Fedging 101 It’s the perfect time to plant a living hedge

by: Sara on 03/08/2016

It is Day Two of our Spring Gardening Book Sale! Receive a 35% discount when you order online with the code Garden16 until March 18th.

Today's blog post comes from Jenni Blackmore the author of the acclaimed book, Permaculture for the Rest of Us, Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre. Jennie shares her experience creating a fledging, a living willow structure.


Be aware, what follows is not expert advice! I have only planted a few fedges and am pretty much self-taught. The truth is that just about anyone who sticks willow whips into the ground can expect them to grow.

fedging tools web

Before I go any further, the one hard and fast rule about fedging – don’t ever plant a fedge around a garden bed! This is the voice of experience  I thought it would be the perfect way to keep the ducks and geese out of one of my veggie plots, which it was, but come harvest time the crop was pitiful. My wonderful fedge had stolen all the nutrient from the ground it surrounded! Of course I should have known better but at the time of planting I was too enamoured of my newly developed fedging skill.

Fedges are wonderful but only in places you’re sure you’ll never, ever, want anything else to grow (and also not around wells or foundations). For this particular fedge, intended to block an ugly driveway installation, I used whips dug up (with tremendous

first row of whips placed web

First row of Whips

difficulty) from around my veggie plot but they can be coppiced from any willow stand.

I use the pointy prong of the pick to drive angled (about 45 degrees) holes into the ground and then I slide the thick end of the whip in the ground along the underside of the pick. You can pull the pick out before inserting the whip but sometimes the hole collapses in on itself before that can happen. Working along the line of the fedge I started with my back facing south and placed the first row of whips. I then reversed my direction, my back now facing north to insert the second row of slips, which will point in the opposite direction to the first row because the angle of the holes is reversed.

second row of whips placed web

Second row of whips placed

I have now created two rows, (rows spaced three to six inches apart) with whips pointing in opposing directions. The spacing between each slip is about twelve inches and the slips are staggered so that slips in one row are approximately centred in the twelve inch space between slips in the other row. I used to stress about exactness of spacing but that was silly because once everything starts to sprout any spacing irregularities simply disappear.

Once the two rows of slips (pointing in opposite directions) are planted they can be ‘woven’ in a simple basket weave – except that it’s not quite that simple.

weaving the fedge web

weaving the fledge

funky willow birdhouse web

Funky Willow birdhouse

Stay cool!

Fortunately willow is very supple and responds well to firm but gentle bending. Care should be taken not to damage bark and buds but of course this is bound to happen a bit. Not to worry.

Once planted and woven, the ground surrounding the fedge should be firmed and well mulched. Boots stuck in mud are a good sign that the fedge will be successful as willow loves and needs plenty of moisture. I used some smaller, left overs to weave a funky bird house.

Order Permaculture for the Rest of Us and receive a 35% discount when you order online using the coupon code Garden16 at checkout until March 18th.


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