Hedges provide many opportunities for wildlife to flourish, by providing shelter, food, nest sites and more.
As well as this, they form a natural barrier against unwanted visitors, a baffle against noise and wind, and a lovely tapestry of colour that changes with the seasons.
The thicker and taller your hedge, the more inhabitants it will support, but even a short strip will attract wildlife, including birds, field mice, bank voles, hedgehogs, invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles.
To save time and money, start your hedge by planting bare-root plants from November to March with plants like hawthorn, hazel and blackthorn. You can even buy themed, ready-made hedge packs, for example thornless or edible packs.
Before you plant, enrich your soil with plenty of well-rotted manure to give your hedge the best start in life.
- How to prune a wildlife hedge
- How to cut a window into a hedge (video)
- How to build a wildlife shelter
- What to plant in March
Follow the easy steps in this guide to plant your wildlife hedge.
You Will Need
- Bare-root hedging plants
- Mycorrhizal fungi granules
- Garden spade
- Garden compost or well-rotted farmyard manure
Soak the roots in a bucket of water for about 30 minutes, while you dig the trench. Trim off any roots that are damaged or overly long, to stimulate good growth.
Make up a gel of mycorrhizal fungi, mixing granules and water in a bucket. Dip the roots in so they’re fully coated, then place the plant in your trench. Space each plant around 30cm apart.
Backfill the soil around the roots and firm down with your heel to get rid of any air pockets. Give the plant a gentle tug to check that it’s securely in place.
Plants with a few roots, such as this bare-root rose, can be planted simply into a slit made in the soil with a spade. Drop the roots in, release the spade and firm in.
Prune each plant back hard, by as much as half, to encourage it to become bushy. It might seem brutal, but it’ll give you a thicker hedge.
Water the plants in, then add a layer of garden compost or well-rotted manure as a protective mulch, to help retain moisture at the roots. Keep well watered over the coming year.
Tips for planting your hedge
- Plant bare-roots on the day they arrive, so they don’t dry out. If you can’t, soak them in a bucket of water then plant in a patch of bare soil until you’re ready
- Insert whips at the correct depth, so the dark part of the stem is below soil level. Firm plants in with your heel, to prevent air pockets around the roots
- Mulch the ground around the plants with a thick layer of organic matter to help prevent the roots drying out
- Water regularly, especially during dry weather, as newly planted shrubs are vulnerable to dessication. You can cut back on watering after three to four months, when a new root system will have developed
- Remove weeds that develop around the base of your hedge, as these compete with the shrubs for water and nutrients, slowing establishment
Plants for the base of a wildlife hedge
Underplanting the hedge with wildflowers will increase the biodiversity. Many plants tolerate these dry, shady conditions, so choose a mix to extend the season. Buying plug plants will keep down the cost. Plants to grow include the common polypody, cowslips, English bluebells, hedge woundwort, sweet violets, foxgloves, daffodils and yarrow. Honeysuckle and ivy are great for growing through your hedge.