How to Plant a Country Hedge (Video)

Planting a Native Country Hedge

This film applies to all the native country hedge plants.
It does not apply to formal hedging, like Beech or Yew, which are planted as shown in our video here
The plants in this video are from our Conservation Hedge mix, the government grant approved hedgerow for biodiversity. They thrive in poor soils and urban conditions.

Country hedging is always delivered & planted bareroot in the winter (Nov-March). All our Hedging is Guaranteed for one Year.

TRANSCRIPT

Hello and welcome to Ashridge Trees (Nurseries). This film shows you how to plant a mixed country hedge or a single species hedge such as Hawthorn or Blackthorn. Country hedge plants are always bare rooted, so the planting season is from November through to March (approximately) when they're dormant.

Before you start, you will need a sprayer or watering can, if you're going to use weed killer, a spade, sharp knife, canes and spirals if you have rabbits, polypropylene weed control fabric, string, a bucket, thorn proof gloves, a one-meter-long piece of wood, and on planting day, you will need your plants.

Apply a non-residual weed killer, anyone containing glyphosate is fine, following the manufacturer's instructions, a minimum of four weeks before you intend to plant.

If the soil is soft enough for you to push a spade in full depth, then you do not need to dig the ground at all. If it is harder than that, then dig over short strips and rotovate long ones. Remove large roots and big stones.

We recommend the use of mulch fabric because it prevents weed growth, retains moisture and so promotes a healthier hedge. The best way of securing the matting is to tuck the edges in with a spade.

You'll need to cut slips in the fabric a little wider than your spade, with a sharp knife.

Country hedges are best planted in two rows with five plants per metre of hedge. Because the rows will be staggered, this means you'll need to cut three slits per metre in each row, marking out a piece of wood with 33cm spacings will help you to do this. Use the lines on the fabric to help you plant in a straight line.

If you're not using fabric, you'll need to use two sticks and a piece of string.

Take a selection of plants out of the wrapping and put the roots in the bucket of water and cut the strings on the bundles.

Push your spade to full depth through the first slit in the fabric. Push the handle of the spade forward to make a slot in the soil behind. Find the roots collar on the first plant. This is the point above the roots where it grew in the soil before it was lifted. Put the roots of the plant into the slot behind the spade, checking the plant is not too deep, and then holding the plant in place, remove the spade.

It's important that the root collar ends up at slightly above ground level. If you plant too deep, the stem can rot. If you're using canes and spirals for rabbit protection, push a cane into the slot as close to the stem of the plant as possible. Using the heel of your boot, firmly close the slot around the roots of the plant.

Hedge plants establish more quickly if there is a firm contact between roots and the soil. If you can pull out the plant held in between your thumb and forefinger, you've probably not been firm enough.

Now you have to cut back your hedge. Be brave. All thorn-based hedge plants should be cut down by half after planting, because this makes them branch low down, helping to create a bushy hedge. These instructions for cutting back do not apply to formal hedges, such Beech, Hornbeam, Box or Yew.

Spirals for rabbit protection come in nests of five. Pull a spiral from the inside of the nest and then wind it around a plant and cane, starting at the bottom and working upwards.

When you finish this planting, you will find that some of your beautifully tucked in mulch fabric will have come loose. Tuck it back in with your spade.

You've just planted your first country hedge. Well done.

You can read more about and buy most of the items you need here:

Unlike formal garden hedges, mature country style hedges are usually trimmed every other year.
This makes them less tidy and much more colourful, with all sorts of flowers, fruit and autumn colour going on.

  • If you are planting a big native hedge out in the country, the best option is to buy the conservation hedge mix in bundles of 50 plants; each pack will do 16 metres of single row hedge or 10 metres of double row. You can also buy cheaper economy packs of 250 smaller plants.
  • If you are planting a country style hedge along your garden, you might want to make your own mix from the list below and throw in some extra plants for even more colour.

Classic Country Hedge Plants

The list below is not exhaustive, but these country hedging plants & shrubs are by far the most popular. Between them they grow almost anywhere, are excellent for wildlife, and will thrive even with the roughest trimming techniques. 

Blackthorn / Sloe Berries are used in Sloe Gin. Flowers in very early spring, before any leaves appear. Not suitable for chalk.

Crab Apple Fruit can be used in crabapple jelly. Lovely pink-white blossom.

Guelder Rose Not actually a rose. Round bunches of white flowers that turn into bright red berries. Great autumn colour. Fine for chalk & heavy clay, not for acidic soils.

Hawthorn / Quickthorn The all-time best country hedge plant. A typical mixed native hedge is 50% hawthorn, planted in every other space. Any soil except waterlogged; wet, heavy clay is fine.

Hazel Naturally bushy from the base. Very good for supporting bees. Any moist soil. Fine for very windy sites but not the coast.

King Edward VII Flowering Currant Makes lovely showers of pink flowers, even in shady spots.

Maple, Field Warm autumn colour. Any well drained soil.

Pear, Wild Lovely dense plant. Small fruit can be used for hedgerow jam. Any soil, pollution & drought tolerant.

Privet, Wild Not evergreen like the privet you see in city hedges, but otherwise very similar.

Rose, Dog Dog rose is the cheapest and the best, but for a splash more colour you can throw in a few of the other wild roses.

Spindleberry Bursts of colour with pink & orange fruit and pink autumn leaves.

Wayfaring Tree A viburnum with great autumn colour. Grows well on chalk.

If you maintain them, it's fine to sprinkle some wild blackberry brambles in your hedge. Every other year, reach into the base of the hedge and cut all the old stems at ground level to stop it taking over. If your hedge will only receive a basic trim and no further attention, then it's better not to add them: chances are, they will find their way into your hedge anyway by other means. 

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Thank you, The Ashridge Nurseries Team.

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