January 12, 2015

Planning for Forest Garden Hedgerows

One of our 2015 homestead goals is "doubled fences for protected diversity." This was my awkward way of saying "forest garden hedgerows between the forage areas." The idea is to run parallel fences about 4 to 6 feet apart, and plant permaculture hedgerows in between for the chickens, pigs, goats, and us. Cattle panel type fencing will give them some access without being able to demolish everything. This is a project we'd like to get started on as soon as possible. The first step was to update our Master Plan. I chose two places for our first hedgerows, one in a mostly sunny location, one with mostly shade. Eventually, we'll do the same for all our fencelines.

January 2015

The mostly sunny location is down the middle of our front pasture, which is about an acre in size. Awhile back we decided it should be subdivided. Previous Master Plans show a possible pond in the middle here, which is not on this newest version. (It may reappear in a future plan, who knows?) A curving line of trees, our blueberry bush, and a nearly goat-demolished wild rose bush already live there. This makes the perfect place to plant our hedgerow. It's a straight double red line on the Master Plan (red to indicate planned project), but we plan to follow the curving treeline when we install the fence.

The shady location is between the buck and doe pastures. It will get some morning sun. The goats have eaten down everything in that spot anyway, so it seems like a logical place for the first shade garden. To start, it will only require a second fence of cattle panels alongside the existing fence.

Once the hedgerow locations were decided, the next step was to make a list of possible plants. The criteria is that they must do well in our location and climate, and that they must be edible by our livestock (the goats are of particular concern). There are several good websites for lists of permaculture plants (a few are below), but for something like this I prefer a real, hard copy book, so I got out Edible Forests Gardens by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier. Volume 1 Appendix One has "Forest Gardening's "Top 100' Species", an invaluable list. Appendix 1 to Volume 2 is a comprehensive table entitled "Plant Species Matrix", listing everything a forest gardener or permaculturist needs to know about hundreds of plants.

One of my concerns is hardiness zone. Hardiness zone maps show low temperature tolerances for various plants, but make no mention of heat tolerance. I'm in zone 7, but we can have some doozy temperatures in summer, easily topping 100° F / 37.8° C for days at a time. I've learned that some plants rated for zone 7 actually cannot tolerate our summer heat, rhubarb, for example. In making my list I also referred to websites and my nursery catalogs, and chose plants listed for zone 6 or lower, plus 8 or higher, especially if the description included heat or drought tolerant.

To check for edibility for our goats, I stumbled across a really great searchable database, "Guide To Poisonous Plants," hosted by Colorado State University. Another great list is at Cornell University's website, "Toxic Plants and the Common Caprine". I like these two sites because they explain why certain plants are a problem for goats (or other livestock). Some plants can be safe under some conditions but not others. Sometimes it's a particular species within a genus that is the problem, not the entire genus. I like those bits of information.

I only used three layers for my lists, rather than the seven or nine usually listed on permaculture sites. It was just simpler that way and avoided overlapping entries. These are preliminary possibilities. We'll do the actual choosing later.

Upper Layer
  • Already have white oaks, Quercus alba and lots of acorns, which the goats and pigs love. In addition these are dynamic accumulators and a coppice species.
  • Mulberry, Morus species. Zones 4 - 9. Berries and leaves edible, bark and roots medicinal, coppice species. Can be self-pollinating, or not, but cross-pollination recommended. Stark Bros. carries a self-pollinating Pakistan mulberry stated to be tolerant of heat, drought, humidity, sun, and poor soil; suitable for zones 6 - 10
  • Asian persimmon, Diospyros kaki. Zones 6 - 9. Edible fruit, medicinal bark, nectary. Some self-fertile varieties. (We have a mature American persimmon Diospyros virginiana in the woods but Dan isn't too impressed with it. D. virginiana is said to make a good coppice tree.)
  • Chestnut, Castanea species. (Not horse or buckeye chestnut, Aesculus species, which are toxic). Zones 4 - 8. Edible nuts, coppice and windbreak plant. Need two for pollination. The variety "Colossal" is said to be blight resistant with high yield. 
  • Pawpaw, Asimina triloba. Zones 4 - 8. Edible fruits, bark is a natural insecticide. Need two for pollination. Stark Bros. has several heat tolerant varieties. 
  • Hazelnuts, Corylus species. Zones 4 - 8. Edible nuts, nectary plant, bark medicinal, windbreak. I have two of these (American hazelnuts) I can transplant. They aren't really thriving in their original spot. Need two, have two.
  • Cornelian cherry, Cornus mas (not prunus spp). Zones 4 - 8. Edible fruit, medicinal, nectary, dye plant (bark). Two best for good production.
  • Sumac, Rhus species, not Toxicodendron vernix (poison sumac). Zones 3 - 8. Tea or "lemonade" from fruits, medicinal bark and berries, dye and mordant plant. Goats eat the leaves. I have some of these I can transplant too. 
Middle Layer
  • Blueberry, Vaccinium spp, I already have one which I believe to be V. ashei, rabbiteye blueberry. Edible berries, medicinal. Leaves edible by goats.
  • Rose, Rosa, I have one of these too, what I call a "wild rose". Hips for tea or medicinal. Leaves edible by goats. 
  • Honeyberry (edible honeysuckle), Lonicera caerulea. Zones 3 - 8. Edible berries, nectar plant. Need two for pollination
  • Wolfberry (Goji), Lycium barbarum, edible fruits and leaves, nectar plant. Self-fertile.
  • Aronia or chokeberry. Aronia melanocarpa not Prunus virginiana, which is choke cherry (and toxic to goats). Zones 3 - 8. Edible fruit when cooked, wildlife shelter. Drought tolerant. Self-pollinating. 
  • Jostaberry, Ribes nigrum x uva-crispa. Zones 3-8. Edible fruits, nectary plant. Self-fruitful.
  • Sea berry or Sea Buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides, Zones 3 - 8, edible fruit, nitrogen fixing, dye plant, medicinal. Need both male and female plants. 
  • Thornless loganberry, Rubus × loganobaccus, Zones 6 - 10, edible fruit, leaves goat edible. Heat tolerant, self-pollinating
  • Hardy Kiwi, Actinidia spp. Edible fruit, medicinal. The variety Issai is said to be heat tolerant and self-pollinating, zones 5-9. 
  • Sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, annual, but apparently perennial in zones 9 - 12. Edible tubers, goats love the vines, medicinal, nectary plant.
  • Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, Zones 6 - 11, but my original rosemary plant froze out during the winter of 2013 - 2014. Culinary, tea plant, medicinal, drought resistant. Source of B1, B6, C, folate, iron, and calcium
Ground Layer
  • Comfrey, have Russian, Bocking #4, Symphytum peregrinum. Zones 6 - 8. Dynamic accumulator, medicinal, nectary. Source of protein, calcium, iron, and B12. This strain is sterile.
  • Good King Henry, Chenopodium bonus-henricus, zones 3-9.  Aerial parts edible, dye plant, medicinal. Self-pollinating. 
  • Horeseradish, Amoracia rusticana, zones 2 - 10, roots and leaves edible, nectary plant, and aromatic pest confuser. I have some of this, a hybrid variety that I can transplant.  Source of sulfur and copper. 
  • Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, Zone 4 - 8, Edible leaves, dynamic accumulator, medicinal, dye plant. Source of iron, and potassium.
  • Oregano, Origanum vulgare, Zones 4 - 10. Culinary, nectary, tea plant, medicinal. Another one I can transplant. Source of vitamin A, B6, E, K, beta carotene, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium
  • Wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens, Zones 3 - 8, culinary, edible fruit and leaves, tea plant, nectary, dynamic accumulator, medicinal. Drought tolerant once established. 
  • Yarrow, Achillea species, Zones 2 - 10, medicinal, aromatic pest confuser, dynamic accumulator, dye plant. I have a lot of this and can transplant. Source of copper.
  • Dwarf blueberries, Vaccinium, Creeping blueberry is zones 6 - 9. Edible fruit (and leaves for the goats). 
  • Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, Zoners 4 - 10. Culinary, tea plant, medicinal, natural wormer. Source of vitamins A, B1, folate, C, K, beta carotene, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, calcium

That's my list at present. I'll work out a more specific planting plan soon. 

For those who would like some internet resources for permaculture plants:

For a list of vitamins and minerals in plants:

Again, for the poisonous plant websites:

Next ... A Start on the Forest Garden Hedgerow


jewlz said...

This post convinces me we listen to the same muse. ( You posted while I was creating similar plans for similar reasons). Is your intention that you and the animals both harvest from the outside of the hedgerow? The links look great, too. Thanks.

Judy said...

You mentioned having trouble growing rhubarb. Have you considered growing it on the north or east side of a building? I've noticed plants with large leaves in Kansas' hot dry summers do better on the north side of buildings and we are in zone 6a.

Kev Alviti said...

Looks like a great list of plants. I;ve been adding to my list laetly to make sure I grow as many edibles as I possibly can. One I've been looking at is the Japanese Rasin tree and the Japanese Loquat as a couple of unusual but potentially useful trees. Also Blue sausage fruit might be worth looking at. I have sumac added to my list already as I think that sounds like a great way to flavour water and I'm going to buy some honeyberries before the spring and put them in as well (blueberries take quite a bit of work here).

Unknown said...

The native wildlife are going to love you. Imagine all the different species of birds youll have visiting. We dont have native or cultured hedgerows. Imagine the chooks scratching around in the undergrowth.

Leigh said...

JW, it's that time of year!:) I would like to be able to get into the hedgerow fences so Dan and I are discussing gating possibilities. When we get that decided I'll let you know. I hope your blogging about your thoughts and plans! I'd be very interested in knowing more.

Judy, I tried my rhubarb under my oak trees in the yard. They got a little morning sun but when the weather got hot would stop growing. Maybe they didn't like the soil (?). I'll have to try again in a different spot and see what happens. I bought the plants locally so I assumed they should grow here. I've not been able to get nasturtiums to grow either.

Kev, thanks for the recommendations! There are a few I'm interested in (quince and juniper) but not where the goats can get them. Some of those may end up elsewhere as well, For example, Maybe the goji on a trellis to help shade the front porch in summer.

Lynda, I didn't mention that on my list of plant uses, but you are very right about that. Those hedgerows are important for that, also as quick go-to shelter for the chickens. We get a lot of hawks during migration season and the chickens need places of protection. It all works together, doesn't it. :)

Kev Alviti said...

Don't grow Juniper if you also grow pears they spread a biannual disease between each other with each tree taking it in turns to host the problem. I looked into growing one as well but prefer pears! What about a carolina allspice bush? I'm ordering one for next year but it does have inedible berries.

Leigh said...

Kev, I did not know that about juniper. I already have pears and would like to add more so that's disappointing indeed. Juniper berries are an important medicinal for us as well as a flavoring agent for my lacto-fermented vegetables. :( will definitely have to look into that further.

I didn't consider Carolina allspice because I read a long time ago that it wasn't edible. That said, I first looked it up in Dave Jacke's book, which lists it as being edible and medicinal, but also in his poisonous plant column. The searchable plant database didn't have it but I did find it at the North Carolina cooperative extension website - http://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/calycanthus-floridus/. Apparently it's the seeds that are toxic if eaten in large amounts.

Maybe I need to add some resources in determining the safeness of plants.

Theresa said...

There are some pretty hardy Viburnums out there (American Cranberry or High Bush Cranberry), that might fit the bill. We had a few we tried, they did well but finally the deer ate them down to nubbins and we yanked them...

Kev Alviti said...

It's the bark that's edible. You dry it and then it can be used as a substitute for cinnamon. I think I'll get one this year so by the end I should eb able to tell you if it's worth it or not. The flowers are quite pretty as well and our summer isn't normally hot enough for it to produce seed.

Farmer Barb said...

Well, you know that hugelkultur is your best friend in a hot climate. It is part of the permaculture format and gives you a way to protect your plantings from lack of water. It is too long to get into now, but I have been building my mounds for the past four years. I am not yet ready to plant them, but they are best done where you can get at them to harvest what you like.

I do, however, feel I need to read your posts in the morning AFTER the coffee. My brain is exploding with all the information. SO valid and important for me--a new goatherd. Thank you, once again!

Leigh said...

Theresa, thank you for that! I will definitely look into those. Deer eating them is a good recommendation too, LOL

Kev, very good. I am definitely interested in your experience. Being a cinnamon substitute recommends it exceedingly to me, and I think it would be a good option for our front yard herb gardens.

Barb, +1 for hugelkulture! Dan and I have been talking about that for several areas, but not for that particular hedgerow because I don't want to have to wait several years to be able to plant it, LOL.

Cat Eye Cottage said...

Excellent post; I hope to one day have some nigerian dwarfs so I am soaking up as much information as I can in the meantime. I'm pleased that I already have some of these plants as I feed them to my rabbits already.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you have done some amazing homework! Hedgerows have been on my radar for a couple years, but I haven't done anything about it yet. Thanks for sharing the info you found.


Judy said...

Leah, the oak trees could have sucked all the nutrients and moisture out of the ground under their drip line. If you try again, maybe a less competitive spot might be the answer with lots of aged manure in the hole. And have you talked to the local extension agent or a master gardener about where rhubarb is growing well in your area?

Leigh said...

Candace, thank you! You will love having a few Nigerian Dwarfs! We really liked ours but I can only keep so many goats and we prefer the Kinders. :)

Stephanie, I figure this time of year is for researching!

Judy, I will definitely have to give these another try. I'll take a look at our cooperative extension's website. They have mostly landscape information but also garden information too. I bought the plants locally so I initially assumed they'd do well. It may just have been that spot. I'd love to add rhubarb to my list of fruit sauces for winter eating.

Amanda said...

Have you checked your state university web sites for the invasiveness of your choices? While on a farm you are certainly not worried about the native/non-native issue, you do not want to be bringing in another ground ivy-type of nightmare. I am particularly concerned about your choice of stinging nettle; while my experiences with it have been trying to get it out of natural areas, it does seem very bad to spread into any disturbed area, which would include the edges of gardens, pastures and anywhere your hogs have rooted. It certainly spread very badly into the pastures on my uncle's dairy farm. The cows didn't seem to mind, but it made life miserable for those of us who had to go fetch the cows. You do not want to brush against that stuff after a rain! That's when you find out exactly why it is called "stinging" nettle.

Anna said...

We're slowly working our way into having hedgerows between goat pastures as well. My thought at the moment is for goats not to ever be allowed in the hedgerow (but obviously they will be allowed to eat anything that grows its way out). Chickens, on the other hand, will be allowed into the tree alleys (our term for the fenced hedgerows) at intervals. Is that your plan as well? Or do you plan to coppice and cut branches for your goats to eat, or even to let them in?

For our alleys, we're focusing on semi-dwarf apple trees because, well, we like apples and I love trying out different varieties. :-) I've also added comfrey right along the fences, figuring it will grow out into the pasture as much as the goats will allow. I'll probably add in some hybrid hazels too, and may add annual cover crops as things fill in. But I've found that my forest garden experiments tend to fail if they get too complicated. So I'll be keeping the perennial species to a minimum at first.

Finally, I second Amanda's suggestion to look into invasiveness. The Forest Gardening literature plays very fast and loose with invasive species, in a way that I don't really approve of (having watched several invasives spread into our local woodlands and wreak havoc). Of the ones on your list that I've researched, I'd steer clear of Wolfberry and Sea berry for this reason.

Sorry for such a long comment!

Mark said...

That's an impressive list, and its going to take some time to study and go though the references and comments. Excellent stuff!

Leigh said...

Amanda and Anna. I had not yet checked our state's invasive species list but thought your suggestion a very good one. I checked at both state and USDA levels. The only plant on my list which is on the invasive and noxious species list is Morus, specifically white mulberry (which I wasn't considering anyway.) Quite a few are actually on our native species list, which is good. It was interesting because most of the plants in my yard are listed as invasives!

Anna, I agree at how complicated this can become. And expensive. I cannot say my permaculture experiments have been very successful so far, but I'm committed to the theory at least. I do believe this is a good way to build our diversity plus feed ourselves and our critters, so I'm hoping to have some success this time around.

Mark, thanks! I don't plan to plant all of these, they are just possibilities which fit my criteria. I'm guessing the list will be revised several times as we make our choices down the road.

1st Man said...

Every one of your posts just inspires me so much....thank you. I'm working, albeit slowly, on our master plan layout as well.

I've been wanting to plant some hazelnuts here too. Thought about some around the house, as the soil is much better there.

Unknown said...

I would recommend adding borage and lemon balm to your herb zone. Borage is completely safe to eat, bees love it, you can make a delicious cucumbery flavored tea or syrup from the leaves and flowers. It readily re-seeds itself. I would be happy to send you some seeds for free.

Leigh said...

1st Man, I appreciate that! Looking forward to seeing your master plan. :)

Rhonda, great idea about the herbs. I confess I cut myself short on the herb list for the sake of the blog post. :) Borage volunteers in my garden every year. It's a great companion plant and I love the blue flowers. Lemon balm is on this year's list as well.

Leigh said...

Amanda, one thing I would like to mention about plants spreading and getting out of hand is that goats will control that. Someone once fussed at me for wanting to plant comfrey in our pastures, because Symphytum officinale can be like that. What my experience with goats has taught me, however, is that they can and will completely wipe out something they like, so that even potentially problem plants have to be protected from this. That is why my hedgerows are 1) between goat areas, and 2) made up of plants goats can eat. I'm not trying to minimize the concerns, but when you're dealing with goats, other problems present themselves. This is why they are so effective for things like kudzu control. All these factors play a part.

Anonymous said...

I've been wanting pawpaws. I have fond memories of the ones in the pasture behind Grandma's house. They died out when I was about 14 or so. But I remember them well. The forest garden concept is what janel and I are shooting toward as a long term project for our small farm.

Harry Flashman said...

Once again I am impressed with the depth of your research. No wonder your projects all seem to work out well.

Jake said...

Wow! Great post. I've only got a teensy yard, but I might have to permaculturalize the fences now! :-)

Bag End Gardener said...

That's a big project but what an outstanding goal to aim for. Goats at '5 Acres' are very fortunate creatures indeed :}

Leigh said...

Matt, I have good memories of Pawpaws as well. :) I did read that because they are some kind of natural insecticide that they are difficult to pollinate, but they grow in the wild in quite a few places so I have good hope.

Harry, I confess that I could easily be a professional student. :) But they don't always work out in spite of the research. The weather has to cooperate for one thing!

Jake, "permaculturalize"! Great word! I am not a die hard permaculturist, but I do love a lot of it's principles. We just apply what we can realistically use here.

Jayne, it is a big project and I am uncertain as to how much we'll get done and it's outcome. But we're gonna give it a start!

Anonymous said...


Some friends of mine have a orchard and sell blueberries anally. They've had PawPaws for several years now and are still having difficulties. Like you, I won't let that detour me from trying, but they are a hard crop to grow/pollinate.

Anonymous said...

That was supposed to be annually!

-Hangs his head in shame!! :(

Leigh said...

Matt, LOL. I actually read it the way you intended . I'm going to have to do some research, but since they grow in the wild, they can't be impossible or else they wouldn't be here!

Unknown said...

Hi, I am new to homesteading and your blog. whats the difference between the buck/doe browse and pasture?

Leigh said...

Hi Adam, hello and welcome! I sincerely hope you find encouragement here.

Your question is a very good one. Pasture is unusually considered to be a mix of grasses and legumes (like alfalfa, vetch, clover, etc) often with weeds mixed in. Browse refers leafy, non-grass vegetation such as the leaves and tender stems of trees, shrubs, and woody stemmed vines.

When we bought our place we had some cleared areas, which we fenced for pasture. We've also fenced some of our woods for browse. Goats really prefer browse, but once they strip the trees and shrubs of leaves it takes longer to grow back than pasture. I manage the browse areas by only letting them in there for several weeks at a time, then waiting several months for it to grow back again. The hedgerow should hopefully add those plants that they love and give them more variety.

Unknown said...

Thanks! how many goats do you have per acre? do you supplement feed at all or all from the pastures/browse?

Leigh said...

I have four adult goats and six kids at the moment. The two bucks are on about 3/4 acre of pasture and are doing well on that except for a handful of Chaffhaye every day for either minerals (I use Pat Coleby's mineral lick) or wormer.

The does and kids are on about half an acre with occasional access to other areas, but
I feed the does supplements because they are in milk. I use their weight (by feeling ribs and for bony hips) to judge how much to give. They also get all the hay they want.

One thing we've been working on has been to have our pasture areas soil tested and then adding organic soil amendments. Our soil is so poor that I don't think our goats would do as well otherwise. That series of posts starts here.

We grow as much as we can for our goats with a view to eventually feed them entirely from the land. All we can do, however, is take it one step at a time.

Unknown said...

What kind of fencing do you use for your goats?

Leigh said...

Most of our goat fencing is 48" tall welded wire, however, we can now get woven goat fencing at Tractor Supply. Pricewise it's a little more, but I think would be a much sturdier option. It's what we'll go with in the future.

The hedgerow fence in a cattle panel, which which keeps goats out but not chickens. Goats with horns can get their heads stuck in a cattle panel, but disbudded or polled goats can get their heads through to eat whatever they can reach on the other side.

Unknown said...

Is that goat fence the kind with 4 inch spacing? Do you have much trouble with your goats getting out?

Leigh said...

I believe the woven wire goat fence has 4" squares. I have very little trouble with goats getting out.

Unknown said...

That's good. That's one of the reasons I havnt gotten goats yet. I have heard of so many horror stories of goats being escape artists and trying to demolish the fences. Did I read before you keep nubians?

Leigh said...

We used to have Nubians, but I like the Kinders best. :)

Unknown said...

Any issues with your bucks wanting to get into the same areas as your does and kids?

Leigh said...

When the does are in heat, that's all they can think about. :)

Unknown said...

Do you always keep them separate other than breeding time?

Leigh said...

Yes, I do, especially since Kinders can breed year around. I recently read about an anti-breeding apron to put on bucks so that if one has only one buck they can let him run with the does and somewhat control breeding and protect doelings from getting bred too young.