I have wanted to try a fedge (a combination of the words “fence” and “hedge”) for a very long time. The idea of taking a line of separate plants and weaving them into one inseparable community completely fascinates me. Each plant becomes part of the whole, so much so that you can cut the trunk of one, and the others will feed the severed top and keep it green and alive. Perhaps we should a consider this carefully when we look at how divided our communities are.
The most common plants used for fedges are willows or Osage orange shrubs. I considered both of these carefully. Willows are a good fodder and medicinal plant, grow rapidly, and root readily from cuttings. However; I discarded them because I’m not sure they’d be happy on our well-drained, rocky hillside. Osage orange grows readily from seed and provides a thorny barrier strong enough to contain livestock. They cannot be used as fodder, though, and that was a key consideration in my decision not to use them.
There is a native plant that grows rapidly, produces highly nutritious, palatable fodder, yummy berries, and takes pruning well. I had never seen it used as a fedge plant, but I decided to try it anyway. So this spring, I ordered 100 mulberry seedlings from the Missouri Department of Conservation. Using a pickax and a bar (yes we have THAT kind of soil here), I nestled each one in the moist earth about three feet apart. It was amazing to watch the dead-looking sticks burst into leafy green twigs. The trees were given no water or care, in fact, several of them were mowed down by the weed-eater more than once, and a gopher found the leaves very tasty. But mulberries are determined and I lost only one.
I may move a few of the plants when they go dormant. I will also prune them all right above ground level to encourage them to sprout multiple branches. I might be able to start weaving them together by the end of next summer, or I may decide to simply let the roots mature for another year and cut them back one more time.
It’s definitely a work in progress….