Learn how to establish a living fence in your own yard with Blain’s Farm & Fleet.
Living fences are established to provide privacy, block wind and noise and crate “edge habitats” for wildlife. They can also be as impenetrable as a man-made fence. Typically, a living fence is created by planting trees and shrubs close together on the living fence line. You can use our step-by-step guide to establish a living fence.
1. Plot out a Fence Line: Living fences are often used along a property line or around a garden. The fence needs to be accessible to water and sunlight. It is also helpful to plant on relatively flat or only gently rolling ground so that the fence plants can grow evenly.
2. Choose the Plants: A living fence can consist of one or multiple species of trees, shrubs and perennials. The plants you choose will depend on what grows best in your region and the intended purpose of your fence. We recommend you consult your local nursery regarding which plant species are hardiest in your region and will suite your needs.
3. Work the Dirt: Start by removing weeds and other debris along your fence line. Then till the ground the length of the fence and approximately 2 feet wide, depending on the plant(s) you chose for your fence. Motorized rototillers work best for this job since so much ground needs to be adequately tilled.
4. Feed the Dirt: To ensure your living fence has healthy steady growth it is important to start it off with nutritious soil. This can be provided by placing 2-4 inches of organic matter or fertilizing soil over the tilled line and then mixing those nutrients into the soil with the rototiller. The organic matter should consist of compost, peat moss or manure.
5. Planting the Fence: Living fences are usually started with stem or root cuttings, seeds or pre-started nursery plants. Ask local nursery staff how close the plants should be planted for a living fence. The fall is the best time to plant trees and shrubs. Once you have planted your fence promptly cover the soil with mulch, straw or wood chips to block weed growth. After the ground cover is in place, water your fence so that the soil can settle.
6. Water Requirements: Newly planted fences should be watered several times a week, especially during the summer. Due to their fence line configuration a soaker hose is the most efficient method of keeping a fence adequately and evenly hydrated.
7. Fertilizing the Fence: Many live fences do well with a general fertilizer, but if your fence includes specialty plants, such as roses, then a specialty fertilizer should be applied to those plants. It is recommended that the fence is fertilized in April and again in June or July.
8. Pruning: Most mature plants need to be pruned at least once a year. When you prune your fence you are “training” it to grow even and full. Be aware that hedges have a tendency to grow thicker on the top than on the bottom. This causes them to be lopsided and their lower branches will die off because they are blocked from the sun by the upper branches. This can be prevented with adequate pruning.
In the beginning, a living fence requires more maintenance. You must hoe out the weeds, mulch the bed, water and prune frequently. But, in three to five years, you will have a beautiful, low maintenance, mature living fence which provides many benefits to your property and the environment.