Updated: May 24
Irish native hedge provide a wealth of benefits for any garden or farm, including increased biodiversity, shelter for wildlife, and a source of food and nesting sites. There are many different species of Irish native hedging plants, each with its own unique characteristics and benefits. In this blog, we'll explore the key elements of planting an Irish native hedge, including the best time of year, preparation and planting tips, and care and maintenance.
When to Plant an Irish Native Hedge
The best time to plant an Irish native hedge is between November and March, when the saplings are dormant. Over the winter the roots will have time to establish before the growing season begins. Bare root plants are also much cheaper compared to plants in pots.
Preparation and Planting Tips
Before planting, it's important to prepare the site. This means moving grass at short setting which will make planting much easier. You can choose to dig a trench but I find direct planting easier and faster.
When it comes to planting, it's important to choose the right plants. For example, if you're looking for a hedge that provides a lot of shelter and nesting sites for wildlife, you might want to choose species such as hawthorn, blackthorn, or holly. If you're looking for a hedge that provides food for wildlife, you might choose species such as bramble, elder, or hazel. Willow (salix), alder and birch are great for waterlogged soil near ponds and rivers. It is important to mix at least 3-5 different species to provide greater variety of food and habitat for insect and birds.
Plant size also matter as smaller saplings (2-3ft) require less aftercare and have higher chance to successfully establish.
When you dug a hole, simply space out the samplings and backfill the hole with soil. With direct planting cut a X orT into soil and "open" it with shovel from the side (photo below). Insert saplings roots into the hole and close. Make sure you don`t plant too deep and the soil is firm around the roots to prevent the plants from becoming unstable. This way you can plant large amount of tree saplings very quickly. Space the plants about 30-60cm apart. If you want your native hedge to become dense, plant into double or triple rows.
Care and Maintenance
It is important to remember that hedges and trees grew for millennia without our help. So once your Irish native hedge is planted using small saplings it has very high change to successfully establish without much attention. When you plant larger plants or trees it is important to water regularly in the first year especially during dry spells.
You may also need to prune your hedge to encourage bushier growth and to maintain its shape. But current way of hacking the hedge back to bare stumps is not beneficial for hedge or the biodiversity. If you wish to maintain the hedge shape use 3 year rotation pruning method, where you prune 1 side in year one, top in year 2 and far side year 3. This way you leave plenty of berries and nesting habitat for birds and wildlife. Pruning of young hedge could be done in late summer or early autumn, just before the plants begin to go dormant. Pruning of established hedge can be legally done in Ireland only from September to the end of February.
Weeding is often advised as important and necessary aftercare but again the trees were here long before humans and I have seen and planted myself hedges with no weeding done, long grass and all plants did well. You can use organic mulch as woodchips which will feed the soil, suppress weeds and help the plants grow better but on a larger scale that might not be financially practical. In few years the hedge will suppress the grass and weeds.
Planting an Irish native hedge can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. By following these tips and guidelines, you can create a hedge that provides a wealth of benefits for your garden, including increased biodiversity, shelter for wildlife, and a source of food and nesting sites. So why not get started today and bring a little bit of Irish nature into your garden!
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