A Pay-It-Forward Edible Hedgerow

It’s difficult to see in this picture, but our house is located quite a bit downhill from the quiet country dirt road in front and had no trees or bushes between it and the road when we built in 2007.  One of the first things we planted was a row of 50 lilacs directly in front of the house and then white cedars directly behind the lilac hedge.  We purchased the lilacs as whips and dug up the cedars from a friend’s property.  It was a big task and would be expensive to continue buying the number of whips needed even though they were cheap so we started growing lilacs from seeds that we harvested from lilacs that we had previously dug up and winter sowing them. It was also very time consuming to dig up cedars from our friend’s property or from the surrounding roadside ditches so we started a private tree nursery for the white cedars that we needed.  Earlier this summer before this year’s drought tightened its grip, we planted out 18 winter sown lilacs which have thrived despite the drought because each was heavily mulched with wood chips scavenged from the side of the road wherever Ontario Hydro brushes to clear power lines of trees and branches.

This year our other private nursery at the end of the driveway  got out of control.  We rarely plant out bareroot trees and shrubs but rather pot them up in pots containing a mixture of ProMix BX and supermarket compost.   Usually within weeks, we see roots coming out the drain holes in the bottom of the pots which tells us they have survived the transplant shock and can be planted out.  This summer we were loathe to plant out because of the brutal drought so there they sat at the end of the driveway outgrowing pots and being potted up to larger pots.  And the number of pots kept growing.  We had a problem.  We couldn’t plant them out as we had planned to do all around the property because we couldn’t easily water them as the ongoing drought was going to require.  Despite having 100′ hoses, they wouldn’t be long enough and transporting many, many litres of water from the end of the hose to the trees and bushes in brutal heat and sun wasn’t possible.

But as always is the way with our garden, the garden had the answer – instead of planting just lilacs between us and the road, why not plant what was sitting at the end of the driveway? A lot of it could be reached by hose and any jerry jugging of water would be minimal.  Because a lot of the plants were edibles, we realized that we were planting an edible hedge that people could stop at and pick.  But then we quickly realized they wouldn’t stop, that they wouldn’t even know there was anything to stop for.  They wouldn’t know what was growing there or, if they did, they wouldn’t want to pick  anything because it would be taking someone else’s property without asking which they probably wouldn’t do.  We would have to invite them to pick, give them permission to pick without them having to ask, get them to slow the car down and realize something was there, tell them what was there. So we have decided to put up signs at each end of the hedge or, more accurately, hedgerow:

This is a Pay-It-Forward Hedgerow.  Please feel free to stop and pick the lilacs and the edible fruits and nuts that you see – mulberries, high bush cranberries,  beach plums, black currants hazelnuts, etc. Just leave some for others including the birds and other animals.  If you like what you taste and want a plant or plants for yourself ask us and we will give you one and, if you want, teach you how to to cheaply and easily produce more of the plant(s) you have been given. We hope that in return, you pay-it-forward.

Maybe people will stop and maybe they won’t.  If they do, wonderful. If they don’t, it doesn’t matter because the hedge will keep growing, giving us a bit of privacy and being a wild life magnet. But if people do stop and they do pay it forward or are inspired to plant their own edible hedgerow ……………………….!

So what’s in the hedgerow so far?  Starting from the north,

  1. Three red mulberries from Golden Bough Nursery
  2. Two unknown black currant cultivars
  3. 67 lilacs (50 whips from Harry Richardson Tree Farm and 17 one and two year old seedlings that we grew)
  4. Highbush cranberry grown from a softwood cutting
  5. Beach plum from Rhora’s Nut Farm and Nursery
  6. Siberian Pea that we grew this year from seeds from Tree Help.
  7. Highbush cranberry grown from a softwood cutting
  8. Lilac from this past winter’s winter sowing.
  9. Russian mulberry from McFayden Nursery
  10. Highbush cranberry grown from a softwood cutting
  11. Skinner hazelnut, a heavy bearer hardy to Zone 4 in Canada from T&T Seeds.

To be planted in the hedgerow over the next few weeks,

And for next year, because they are very easy to propagate and produce fruit either the first or second year, more soft fruits such as raspberries, black currants, high bush cranberries, honeyberries,  thornless blackberries, everbearing raspberries that, with spring pruning, fruit in September and October, Nanking cherries.  There would be something fruiting or flowering from April until November.

With 450 feet of road frontage and only about 1/4 of it planted, there’s a lot of room to plant a cornucopia.

Here’s a list of what’s planted in the hedgerow. Because it’s our map of what’s planted where, it will be updated as we add to the hedgerow.


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2 Responses to A Pay-It-Forward Edible Hedgerow

  1. Marita Dreger says:

    Hello … came across your site while doing research for a book I am writing.
    Just in case it matters: the hazelnut you planted is not a “Skinner”. It has Skinner as parent. T&T’s hazelnuts are a cross between a “Skinner”, and “Graham”, and “Winkler”. Skinner, is not offered in Canada anymore, to the best of my knowledge; though I will continue to look for it. Grimo does have one but it doesn’t propagate it – perhaps only by special request.

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