How to Plant Country Hedging
Hedge Planting - How to Plant a Country Hedge
Ready the Ground
Remove competition for your hedging. Between July and September apply a systemic weedkiller (if you use chemicals). This will give the weeds time to die before planting. If you do not want to spray, cut the weeds short and use our polypropylene weed control fabric instead. For short lengths of hedge, you can shave the vegetation off the ground with a spade, but you will need to keep an eye open to make sure persistent weeds do not come back in strength.
Check your plants
Always make sure you have received the hedging you ordered and that you are satisfied with its quality. Bare rooted hedge plants should have a good ratio of root to shoot, but remember that hedging with bushy roots is harder to plant in quantity so we try to grow our younger hedge plants (up to 80 cms)with slim roots. Never use weak, damaged or diseased hedging plants and always handle hedging material with care. Do not clip roots unless it is absolutely essential. If you are going to plant within 7 days of receipt there is no need to heel hedging plants in just keep them in a cool place in their bags. If you are storing bare root hedge plants for over a week, heel them into a trench at a 45-degree angle. Cover the roots with soft soil and firm lightly. Hedging will keep for 8 weeks like this. Whatever you do, whilst keeping the roots damp until they are planted is important, please DO NOT put bare-rooted hedge plants in a bucket of water and leave them there; 30 seconds will do them a power of good but 48 hours will kill them stone dead.
Avoid damage to your hedge plants before planting
Always keep hedging in bags when moving it to prevent its roots drying out. Don't let hedge plants overheat, so leave them in bags in the shade and out of the wind (bag opening away from the direction of the wind) until the last minute when planting. Never stack bags of hedging material.
When to plant hedging
Generally, the hedge planting season starts in November and ends in March except in Scotland when it can go on for another four weeks. Good planting days are overcast and still (hedging loves a gentle drizzle!). Avoid sun and wind as these dry the roots and never plant hedging when the ground is frozen or covered with snow. If it is, the roots of your hedging will be frozen also. Freezing does not hurt them, but being moved when frozen breaks iced roots and your hedging will die. Just leave it where it is until the ground thaws.
Hedge plant spacing
Follow the rules - if you are getting a grant for your hedging, the approval document will give you the spacing to use. Otherwise for Hawthorn hedges and for mixed hedging such as our Conservation Hedge Mix we recommend 5 hedge plants per metre if you are planting two rows, and 3 plants per metre for one. You can use the same spacing for our Stock Friendly hedging mix which is ideal for horses, cattle and sheep. The spacing between hedging rows should not be greater than 45cm if the hedge is to be stock-proof or laid. For a wildlife hedge, such as our All Seasons hedge mix which is the most colourful and season proof of our hedge packs or the Edible hedging pack (if you get there before the squirrels) you can leave as much as 100cm between rows, but remember the mature hedge will then be 9-10 (3m) wide.
How to plant hedging
Have a bucket full of water. Take a bundle of plants out of a bag, cut the string or cable ties that hold them together and put the plants in the bucket (root end down). Slit planting is the best way to plant native hedging of 60/80 cms or less. Push your spade into the soil to the depth of the roots. Rock backwards and forwards to widen the slit. Take a plant from the bucket, sweep the roots into the hole from one side without squashing them. For a bigger slit, cut at right angles to the first slit to make a T or L shaped notch. Always firm hedging in well. Don't damage the bark, but be really firm. Using your thumb and forefinger, it should be very hard to pull newly planted hedging out. It is really important to be sure that root collars finish at or slightly above soil level (planting too deep kills plants). With large numbers of plants, we always recommend planting hedging in teams of three. One to make the slit, one to put the hedging material into it, and the third to really firm the hedge plant in. An amateur planting team ought to be able to plant 500 hedge plants a day which equates to 100 metres of hedging or more.
Pit or trench plant bare root hedging that has larger roots generally on plants over 100cm tall - such as the larger Hawthorn. Dig a hole big enough for the roots and centre the plant in the hole with the root collar just below ground level. Replace earth (break up the clods and take out large stones). Gently tug the plant so the soil settles around the roots. Firm hedge plants in so the root collar ends up at soil level. The cardinal (and usually fatal) sin when planting hedging is to plant too deeply and too loosely. It is better to leave a few roots out of the ground than to have the root collars of your hedging 2cm below soil level where they will rot and the hedge will die. It is better to over-compact the ground than to leave it soft so the plant flops about in the wind.
If you want to see the possibilities with country hedging have a look at our native hedging section