Hedges are a haven for wildlife and lend beauty and character to our countryside, outlasting fencing by many years.
If you are thinking about creating your very own native hedgerow, then the best time to do so is between October to late March. As woody plants are not in active growth and are available to buy cheaply as bare-root specimens or as young whips.
Native shrubs and trees like hawthorn, field maple, blackthorn, hazel, beech, hornbeam and holly make an ideal mixture of hedging plants. Grow rambling plants, such as wild rose, bramble and honeysuckle through your hedge, to provide even more shelter and food for wildlife. Plants which provide berries or seeds for birds are always preferable.
Planting hedgerow trees will attract more wildlife and if allowed to grow into trees, will provide shade. Hedgerow trees should be included as whips, planted 10-15 metres apart. Suitable species include ash, rowan, oak, whitebeam, birch, willow, alder, crab apple and wild cherry.
For a single-row hedgerow, space plants 30-50cm apart, while for a double-row hedgerow, allow five to six plants per metre but stagger the rows.
Tips for planting
- Soak the plants root systems in a bucket of water before planting and make sure to water again after planting.
- Always choose a dry, settled, non- icy period of weather that allow you to plant up to the existing soil mark on the stems of bare-root plants.
- While native hedging plants do not need soil enriched by manure or garden compost, they do appreciate one that is weed-free (mulching after planting will also help prevent weed growth).
- Using a garden fork to break up the soil at the bottom of the planting hole will also help young plants to establish.
Here is an interesting read on the hedgerows of County Galway https://hedgelaying.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/West-County-Galway-Hedgerow-Survey.pdf
Here is a lovely worksheet for children https://www.schoolearthed.ie/worksheets/Planting-a-native-hedgerow-or-woodland.pdf
Suppliers of barerooted plants
When it comes to sourcing native hedging plants, try to buy Irish-grown plants cultivated from certified Irish seed. Some examples include
Clare-based CELT https://www.celtnet.org/tree-nursery
Future Forests in Cork https://futureforests.ie/collections/wildlife-hedging