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Herbal Hedge Rows

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From Chapter 13

When planting hardwood trees, plant them into clover — red or white clover — and you will have better livability without spraying the ground cover to prevent competition. It’s low-growing and provides nitrogen to the hardwood trees. One of my loves of life is planting trees and plants for habitat. I’ve taken four farms that were all “HEL” farms and put them back into trees. HEL stands for “highly erodible land” and should never have been plowed. These slopes were mainly wooded or in the level spots supported by perennial grasses. From observation, here’s what I would consider putting in a line fence or hedge row. Remember to keep it diverse. Biodiversity is normal — that means mix it up!

Lilacs — they stool out (spread), are beautiful, and are a haven for birds. They survive planting and grow fast.

Hazelnut — tremendous livability, no animal eats the plant but everything eats the nuts – turkeys, squirrels, deer. 10 days after ripening, the nuts are totally gone. They seek these out. Hazelnuts stool out and I like to put them in patches. I planted 100 plants on an eroded rocky knob and two years later, I wanted to help them out with some foliar spray and lime, and found 99 of them alive. Another spot I put in 60, and three years later all 60 were doing well and starting to send up new shoots. They are hardy.

Cows sitting next to a hedge row
A hedge row in Holland.

Any berry — my home tree farm has wild blackberries and wild red raspberries. The leaves of these are a medicinal warehouse; replant the wild or use raspberries. They grow well. For ground cover, put in strawberries or blueberries. If your ground will support berries, get some berry to put in your hedgerow. Goats love berry leaves. When they get sick, tinctured raspberry leaves have high ERGs.

Willow — get like a swamp willow, not a big weeping willow because they get too big. Moose live on willows in Alaska. Willow leaves and small branches are nutritious and contain aspirin.

Comfrey — this plant is a forage in the Balkans in Europe. Comfrey is very high in calcium. My comfrey patch for tincturing gets eaten down every fall by the deer — they love it. In New Zealand, the range chicken (layers). People planted and fed comfrey fresh. Two small operations had their fence line-planted to comfrey, which the chickens would pick at. The bigger leaves they would pick and throw into the yard and the birds would go wild over it. Huge source of calcium and turns the yolk bright orange. Comfrey can be invasive. Cows will readily graze comfrey leaves.

St. John’s Wort — another perennial that is easy to grow. Hardy and animals will munch on it. St. John’s Wort will also spread like comfrey but is a very good medicinal herb.

Yarrow — one of my favorites. In Colorado, the mountains are full of wild yarrow and it is a staple for elk. They graze yarrow. This plant is very high in secondary metabolites and used in humans for high blood pressure, healing wounds, and loaded with trace elements. Will grow almost every place. The combination of raspberry leaves, comfrey, yarrow, and St. Johns wart gives you quite an herbal cafeteria.

Elderberry — bushes fit well into hedges. Feed for birds and humans and are hardy and thick. Goats love elderberries.

Chamomile — this pretty perennial is used in teas and herbal blends as it has a calming effect. The blossoms look like little daisies. They bloom in mid-July and get about 3 to 3 ½ feet tall. Deer and cattle will browse on them.

Bergamot — this colorful blue-lavender perennial is an antipyretic. That means it lowers temperature. It blooms like chamomile in July in Wisconsin. This is also a pollinator — bees will also frequent comfrey flowers, yarrow, and elderberry.

Aronia berry bushes — they are very hardy, the berries in the fall are loaded with antioxidants. Aronia is grown all over Iowa and is good for jams, bird food, and is the most potent plant loaded with antioxidants (vitamin C).

Cedar trees don’t work as the deer eat them up and kill them.

Honeysuckle — stay away from as that is very invasive. A plant that I’ve had problems with that one could try would be horseradish — when I dig my horseradish to process it in the fall, I always replant the tops which I cut two-thirds of it off and replant, trying to expand my row. The deer will come out of the woods and eat the replant — the whole thing. So I end up with no more than I start with. Personal observation is the most reliable source of truth. There must be something the deer need every fall. They don’t touch it in the summer or spring.

Lespedeza is a plant they use as a wormer in New Zealand. The universities of Arkansas and Missouri have extensive research data on its effect as an intestinal wormer. It is very impressive. I planted an acre of lespedeza and birdsfoot trefoil in Wisconsin on an organic farm. Birdsfoot trefoil is also an excellent wormer. I had two plants of lespedeza and one plant of birdsfoot trefoil successfully grow on that entire acre; I surmise the southern seed I ought was not for our northern climate. Someone should test this in southern climes; I feel it has potential.

A hedgerow is a haven for birds. I like gourd birdhouses and put 22 of them up one spring that I grew and dried out. All 22 had nests in them. Putting them up is a challenge as raccoons love to tear them apart. When gourd houses will be full, bluebirds, wren, and a plethora of songbirds I can’t identify love hedgerows. Remember — biodiversity is normal.

About the Authors:

Paul Dettloff, D.V.M. was raised on a farm in Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine in 1967. Though he began as a conventional practitioner, he moved into the sustainable and organic/biological treatment of dairy and beef cows, sheep and goats using natural remedies, botanicals, homeopathy and holistic management of the soil and entire farm. He is an international authority on the natural farming and consults and lectures widely.

Megan Dettloff-Meyer, L.Ac., MSOM is a nationally certified acupuncturist, Oriental medicine practitioner and diplomat in Chinese herbology. She operates Dr. Paul’s Lab, a maker of herbal remedies.

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