Final Report for FNC14-953
Hedges have been used for centuries in England to contain livestock. The point of the project was to construct a natural goat-proof hedge to act as a barrier fence, provide a wind break, and create a natural separation from surrounding non-organic farm land.
As we discovered, there's a reason the British government has regulations in effect to protect hedgerows in their country https://www.gov.uk/guidance/countryside-hedgerows-regulation-and-management - chiefly, it probably takes decades for a hedge to reach maturity. They're protecting hedges that have been grown since the 1800s and even earlier.
Looking at our baby hedge and its growth, I suspect it won't be able to contain any sort of livestock for at least ten years.
The hedge has not reached any sort of density. The hawthorn is starting to spread from its base but has not spread more than 4" either way of its planting hole.
We created the hedge with 90% hawthorn and 10% wild fruit trees. All plants were hard hit by rodents, but especially the fruit trees. Recommendations would be to plant the fruit trees in tubes. It would be difficult to plant the hawthorn in a tube as it spreads quickly, particularly if damaged near the base as many of ours were the 1st winter. The hawthorns have proven to be resiliant and the majority of them grew back from their roots, even when their bark was ringed by rodents.
We have a lilac hedge we've planted which has been established for fifteen years. Looking at that hedge and the planting density, I think lilac would be enough to contain the large animals like the cows, mules, and llama. These plants were free - they spread quick and we dug them out of other areas. The lilacs were planted about 12" apart. This hedge is at least 6 feet wide.
We also have a hybrid willow hedge we've planted which has been established for ten years. That could possibly contain animals if planted much closer together. We planted the willows at 1.5 foot distance from each other. This type of hedge does not appear to spread much from its base.
The benefit of the hawthorn, of course, are their thorns to deter the animals' overgrazing.
The hawthorn has not reached a size yet to test whether the livestock would enjoy eating them.
The hedge has been hand watered and weeded as necessary. It also has been protected from livestock grazing. Rodents and rabbits continue to be a nuisance.
We know in our soils that hawthorn are not as fast growing as advertised. The hedge may live up to its potential but it appears that it will take a decade to do so. On the plus size, it hasn't proven to be wildly invasive yet.
Educational & Outreach Activities
We will contain to provide photos on our website and our Facebook page as the hedge matures. www.floppyearfarm.com and www.Facebook.com/FloppyEarFarm.
It is recommended that test plots are created before making a large investment to purchase a particular species as a hedge.
Hedge creation is a very long term project.