How to Grow

Osage Orange Trees


("Osage County Chronicle," Burlingame, KS, March 31, 1866, page 1, column 2)

Having many times been requested by different person to furnish them with instructions for growing Osage Orange hedges, including seed etc., we will now try to comply through the press, giving as full and minute a plan as our pleasant limited time will permit.

We find it a very difficult matter to lay down any one general rule. In fact it is impossible to give a rule which it would not be necessary to deviate from at times; besides we suppose most every one has some good ideas of their own. Having had considerable experience and a wide field of observation, also the experience and experiments of others, we give the following instructions, which we think will come as near to a general rule as need be:

First. Sprouting the seed, soak the seed in soft water six or eight days, standing where it will keep warm, changing the water often to prevent fermentation, say every two days, then drain off the water and mix the seed in an equal quantity of sand earth, and let it remain in a warm place, kept moist and stirred once a day until the seed begins to sprout, then sow immediately. If the weather during the soaking of the seed should become too cold or too wet, so it probably would not do to plant the seed by the time it would begin to sprout, remove it to a cooler place so as to retard its sprouting. Plant the seed about good corn planting time, in good mellow, rich, sandy soil. If not sufficiently sandy to keep from baking make it so by mixing in sand. Sow in drills proper distance apart for convenient tending with horse or hoe, as you wish. Put seed in drill at least one inch apart, and one to one and a half inches deep, according to soil and weather.

If too dry weather occurs, water occasionally, or cover lightly with straw to keep the ground moist. The plants will come up about as readily as corn, all things properly managed. Especial care must be taken to keep the young plants clear of weeds and the soil mellow, to secure good strong plants of one summer's growth, such plants being the most desirable for general use. Dig the plants in either fall or spring, if dry in the fall. Keep them in a cellar or bury in the ground below frost, having tied them in bundles of about 100 plants, putting fine sand or earth on them sufficient to prevent them from either heating or drying.

If not dug until spring, protect them thro' the winter by throwing a light furrow to them on both sides, or cover with straw. Before digging, cut off the tops quite to the ground. Dig with either spade or plow (if you have not a tree digger) leaving the root six to eighty inches long.

We have been frequently asked why the seed may not be sown on the line where the hedge is to stand. Our answer is trouble of weeding and caring for the young plants the first season in such an extended position, would be greater than the labor of transplanting. Besides, it would be almost impossible to avoid gaps and irregular distances between the plants. Again the soil is not likely to be so favorable for the growth of the young plants throughout the entire length of the field as may be had in the garden or elsewhere. Finally, we have never seen a good hedge fence started from from the seed in the hedge row, and we have never known of Osage Orange failing to make a good fence when treated according to our instructions in planting hedge and trimming.

The ground should be well prepared by deep plowing and harrowing or spading. If not naturally deep and rich soil make it so by trenching and manuring. Set the plants in a single row, six or seven, never over 8 inches apart, to be cut off with the surface of the ground, they will then throw up several sheets from each root. The succeeding spring these shoots should all be cut off within two inches of the ground; this will cause them to throw out many lateral shoots, and about the middle or last of June cut them off uniformly to within three inches of the old wood. This will cause a new set of laterals to push out, and make the hedge very thick at the base. The next spring trim again to within three to five inches of the previous cutting, repeating the process thus twice a year for three or four years, or until the hedge is as broad, dense, and high as desired, when the trimming may be done as best suits the grower.

During the period of the growth of the hedge, the ground on each side should be kept mellow and free from weeds, for the space of four or five feet, in order to secure a strong thrifty growth of the hedge. If in low wet land, select from your strongest, largest plants, and throw up a ridge at least ten feet broad. The choice car and labor of trimming so frequently, many be thought by some too great for the object to be gained, but it can be performed with such rapidity after a little practice, that the expense of raising a "complete" hedge is much less than many persons would suppose. A poor fence is a nuisance; if you would have a good hedge you must give it proer care when young.

In our opinion the Osage Orange is the only thing that makes a good live fence in this country. We have always believed the willow to be a humbug, hence we have enver taken any "stock" in it.

We now have at our nursery, one mile west of Atchison on the parallel road good fresh seed, warranted so, and will have the plants this fall and next spring.

Goodhue & Runnels.