A privacy hedge primarily consists of shrubs and / or small trees that are planted close together in a line. As the plants grow larger the living fence becomes tighter and stronger; making it as impenetrable as a manufactured fence. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to establishing a living fence in lieu of a man-made fence.
Advantages of Having a Privacy Hedge
- Privacy hedges can last a lot longer than man-made fences. In fact, they can last as long as the life span of the species of plant they consist of, which could be several hundred years. Privacy hedges do not fall prey to insects such as termites and they do not dry rot and warp. Instead of deteriorating, living fences strengthen with time.
- They support ecological diversity by creating “edge habitats,” which establish a natural balance among species of insects and small animals. This balance cuts down on over populations of species which damage crops.
- The leaves and fruit from privacy hedges produce healthy forage for small animals which may not have much of a food source otherwise.
- Even humans can “forage” off of their privacy hedges if they consist of plants which grow leaves, fruit and seeds that are consumable. Some living fence plants are also used for medicinal purposes for humans and domestic animals.
- Some plants that are used for privacy hedges produce fiber which can be processed into cloth and rope.
- Gardens benefit in several ways from living fences. First, a privacy hedge can grow much taller than a manufactured fence, which makes it suitable for keeping out high jumping animals such as deer. Second, the thickness of a living fence naturally filters out weed seeds. Lastly, living fences produces bio waste which can be created into compost and used in the garden.
- For both small gardens and large farms, living fences create very important windbreaks which reduce wind erosion, reduce soil drying and lower stress of livestock. They also reduce water erosion which could otherwise destroy crops.
- Livestock enjoy living fences because they provide shade from the hot sun.
- Instead of electric fences to keep in livestock, farmers have successfully utilized the natural method of planting living fences which have thick thorns to deter the animals from escaping.
Disadvantages of Having a Privacy Hedge
- Labor intensive to install. You have to plant several hundred plants per 100 yards of fence line.
- You must be patient. It takes time for a living fence to grow into the desired barrier.
- While a privacy hedge is small and vulnerable it must be protected against natural predators such as deer and livestock.
- Some privacy hedges are not well suited for containing livestock because they readily consume the live fence. For this reason and those listed above, it is very important to carefully choose which plant species to include in a live fence.
There are many benefits to having a privacy hedge as long as they are well researched before they are planted. It is essential that the right plant species for the environment and the purpose of the privacy hedge has been chosen and the labor requirements are understood. It might sound like a lot of work, but a well thought out privacy hedge, which can live for hundreds of years and provide many benefits to the environment, is well worth the effort.