Living Fence

When we purchased our house and property in the year 2000, we had an open yard without physical boundaries in between the adjacent residencies on both sides. With agreement from our neighbors, we started planting white spruce trees to create a living fence for our dogs. It was an extensive project that transformed our landscape, and each year we do something new to maintain or improve our living boundaries.

Because it was so long ago, and since I didn’t take an interest to gardening and landscaping until 2009, we don’t have any digital pictures of our complete original landscape. Lack of digital photography is another reason for limited documentation. Fortunately, we saved the original receipts for our trees, so we know that we purchased 16 white spruce trees (4 to 5 feet tall) from a local nursery and planted them on May 1, 2004. In hindsight, this date may have been too late in the year to take advantage of ample natural rainfall. It may explain why we lost six trees and had to replant them the following year on October 1, 2005. At a cost of $512 plus $35 delivery and tax, this was a huge investment at the time. Having to pay another $254 the following year was an unexpected disappointment, and the amount of work required to dig out multiple trees that size was overwhelming, especially since we dug all of the original holes by hand ourselves.

After completing one side of our yard in 2005, we purchased eight larger trees from a different nursery hoping that more mature trees would have a better survival rate. At a cost of $55 per 5 to 6 foot tall tree, we planted a partial row of eight white spruce trees on September 11, 2007. We completed this row with another ten trees (same size) at $50 each plus tax on September 11, 2009. This nursery never charged us for delivery and not a single tree died. At an additional total cost of $996.40, we completed the second of three sides of our living fence. The picture below was taken on April 25, 2009. The top photo shows the first eight trees we bought from a new nursery and two from the prior nursery. The lower photo shows the trees we originally planted on the “first” side. Only the trees closest to view look healthy. Trees in the front of the row near the address side have struggled to grow well even though they receive ample sunlight and water.


In an attempt to protect the trees and improve aesthetics, we manually dug up the grass in June of 2010 surrounding the first row we planted. Initially we mulched the area with grass clippings. A month later, we purchased landscape mulch for the row and initiated the same project on the other side of the yard.

Before and After Spruce Tree Mulching.JPG

About six years later, the trees have grown so much that they are almost covering the entire width of the mulch on either side. This spring, we will be trimming all of the trees, fertilizing with a fresh layer of composted mushroom soil, and mulching before the hot dry season begins.

What a transformation!

2016 versus 2010 Spruce Trees.JPG

© Tonya R. Hartman, January 2017