The art of hedge laying...

I've really become keen on using local (read: free stuff growing on my property) materials to construct various projects on the new farm - fences, chicken house, carport, small guest cabins, etc.  I'm sure it's becoming a familiar phrase to blog-readers,  however during my research I've discovered the re-emerging art of hedging.

Coming from a very small city in the heart of the Canadian prairie, I had always assumed that a "hedge" was the huddle of cotoneasters delineating our patch of front lawn from that of our neighbour.  As it turns out, hedges have a long and storied history - particularly in the UK, where there is a recent revival of the knowledge, use and construction.  Hedges may vary by style (often geographically), composition, binders/stakes, purpose, etc.

What exactly is a hedge?

A hedge is generally defined as fence or boundary formed by closely growing bushes or shrubs. These shrubs have been cut in such a way as to lay closely together, forming a barrier to livestock, a weather shelters for crops, or to simply provide a pleasing screen from obtrusive visual elements.

Why lay a hedge instead of regular fence?

Although it does take time for plants to become a usable size, this is generally not cost-prohibitive process.  A hedge provides habitat for birds, small mammals and insects.  Hedges are a living structure, using unprocessed materials which are not chemically treated or otherwise poisonous to the environment and being composed of natural materials present in the landscape and they are generally quite aesthetically pleasing.

All of these benefits aside, hedge laying is not a quick and easy task.  It takes time for plants to grow to a useable size and the construction of the hedge can be quite daunting - particularly if you have hundreds of metres to construct!  Luckily, there are some pretty fantastic online resources for history, materials and construction - google "hedge laying" and there are thousands of websites and videos available.

Our priority upon arriving at the property will be to construct two separate containment areas - one for the boy and one for the dogs.  Alders are quite common in the area and are prolific behind the proposed house site.  These alders will likely form the basis of my first hedge experiment.  If all goes well, and once we have a feel for the property, I will likely start planting with an eye to contain future livestock.

I wish I'd known all this when we lived in Wolseley, as the quarter-acre property we purchased there was entirely surrounded by severely neglected lilacs and maple suckers - both of which would have been perfect material for a dog-containing, perimeter fence.

As an aside - did you also know that the Nova Scotia government will provide land owners with spruce and pine seedlings for reforestation? Minimum order is 1 000 plants and are available for as little as .14/ea! 


  1. Saskatchewan has a similar program for farmers in an effort to create windbreaks and prevent soil erosion, although it's a mish mosh of foliage that includes lilacs, elms, apple trees, etc. Here's a little tip I learned from a farmer friend: if you contact them on the last day of the program and say "if you have any extra trees you need to get rid of, let me know" you may just find yourself with several thousand plants... for free. Thus proving the old adage that you can, indeed, have too much of a good thing.

  2. Sadly the SK gov't got rid of the Shelterbelt program this year, I believe. I did check into it - but you also had to actually have a farm (no kiddin')!

    My sister's boyfriend's family has a farm, and volunteered to get us some plants, but alas the program had already been discontinued! This is sad for us, but even more so for SK farmers who need shelter from the constant winds.