Do It Yourself

Fortify Your Homestead with A Living Fence




We want to teach you how to build a fence from something unexpected. Rather than some industrial-strength, bullet-proof material, we suggest something a little bit more natural – plants. An agricultural or living fence can be a prepper/homesteader's best friend. A living fence is essentially a hedge fencing around your property, bunker or bug out location that creates a natural barrier between you and the outside world. It serves as the perfect disguise for keeping things hidden and away from view.

Of course, there are other advantages to having a living fence. It provides a niche for more species to inhabit, as well as a barrier to keep species out. Kinda balancing out the flow of nature. Depending on the type of plant you choose, it may also provide food or medicine for your family or livestock.

Homesteaders typically create living fences by planting appropriate shrub or tree species — via nursery plants, stem, or root cuttings or seeds — at a close spacing. As they mature, the close spacing creates a thick, bushy growth and forms a hedge.

1. Choosing your Plants

Living fences typically start with a shrub or tree – either as potted plants, roots, or by seed – and are planted at much closer spacing than the norm. As they mature, the closeness of the plants will force thick, bushy growth, forming a hedge.

It is wise to use a native plant that can withstand regional weather, insects, and disease. Don't be afraid to mix it up!

Check out this video on choosing the right hedge plant:

2. Planting

Fortify Your Homestead with A Living Fence | Planting

Make the holes slightly wider and deeper than the pot, root or seed you are planting. Create a raised mulch ring around the plant for water. Small trees should be staked in three directions to hold it upright.

3. Mulch

When planting is complete, spread mulch or straw hay to help control the weeds. Mulching also improves root growth, protects the soil from erosion, and conserves moisture in the soil. Cedar mulch is our favorite, because it also smells very nice.

Learn how to make your own mulch with this video tutorial:

4. Upkeep


Water about every other day in a dry climate, or at least once a week for six months to a year, until the shrub or tree seems pretty grounded. Weed and water often just after planting.

After the first six months, you should be able to remove any tree stakes. Just be confident that the tree is able to stand alone. Trees can be re-staked, if need-be.

Check out this video on maintaining your privacy hedge:

Once you have accomplished your first living fence, you can move on to creating a massive hedge maze to keep intruders at bay!

Check out related articles here:

The Art of Seed Saving
Off The Grid Gardening Tips

Want Even More Lush Plant-life Within Your Homestead?

Click here to get growing your own garden today! Survival Seeds Playing Cards put a garden at your fingtips. Get your's for free* while supplies last:

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  1. Left Coast Chuck

    June 6, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    For security plants, one would want plants that feature long thorns. I’m no botanist, but my preference for climates that will support the plant would by pyrocantha. It is a sturdy grower and has fierce thorns that would deter all but the most determined zombie. Most of the plants featured on this video, while beautiful to look at would barely slow down someone who had evil intent. For preppers in the southwest, century plant is a fast grower and the thorns are murderous. It is also called agave and when tshtf, you can use it to distill into tequila. Once started, century plant needs minimal water to grow, although if watered, it will grow faster than can be imagined. Because I am not a botanist nor nursery specialist, it would be nice to see some posts from folks who have some expertise in plants who can weigh in with other easy growing thorny plants.

    • Floyde Adams

      June 6, 2014 at 4:39 PM

      We live in SW NM @ 6200 ft. MSL. We have grown agave in the past. They are easy to grow and very hardy needing little water relatively speaking. I decided to remove 3 mature plants to make room for a small outbuilding. Wow, what a project. I can assure you that a good stand of agaves will deter anyone. Thanks for reminding me of them. We are in the planning process of removing our barbed wire fence and replacing with a stouter security fence. Now I am going to put agave into the mix. Also, a few prickly pears mixed in would be great too. Once well started, both these plants are essentially self sufficient here where we have 10″-15″ of rain/snow per year.

      BTW, an even more formidable thorny plant is the
      “CylindroPuntia” which we call “Jumping Cactus” because if you get near one a piece of the, plant jumps onto you

      • Vera

        October 31, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        Very good for living fence are roses, varieties with big fruits (rosa fruticosa and others)- there are thorns, flowers and hips – safety, beauty, confitures and very vitamins in tee – what more?

    • JJM

      June 6, 2014 at 11:26 PM

      Exactly – what I want is long and numerous thorns on a stout stem/trunk. Short male Hawthorn Trees would be great. Still need to be able to maintain and control though.

    • Sam W.

      June 3, 2018 at 12:38 PM

      I grow cholla cacti, they are great in a dry area. The detachable thorns are barbed mulch unless it is gravel is totally useless. Dry is no problem for them. One gets six feet tal the other only grows to three.

    • Dr. Jeff

      June 5, 2018 at 10:24 PM

      Check out the Flying Dragon (Poncirus trifoliata)! It has wicked two-inch thorns that will stop anything or anyone. Tolerates a wide range of weather as well (-10 degrees F to 100F). Very tough… NASTY.

  2. Mark

    June 6, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    A hedge can also provide cover for the bad guy or home invader so be careful where you put it.

  3. Mark

    June 6, 2014 at 11:30 PM

    This is an old concept, especially in the Southwest.

    Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) has been used as far back as the 1600s as a natural corral.
    Privacy hedges of Russian Olive mixed with green briar would be more effective for deterring intrusion than euonimous (which is a water hog until established and has intrusive roots) and a bit of bunchgrass. .
    Other plants that should be considered are Prickly Ash, most acacias, wild roses, and shrub bumelia spp.
    I will also agree with Left Coast Chuck on the agave species such as Spanish dagger, levhuguilla, and sotol. All have spines and/or hooks on the edges of the leaves.
    An all time favorite for pollinators would be the various succulent cacti species like various prickly pear, turkey pear, and cholla.
    I have seen bee hives set in or near “living fences” as an added bonus.

  4. Great Grey

    June 14, 2014 at 8:01 PM

    It also a way to get around zoning that limits fence height if you need to block people from looking out their second floor windows and then they complain about what you have in your yard.

    • Lauren J

      June 16, 2014 at 3:08 PM

      This is a great tip, Great Grey! Thanks for sharing. I would have never thought of this, but it could be a great idea for extra privacy.

  5. Tasauf

    July 19, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    Thank you for share your knowledge. This post is so good. I think this blog be effective for everyone.
    Thank you

  6. David Nash

    October 11, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    Its interesting that you just posted this, as I just bought some land to developing into a diy homestead, and have been researching building a living fence. We are thinking a base of osage orange and locust.

  7. jolj

    March 3, 2017 at 10:42 PM

    This is a cheap way to get me to buy your stuff & it is a faults hope, no live fence can do anything for a prepper, unless it is fruit trees. No protection from high powered scope or a tracker.

  8. Mary Tennison

    February 6, 2018 at 6:15 AM

    I live in the south where wild blackberries grow well. With a sturdy wire fence in place, transplant some of the small blackberry plants. They will grow to cover the fence forming a thicket. The vines are covered in stickery thorns. The berries are wonderful fresh or made into preserves but care must be used when picking because of the thorns.

  9. Pa John

    June 3, 2018 at 9:53 AM

    This article along with a number of plant suggestions in the comments, is also good for security that does not LOOK like security. Imagine if you put in an impressive 12 or 15 foot high cement wall all around your house, with big heavy steel gates and perhaps barbed wire and/or embedded broken glass along the top of the wall, and lots of big lights and plainly visible security cameras. This would essentially advertise to the entire world that you must have a lot of goodies worth protecting inside, and thus attract the very worst kind of attention – the criminal types always looking for a big score. That obvious security spells high value target!

    Spiky thorny plants and hedges around a nondescript average looking place (it can be beautiful *inside* but outside just looks average or maybe even a touch on the dumpy and worn side, but not so bad as to anger neighbors worried about property values!) would make for a smarter deterrent because there is nothing outside to attract attention in the first place, followed by the seriously inconvenient scratchy hassle of having to fight past thorny hedges and such, especially when there is nothing that appears to be worth the trouble. Best not to be noticed in the first place and use security that _does not look like security_ but rather just looks like thorny plants and hedges that have been allowed to get a bit overgrown around a very unassuming and non-interesting plain old house. Not fool proof of course, but most thieves and looters will move on to more attractive targets. Not much to be gained in robbing poor folks.

    Let the foolish people with more money than sense attract all of the attention with their highly visible security measures that basically advertise that there must be lots of good stuff inside. Appear to be too poor to pay attention on the edge of poverty acres, not worth the time and trouble to bother with.

  10. George Szaszvari

    June 3, 2018 at 12:26 PM

    The planting and maintaining of barrier hedges and trees around my half acre Phoenix Arizona property has long been in effect. Luckily we have many plant choices in the Southwest to help. Pyracantha was one but is susceptible to fire blight. Rambling roses are excellent for chain link fences. For natural desert style hedges a mix of thorny plants native to the area, like Graythorn and Mesquite, works well and is very low maintenance needing only some occasional water (after being established). Be warned that regular watering will turn Mesquite into a high maintenance uncontrollable monster, so plan accordingly. One of the best choices as a visual and physical barrier is a thorny evergreen tree called Texas Ebony, which will grow tall and dense with regular watering, so plant well back from any sidewalks or adjoining properties to anticipate a spread of fifteen feet, or more.

  11. L

    June 3, 2018 at 3:53 PM

    Jujubee plants have long thorns and very antioxidant fruits and are somewhat drought tolerant. Only problem is getting them started.

  12. Mike

    June 3, 2018 at 4:16 PM

    Where I live black blackberries are the way to go. They form 10’ tall walls of thorns and delicious fruit. They also serve as homes for small families of quail that live around me. I plan on doing all four acres of my property. It’ll take time but will be worth it.

  13. John

    June 3, 2018 at 11:26 PM

    I don’t need this stuff. There is a wolverine that lives in the woods behind my property. If something weird is going on he shows up to see what’s going on. This place is secure.

  14. steve

    November 7, 2018 at 5:01 PM

    Try tall bamboo interspersed with some low growing thorny or spikey stuff- trying to sneak through the bamboo makes them appreciate the thorns etc. Cat claw is good and grows almost anywhere(in the SW).

    Hedges in England have kept cattle, sheep and people either in or out!

  15. Pingback: 9 Steps To Make Your Home Impenetrable – surviveurself

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