The reason a fencerow appealed to me is that it is relatively inexpensive to buy bareroot trees and shrubs and plant them close together to create a fencerow. Some types of trees or shrubs (like willows) are particularly good because they can be grafted together or even woven amongst each other as they are growing to create an almost impenetrable fence.
So this spring I decided to buy 300 Osage Orange trees as bareroot stock and plant them along the 300+ property line of our front acre. I choose that type of tree because it is known to create a fence that is "horse high, hog tight, and bull strong." Its wood is incredibly strong; I learned that it makes longer-lasting fence posts than cedar does, and it is covered with thorns that are big enough to dissuade even the most determined of predators. I figured it would be a great experiment and I was armed with a few bits of knowledge from YouTube and a diagram from Pinterest, so what could possibly go wrong?
|I mean, how hard could it be, given these pictures???|
|There are 300 trees in this box!|
Then I had to figure out exactly how to efficiently get 300 trees planted. I had watched some YouTube videos where people dug a long trench, but that was too much to do for us. I had also gotten a couple of recommendations to use a sort of auger that attaches to a drill. You drill the auger into the ground and then use the slim hole to put the tree root into. That method sounded logical, so I got the auger, attached it to a drill and prepared to plant a whole bunch of trees really fast.
Yeah, so heavy clay soil is probably not the target for that particular product. And it might be that it is designed for a hydraulic drill rather than an ordinary drill. What happened is that I couldn't get the auger more than a couple of inches into the ground.
So I decided to flip the auger over and use the long, straight part that would normally attach to the drill. I wrapped the tree root around the metal and pushed it into the ground. My thought process was that I would push the root into the ground with the metal rod and then pull the rod out while leaving the root in the ground. That worked OK a few times, but I had trouble keeping the root wrapped around the rod while I pushed it into the ground. And sometimes the root would get damaged in the process.
Take 3 ended up being my husband's suggestion. I used a shovel to split the ground open, then I tucked the root into the opening with my hands and stepped on the split to close it back up and seal the root in the ground. That worked pretty well, and after using it over 400 times, I can say that it would be my method of choice in the event that I am ever stupid enough to order 300 trees that all need to be planted quickly.
Now you might be asking, why would you have used it over 400 times when you only bought 300 trees? That is an excellent question. Remember I said there was a middle marker that we never found when we were marking the property line? Well, I found it about halfway through my little project, and I realized we had really screwed up our line. I ended up going back and pulling out all but maybe 10 or 15 trees that I had already planted and moving them about 3 feet over. So I planted closer the equivalent of almost 450 trees by the time I was done.
It was not particularly difficult work, but it took awhile to get used to avoiding the thorns on the trees. Even tiny, bareroot saplings were loaded with evil thorns. Handling them carefully became my number one priority after touching a thorn the very first time. I was impressed. If the fencerow grew as planned, I couldn't imagine anything getting through those thorns. It was also was time consuming just because of the sheer number of trees. I got to the point where I could plant about 25 trees every half hour for up to two hours. After two hours, I would start to drag and really slow down. So I spread out my effort and went out to the acreage every day for a week and got all the trees planted. I was pretty proud of my effort.
|All my little trees are planted!|
In late October, we went back out to the acreage to brush hog in preparation for the ducks' arrival. That is a great time to mow one final time because there typically isn't much growth until spring. So we went to Home Depot to rent a brush hog and drove out to the acreage expecting to spend several hours clearing as much overgrown grass and brush as we could, so the ducks would have room.
Imagine my complete shock when we got out to the acreage and discovered that it had already been brush hogged. I realized with a terrible feeling that we should have told one of our neighbors that we had planted trees. I had left my orange stakes up to mark the approximate location of the trees, so we wouldn't accidentally mow over them, and also so our neighbor wouldn't mow over them. But he must not have realized the significance of those and in his thoughtfulness, he had mowed both his acre and ours, probably thinking he was doing us a favor because he has a tractor with a pull-behind brush hog that makes short work of an acre. And he did a really good job. He got so close to those orange stakes that only a few blades of grass survived. The only trees he missed were the ones near the road that I had mulched. I had meant to mulch the whole line of trees, but it was an expensive and time-consuming process, and I kind of gave up on it after I got through about 10 trees.
So the moral of this story is really that good fences do make good neighbors. It's possible that some of the trees will survive being cut down. It's also possible that they would have died anyway given that we had a fairly lengthy drought this summer and I didn't have a good way to water them (I do now, though!!!). In fact, I'm not sure the trees I mulched fared very well even without competition from grass and the mulch helping with water conservation. I'll have to see what happens in the spring.
In the meantime, I am planning on getting started building a fence this spring. While I very much appreciate our neighbor's thoughtfulness, I don't really want to have to call him every time I plant something to make sure he won't mow it over, especially because I've got much more expensive fruit trees ordered for spring planting.
I had been putting off building the fence because I was thinking it was going to be this big ordeal. We'd have to either hire someone (I don't know if I can deal with a contractor again!) or we'd have to rent a hydraulic fence post hole digger and be prepared to dig as many holes as possible and fill them with posts immediately. Having almost 100 heavy duty fence posts bought and ready to fill holes is a bigger project than I want to think about.
But I recently realized that I could use metal t-posts instead. I originally expected to use the front field as a horse pasture, but I'm definitely changing direction a bit on that. It's fairly marginal land and it is going to need a lot of help (I'll post more about that maybe tomorrow). Plus it has a tendency to be quite wet, which means it isn't going to work well to have horses on it very much, except if we have a drought or during July - September, when we typically get less rain. For horse pasture, I would have wanted sturdy wooden posts. But for just regular use like as an orchard and garden, t-posts should work just fine. And they are much easier to install and cheaper. And I could literally just do one or two a day over the course of a few months instead of having to put in a concentrated effort. I could always add an electric component to it in the future if I decided to put horses on it or I could even replace the posts. The most important thing is that I get the fence set up in some form because I definitely want to get started planting this spring.
And so the adventure continues...:)