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22 February 2017 Hedge and Tree protection

Do I need to use Hedge/Tree Protection?


Newly planted hedges and trees may need to be protected against Rabbits, Hares, or Deer (Mutjac, Roe, Fallow or Red). Using hedge/tree protection will add a significant cost to planting your new hedge so it needs careful consideration, if you know you have any of the above animals present, then you will certainly need to protect them as you will likely get considerable damage and need to replace the plants. If you are not sure, you could try planting without them and stay vigilant and add them later if needed.


What am I protecting against?


If you are planting a new hedge, then your main concern is rabbits! Rabbits are known not just for nibbling the plants but also for biting the plants right off, a spiral will stop them getting access to the stems. Surprisingly rabbits love Holly – so not even these spiky plants are safe. Deer are less of a concern for a hedge line as they tend to browse the plant, sometimes talking the leader and making the plant more bushy. A 60 cm spiral/shrub shelter is great for rabbits, if you have Hares then you need a 75 cm Spiral/shrub shelter, sadly as Hares are not as common we have very few request for these now.
If you are planting trees you need to consider Rabbits and Deer. Rabbits as above will nibble and bite the trees off. Deer are a concern as when they browse they often take the soft lead shoot off which results in a bushy plant rather than a tall tree, so it is the leader you really need to protect here. Depending on which type of Deer you have will depend on how tall the tree guard should be. On level ground (so the Deer can’t get above) use 1.2 m for Roe Deer, 1.5 m for Fallow Deer and 1.8m for Red Deer.


Which Species should I protect?


You need to protect most broadleaved trees and conifers. The exception to this is would be the Wayfaring trees and Yew, Alder is less palatable but also can get nibbled. It would also depend on what you are planting the trees for and how many are in the scheme. Sometimes it is more economical to rabbit/deer fence a whole site than buy individual spirals/guards. If you are growing conifers for Christmas trees it is also better not to put them in shelters as it can restrict their growth, and form is very important when selling the trees on in a few years.

What effect do the Spirals/Shelters have on my plants?


On a tree with a single stem such as Oak, Cherry, Hazel or Lime spirals can have a good effect on the growth rates as well as protecting against rabbits and spraying. For hedges, although the spirals stretch with the growth of the plants, they can have the effect of restricting the growth of the hedge around the bottom, so you need to trade this off against the risk of the rabbits nibbling off the plant entirely. You can remove the spirals when the plants are strong, usually after 2 -3 years, and the hedge will begin to bush out at the bottom.
Tree shelters have been shown to provide trees with a microclimate inside the tube which actually helps with growth. The tree is protected from winds and the temperature and moisture levels are higher promoting better establishment and growth rates. It also worth noting that you can plant 40/60 cm plants in a shelter and they will catch up with the 60/90 cm plant in just a few years so if you need to use shelters you can reduce the cost by planting the small sized trees. If you are planting Beech you need to ventilate the shelter by punching a few holes into the mesh, and keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t sweat, if they are punch more holes or remove the guard.
Spirals/guards also have the effect of protecting your plant from herbicide spraying; keeping the hedge line and space around the tree weed free in the first few years will really help with the growth rate.


How do I fit the Spiral/shelter?


Some of the spirals/shelters come nested to make transportation easier, pull the inside ones out from the top, others such as the defender shrub shelter are flat packed and need to be popped into shape.
Spirals are slipped over the top of the newly planted whip, they should be pushed lightly into the soil to eliminate any gaps at the base. A 90 cm cane should then be pushed into the ground inside the spiral.
For the trees/shrub shelters, the flared rim goes at the top to prevent the plants chafing on the edge as they grow, they should be slipped over the plant and pressed lightly into the soil to prevent gaps. These need to be anchored with a stake on the outside of the shelter using the ties that are attached to the shelter, or the slots on the defender shelter. You need a stake long enough to push into the ground by up to a third. The stake should be below the flared edge of the tube to prevent damage to the tube.

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