Clearing the Overgrown Orchard

We’re lucky enough to have an orchard area here. It’s walled on two sides with fencing on the other two to keep the sheep out. At least they would keep the sheep out if they hadn’t managed to trample down the gate.

Orchard Overgrown Privet Hedge

Orchard Overgrown Privet Hedge, John & Chainsaw

The plan is to fox-proof the area and then run chickens and ducks under the fruit trees. But before I can fox-proof the area, the old privet hedge needed a trim. Now if you just leave a privet hedge to grow on its own for 5 or 10 years, you’ll find you’ve a 20 or 30 foot monster bush.


When we first saw the orchard, I realised the privet and a couple of hawthorns would need cutting back and the resulting brushwood shredding. It really doesn’t sound that much when you say it quickly but this is a job beyond a Black & Decker hedge trimmer ā€“ the base stems being over 6″ thick.

Half Way Through Cutting the Hedge

Half Way Through Cutting the Hedge Down

I do have an electric chain saw and extension cables that chained together will reach the orchard, but it’s a daunting task. Anyway, an old pal (when you reach my age most of your pals are old) John Burson ā€“ his website is about living in the Conwy Valley – came over between Christmas and New Year for a bit of help with his web site. He lives about an hour away from us and we hadn’t met up since we were in Crewe about 5 years ago. So I showed him around the holding including the orchard.


Orchard After Clearing the Overgrown Privet

Orchard After Cutting Down the Overgrown Privet

So, this morning he turns up with his trusty petrol chain saw and we cut down the lot. I say we, but he did most of the work. All I did was to pull branches out of the way when he cut them and organise a few cups of tea.


What’s surprised me is how much wood there is now it’s cut down. Any branches over about an inch thick will be stacked to season and in a year or two will be heating the house.

I reckon it’s going to be a good couple or three days work to shred the rest but those nutrients and humus will do the soil good. I’ll see how I go, I’ve so much brushwood around now that it might be most sensible to just have a couple of bonfires and save the wood ash. The biggest benefit is that the fruit trees will be able to grow well now they actually get light. The east and south sides are no longer shaded.

Overgrown Hedges

Incidentally, if you find yourself faced with an overgrown privet hedge, gaps at the base, the best way to handle it is to cut it right down to about 18″ above ground level. OK, it will take a year or two to come back but nibbling at the edges never gives a good result.

If the roots are well established, that’s all you need to do but if it’s very spindly and a bit weak then some general purpose fertiliser will help it recover.


Since we moved out to the country, one thing that’s really come home to me is how none of us are completely self-sufficient. Apart from the web of paid services that we rely on, lets call it civilisation, helping each other out by contributing our individual skills is vital.

We just couldn’t cope without our friends and neighbours. Like the Beatles sang “I get by with a little help from my friends”

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
3 comments on “Clearing the Overgrown Orchard
  1. Will Jackson says:

    Hi John and a Happy New Year, even if it has been mighty wet today. Instead of burning ALL of the remnants, how about leaving a few brushwood piles to decay naturally. Excellent habitat for our fungal and invertebrate friends and also nesting sites for native birds and summer visitors. Keep warm, keep dry, keep happy….just off to the club for a swift half

  2. John says:

    That’s a great point Will – thank you šŸ™‚

    Hope the half was good

  3. Martin says:

    “Get by with a little help….”
    I could not agree more.
    We have been given fruit by the bucket ( apples in the wheel burrow) and give back jams and cider. I think it startedc with us giving a few eggs to our 3 elderley neighbours but this week we have been given carrots, spuds and a leg of vennison. We live in rural France and our neighbours love that we grow our own and share their lives.
    Cheers Martin

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