Planting Advice: Hedges

Planting a Bare-Root Hedgerow

Preparing the ground:

It is important to remove all existing weeds from your proposed new hedge line before you start planting. Weeds and grass will compete with your new hedge for nutrients and moisture and will detract from their growth.

Therefore, if you can in September/October the hedge line needs to be marked out and the weed or grass removed. This can either be done by spraying with an appropriate broad-spectrum herbicide (e.g. Roundup) or if you are organic, the hedge line needs to either be hand-weeded or rotavated before planting.

Normally it is unnecessary to add fertiliser to the soil, but if it is poor or very heavy ground, then well-rotted manure or garden compost can be incorporated into the soil. If manure is unavailable, then bone meal could be considered.  You may also wish to add Rootgrow Mychorrizal Fungi, This treatment will increase your plant's secondary root system and enables your plant to access more nutrients and moisture, increasing its vigour and tolerance to drought.

Choosing shrubs for the hedge:

If you are planning to plant a stock proof hedge, then you should generally plant about 70% thorns (hawthorn, blackthorn or a mixture of both) and 30% other mixed native species.

These mixed species would normally include hazel, field maple and dogwood, with perhaps some guelder rose, spindle, crab apple and wild roses to add colour and variety for wildlife. Holly makes an excellent evergreen hedge but is slow growing and dislikes heavy wet ground (and is relatively expensive). It is, however, very shade tolerant.

Where the hedge does not have to be stock proof, then the numbers of thorns could be reduced and shrubs such as elder, wild honeysuckle, wayfaring tree or wild privet can be incorporated in place of the thorns. We have a variety of packs available to suit locations such as coastal, gardens, edibles and native planting. You can see our range here

Planting the new hedge:

Planting can take place from November through to late March/early April. However, it is important not to plant when the ground is waterlogged or frosted.

To help get your plants established you can use Rootgrow Mychorrizal Fungi, this should be applied directly to the roots, for bare-root plants it is often easier to use Rootgrow Mychorrizal Fungi - dipping Gel. This treatment will increase your plant's secondary root system and enables your plant to access more nutrients and moisture, increasing its vigour and tolerance to drought. 

You could consider laying a length of polypropylene to act as a mulch, which will suppress weeds and encourage root growth and will also help retain moisture. The plants could be planted through slits in this material, and then the slits closed using, for example, pea gravel. 

When planting, either through the polypropylene or bare earth, the plants should be ‘notch’ planted at the same depth as they were growing in the nursery – i.e. the depth of the root collar. It is best to use a planting spade to create a slot for the plant to go in. The plants should then be well firmed in to ensure the roots have good contact with the soil, and to prevent them from ‘rocking’ in the wind.

If polypropylene is not used, then a thick layer of mulch could be used after planting – i.e. well-rotted manure or composted bark – to help suppress competition from new weed growth.

The new hedge will have to be protected against damage by livestock, rabbits or hares. It should be fenced in to protect it from livestock. However, if rabbits (or hares) are a problem, then the individual plants could be protected using spiral shelters. We can also supply these if required, so please ask for details. See Hedge and Tree protection for more information. 

Planting distances:

To establish a thick hedge, plant 2 rows approximately 30cms apart. Planting should be staggered in these rows which means planting about 5 plants to the metre.

Maintenance of the hedge:

Weeding the hedgerow for the first few years is essential until the plants are established and can begin to suppress the weed growth themselves. An annually applied mulch is of great benefit. 

At the end of the first growing season, check the hedge and cut back any plants which have grown away from their neighbours.  The following year again check the growth of the hedge and consider cutting back the top of the hedge to encourage bushiness. When your hedge is well established, it is good practice to cut the hedge into slight  'A' shape, this lessens the shade cast on the bottom of the hedge.  Many plants flower and produce berries on the previous season's growth so an alternate cutting of the top one year and the following year sides will give you the best show.