholding project for the long haul, it’d be better to get plants that have a chance to establish themselves properly. We also always keep an eye on our aim to encourage as much wildlife as possible on our little homestead and so it was good to know that this kind of edible hedging would provide not only us, but also various birds and mammals with edible delights as well as nesting places. Our final selection included:
Wild pear, crab apple, hazel, blackthorn, hawthorn, elder, dog rose, tayberry and blackberry
We planned to plant the whips in staggered rows with five plants per metre in a ditch along the fence where they’d hopefully spring up and cover the ugly fencing in a glorious edible spray from next year. We might even get the odd berry this summer, you never know! Just think of all the cordials, jams, syrups, liqueurs and gins we’ll be able to sock away, as well as all of the lovely fresh berries we’ll be enjoying right through the Autumn. It’s all a waiting game and I have to say, I find it enormously satisfying planning ahead for this kind of thing. Like when we planted our orchard, there’s something very comforting in planting for the future. Would it be nice to have immediate bumper harvests? Well, yes, of course it would, but even so, it’s going to be so very fulfilling seeing all of our fruit trees, and raspberry canes and fruit bushes grow and crop more and more each year However, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that. The recent birth of our youngest son has basically meant we’ve delayed an awful lot of the boundary planting we wanted to get done this dormant season so we’re going to do a lot of it at the end of the year. It’s a shame to lose a year’s growth but we’ve simply run out of time – I can’t dig or pull wheelbarrows or anything for another month so my poor husband ends up doing it all. We did, however, plant some leftover blackberries and tayberries up in the orchard next to a boundary fence so we’ll have a small start. It’s a metre and we’ve got 349 still to plant up, but at least it’s a start!