A living fence or live fence is an animal-proof barrier composed of trees and shrubs that are densely planted around the perimeter of a field.
How it Works
While the main benefit of a living fence is providing a farmer’s field with protection to keep unwanted intruders out and mitigate wind damage, it can offer additional benefits. Living fence species can help build the organic matter of the Forest Garden. Leaves that fall naturally from the trees, as well as leaves and small branches cut away when the trees are harvested for fuel, can be (1) composted, (2) immediately mixed with the soil as green fertilizer, or (3) left on the ground as leaf litter mulch. Pruning the trees results in partial die back of roots, releasing additional nutrients directly into the soil. If leguminous trees are used in the fence design, they may add significant amounts of nitrogen to the soil as well.
Similar to other agroforestry systems like alley cropping and contour planting, live fences may provide food, fiber, medicine, construction material and fodder for animals (depending on species selection). A farmer may also want to establish a living fence to mark boundary lines between farms or next to roads, to separate adjacent fields used for distinct purposes, or to protect and keep animals from straying.