Thursday, 16 June 2016

Hedges: planting and aftercare

Hedge after two years
There was very little by way of hedging here when we moved in. The donkey and pony had eaten anything the previous owners planted. In the past three years we've been putting in around 250 hedge plants each winter, to hedge the entire perimeter and the veg garden and to partition paddocks into useful sheltered spaces for growing.

The most economical way to buy hedge plants is bareroot when they're dormant (November to March here). They are easy to send that way - they are basically sticks with a bit of root on them. The one disadvantage with bareroot plants is that you have to plant them as soon as possible, at the outermost within the week. This can be a challenge in February! Usually we end up with at least one day of awful weather while we're planting.

It doesn't really matter when you plant the hedge in the dormant season as long as the ground is workable. We prefer to leave it to February or early March after the worst of the winter storms have passed, but if you don't have wind issues you could just as well do it in November.

Prepped strips for the new hedge
When the bareroot plants arrive by courier, we unpack them straightaway, water their roots (you don't want them drying out at all) and then pop them into one of the compost bins and cover the roots over with compost while we get ready to plant them over the following days.

Prepped windbreak
Usually we have covered the strip where the new hedge is to go with black plastic for six months or so, to kill off weeds and prepare the ground. Sometimes we have to dig a trench for a little unplanned extra hedge. Usually we've also already prepared the windbreak fabric fence.

Planting spade
A planting spade makes the job a lot easier. This is a small spade with a lip that you can stand on. It makes a nice hole big enough for the bareroot sticks without too much effort. To fill the holes we prepare a planting mixture of soil, compost and a handful of bonemeal.

Unfortunately you can't just plant a hedge and leave it. Nascent hedges do need some nurturing:
  • Regular weeding, maybe three times a year, particularly in the beginning. Don't be tempted to take a shortcut and use weed killer - you'll risk killing the hedge as well. There is really no substitute for doing this by hand.
  • Regular mulching, at least once in spring before the leaves come back and once in autumn. This will keep the weeds down, moisture in and provide slow-release fertiliser to the new hedge. 
This year's new hedge needs weeding
Mulched hedge, first year

And then, of course, it will soon be time to trim the hedges annually...

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