Weeds kill hedging. They probably kill more hedge plants than rabbits and disease combined. Mulches serve the dual purpose of suppressing weeds and helping the ground retain moisture. The difference in growth rates between mulched and un-mulched hedging can be astonishing, even to experienced gardeners who understand why mulch is so important.
These mulches include almost any non-toxic biodegradable material. Favourite hedge mulches include grass clippings, compost, well shredded wood & bark*, cardboard, carpet felt etc. The mulch should be 3' (1m approx.) wide. Mulch hedging immediately after planting (unless you are planting your hedge through sheet material). Green mulches should be 4 (10cm) deep and work better if you use weedkiller (well in advance), or scalp existing vegetation with a sharp spade.
*For best results, you want the entire shredded tree, leaves and all, rather than only the wood or bark.
You can also use weed control fabric as a hedging mulch. Weed fabric is not organic, so it lasts several years and smothers almost all weeds. Pin down the end of the roll. Work with easy lengths. Bury the sides (windward edge first) by putting your spade 3-4" (75-100mm) in from the side of the fabric and pushing it down, forcing the fabric (which is enormously strong) into the soil. Make slits across the fabric with a sharp knife at the appropriate spacings and plant the hedging through the mulch. You can see all this on our film on How to Plant a Country Hedge
To protect your hedge against rabbits and voles you will need to use Rabbit Spirals (we sell perforated spirals as they allow air to move and reduce mildew which can affect young hedging plants) and bamboo canes (remember that every spiral needs a cane to support it, otherwise it will damage young hedging). Where you want to create a microclimate (for small trees that you want to grow above the hedge), we suggest using tree guards and stakes. Put up guards after planting hold spirals up with a cane and guards with a stake.
Drive stakes in before you plant hedgerow trees to avoid damaging the roots and then plant as usual and put the guard over the tree and attach it to the stake. The bottoms of guards and spirals should be pushed into the soil up to 2 (5cm). The top of the shelter is flared to prevent chafing. The top of a spiral is where the overlap on the outside points up, not down. Spirals come in nests of 5, and the easiest way to separate them is to take the spirals from the inside of the nest, not the outside.