advice on hedge, fence, or wall between yard and busy road

AsteridMarch 28, 2014

We just moved into a 1950s colonial which sits on a stony ledge on a 6000 sq ft corner lot. [Edit: see pictures below]

Between the base of the ledge and a busy road, there's a neglected strip of land about 80' x 15'. 10 feet of the width belong to us, and about 5 feet probably belong to the town. I'd like to build some sort of barrier to separate our yard from the road.

By doing this I hope to:
- have some additional gardening space (it has our southern exposure)
- give our kids a little additional outdoor space to play in. They're responsible and not likely to run into the road esp. if there is a clear line not to cross.
- discourage people from throwing trash as they walk or drive past... I'm picking up about 5 pieces of litter a day
- make that side of the property look more attractive
- mute a little of the road noise
- Maybe one day extend the narrow sidewalk that runs along that side of the road but ends a few properties away from ours

Originally I thought I'd like to plant hedge (privet or lilac, need something that can handle road salt) but I found that the soil is tremendously hard and rocky. I tried planting a couple of baby lilacs but was unable to scoop more than 7 inches with my trowel (don't have any better equipment right now.) I'm not sure how far the bedrock is underneath.

What would be the best choice-- a hedge, a fence, or a wall? Or something else? If I were in funds I would have a stone wall built and possibly add more soil, but I don't know how involved this would be. I'm reasonably handy but not very muscular.

Thanks for your suggestions!

This post was edited by Asterid on Fri, Mar 28, 14 at 22:17

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Fences provide instant privacy. A hedge would need years to mature and provide what you're looking for. Can you post a picture?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 1:48PM
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I can't find my camera, but here's a shot from Google Maps which pretty much captures the area including litter.

My concern is wouldn't a fence or wall need digging to set the foundation? Or would the fact that the ground is so hard be an advantage?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 2:22PM
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Here's the view around the corner so you can see the rock garden and brown wooden fence surrounding the deck which takes up most of the yard, which is at the level of that black composter in the middle of the photo.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 2:27PM
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One more... might as well give you the whole view. The bit in front of the house is the entire yard, not counting the deck, so we're trying to maximize our usable space.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 2:40PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Planting won't diminish road noise, and is unlikely to reduce littering. I suspect planting into that rocky soil isn't insurmountable, a power auger to excavate holes would make short work of it. Stylistically a fence doesn't seem a good fit with the setting, and you've already said you don't want to spend the money on a new stone wall to give a planting bed. It seems you've laid out your most likely treatment, and a lilac hedge might work just fine if set back from road salt area at edge of road.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 3:28PM
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In order to get enough light that a lilac hedge would grow without being deformed, you'd need to cut back the overhanging tree growth.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 3:52PM
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Thanks Allen, bahia, and Yardvaark!

A stone wall isn't completely out of the question but it sounds expensive and not like a DIY project. We aren't against changing things around in the landscaping or overall look of the house-- in fact would change a lot if we could-- but we probably wouldn't have more than a couple thousand dollars this year to spend (doesn't go far in the NY metro area.)

I already hope to tidy up the leaning trees and brush a bit, and also that area actually does get a good bit of sun during the day. Supposing, however, that we hit solid rock only a few inches down-- what are our options?

This post was edited by Asterid on Fri, Mar 28, 14 at 22:24

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 10:10PM
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Thuja Green Giants... probably your only option unless you are willing to spend crazy money or wait a lifetime for something like Yew or Boxwood to grow. For a privacy hedge they should be planted between 5 and 6 ft apart, meaning your 80ft would require about 13-16 to create a wall the full length of that strip. I typically don't encourage plant purchases at big box stores, but in this case it makes economic sense.

I have found Lowes has a better selection than HD, but shop around. Depending on how quickly you want privacy will determine the size of plants you buy. Home Depot had 5ft, very full ones last year for $50 a piece, so you could do your whole hedge for somewhere between $650 - $800...or if you are not in a rush, you can get 2-3ft plants for like $15 bucks a piece or less and plant the whole hedge for like $200 bucks...wait 5 years and have a completed hedge. These things grow like crazy and will give your privacy quickly even if you buy small. Just be sure to read up on proper planting and the right time to do it. Either (NOW) or early in the spring or wait until the fall, no other time is good for trees.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 9:49PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Search Craigslist for the type of plant you are looking for. There are two local "Wholesale to the Public" nurseries close to me. They sell mainly to landscapers, but they will sell to you at a much lower price than the big box stores.

How do they do this? They buy whats left from the growers after the retail nurseries and Big Box stores fill their orders. We have got some amazing deals on 1-5 gallon plants from them.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 11:07AM
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Bridget Helm
    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 1:19PM
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Thank you Shawn and Suzi for the tips on Thuja Green Giants and how to get shrubbery cheap. I *have* considered arborvitae, which probably would go best with the current look of the house, and are fast-growing. bmh4796, I looked up English Laurel, and it's handsome and a fast grower, but aren't the leaves toxic?

Maybe I could plant a line of arborvitae and then add some more colorful or interesting plants at their bases?

Anyway, because I had them and didn't know what else to do with them, I put some 4 inch lilacs in the ground already, and a 2 day cold snap promptly blackened their leaves. Undaunted, I stuck a white Beauty of Moscow on the corner next to the twin trees, hopefully far enough behind the hydrant to not run into trouble. I don't know what I'm doing here... hope it doesn't look too weird. The more I consider, it seems like I need to come up with an overall plan for the house instead of just buying plants I like and poking them in here and there.

I suppose the tiny lilacs will stay there until I find a sale on Thuja, or save up enough for a stone wall. I'm afraid that whole area is probably solid rock underneath. There are a couple of large (2 foot long) outcroppings of stone that look like they extend underground. Wish I could show you but I still can't find my camera!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 10:58PM
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" seems like I need to come up with an overall plan for the house instead of just buying plants I like and poking them in here and there." Absolutely. Without a comprehensive plan, you are in danger of developing something undesirable even though using well liked plants.

The last picture is lined up across from the front door. For the area in question, it would be good if the camera moved to the right so that it could be seen how much canopy is overhanging. It's very likely that you will need to create some additional light before planting anything ... if you want it to survive and prosper.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 7:24AM
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Thank you Yardvaark! I finally got my hands on a camera so here is a better picture of the area. The baby lilacs are circled with rocks... didn't use a power auger but may transplant them properly when I know what to do. The ground is very very stony and previous owner tells me that the ledge is solid rock.

The canopy by the road is considerable. I think I would like to remove the large leaning tree, but it will be expensive and seems healthy.

This post was edited by Asterid on Mon, May 12, 14 at 22:37

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 10:36PM
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The most recent picture is the one that best explains what this area is about. In light of that, I don't think any of your original goals are appropriate for reasonable for this area except, "make that side of the property look more attractive. The lilacs are not going to fare well trying to grow under the shade of large trees. They need serious direct sunlight in order to grow and bloom well. Here, if they grow, they will be shapeless, rangey greenery. Neither does grass grow well. The way to make this area look better is to replace the attempt at grass with a low groundcover that prospers in these conditions. And maintain it in a weed-free condition.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 11:27AM
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