Native hedges make a great addition to any garden, offering a number of benefits, including acting as pollution barriers and creating boundaries between properties. We’re going to take a look at some of the key tips that will help you plant and cultivate a high standard native hedge.
What you should plant, and why whips are your friend
Whips offer a cheap and effective way to create native hedges; if you’ve got the patience! Whips are young, bare-rooted saplings and can be purchased either in bundles or as single plants. Some firms will even provide them as hedging mixes. They’re dormant when they’re bought, but don’t panic: in spring they’ll suddenly burst into leaf, and will start shooting up faster than you might think.
Don’t try and be too orderly
Because it is by nature a mixture of different trees and shrubs, you shouldn’t worry about trying to present a native hedge in a formal way. You should of course keep on top of its size and prune it as necessary, but native hedges won’t take too well to you trying to move them into a sculpted privet hedge style display!
Prepping the soil
It’s very important to prepare the area into which the hedge will be planted, as this will help it go the distance. It’s important to remove any weeds or large stones in the area, to dig over the space and then to incorporate some organic matter into the soil. As a general rule, try and plant sometime between late autumn and spring, as long as the ground isn’t waterlogged or frozen.
How to go about planting your native hedge
Generally speaking, whips should be planted in a staggered double row, round about half a metre apart. The spacing of each plant will depend on how quickly it will shoot up as well as how big it’s likely to get. As a general rule it’s wiser to allow for larger gaps, as they can always be filled up later if the hedge isn’t reaching the size expected. Too little is better than too much in this case!
It’s also important to create a nice thick mulch with which to work. This will help to reduce any competition to the hedge from weeds, especially in those early weeks when it’s first getting going.
After care for the hedge
It’s important to consistently care for the hedge once it’s got going. The mulch should be fully topped up, and during the first couple of years it might become necessary to help with the watering a bit.
If you’re going to carry out any pruning, it’s recommended that this is carried out during autumn for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’ll mean that you won’t disturb any nesting birds (many of whom quite like native hedges), and also the deciduous trees and shrubs will be dormant during this time. It’s often a good idea to cut back quite hard, as this will encourage the hedge to thicken up over time.
Good trees to try
Field maple is popular, as is Hawthorn, Bird cherry, English oak, hornbeam and yew.
Some popular choices are holly, guelder rose, hazel, elder and common dogwood.
As with all forms of gardening, it’s usually a good idea to make sure that the space is planned out through both the winter and the summer. This way, evergreen plants and shrubs can be sure to combine with the rest of the garden at all times of year.