Planting Yew Hedging where Drainage is bad

posted this on 22 Mar 2017

Yew hedge plants where drainage is bad yew hedging

Planting yew hedging in a funny way is easier where drainage is poor. Poor drainage here almost always means clay. As with all hedge plants, the basics need to be observed; yew needs sunlight, air, nourishment, water and good foundations. However with clay it is necessary to cheat a little.

So normally we would advise you to follow the instructions elsewhere on this site on planting a formal hedge, but if you have clay, please DO NOT. Instead watch our video on how to plant native hedging.

The key to successful planting in heavy clay lies in never forgetting two simple facts.

1. Fact 1 - Almost all plants hate having their roots permanently in water. Quite literally, they cannot breathe and so the plant "drowns". This is especially so with newly planted stock; once established roots have a knack of finding soil that is not sodden.

2. Fact 2 - Clay soils do not drain well ever and real london/potters/blue/yellow clays drain almost not all.

So, in simple terms, if you dig a hole in clay and fill it with good/soil/compost all that has happened is you have created a non-draining bowl or trench and put a sponge in it. Almost nothing could be worse for a young plant or tree.

Therefore you have two choices:

a. Improve the drainage. Despite anything you may read, watch or hear - this does not mean adding grit and improving the soil. If only it were that easy. Unfortunately this involves creating a means whereby water can run away from the planting site so that the holes or trench can drain to their full depth. That is usually seriously hard (and expensive) work best left to professionals.

b. (much easier). Do not improve the soil. Buy small, barerooted plants and "slit" plant them - watch our video on how to plant a country hedge. The point being that when planted there are no significant air spaces around the roots - and no porous matter to retain water - so the roots do not soak and drown. The plants will settle in more slowly than in better drained soil, but clay is full of nutrients and once established they will grow away very well.

Depending on plant size, space your yew hedge plants at between 2 and 3 per metre in a single row. Yew hedging is a wonderful, but formal structure. Getting spacing and alignment correct therefore matters. So please use a string stretched tight to be sure you are planting in a straight line. Another good tip is to have a plank of wood marked with the appropriate spacing (50cms or 33 cms) as a planting guide 

Water yew well when it needs it, and don't water at all when the ground is damp. (If the earth is damp 2 cms down, then there is no need to water). If it is dry, then water really well. In the first months after planting, firm down the soil after hard frosts.

Yew is widely considered to be slow growing. However, planted well and once it has established - it can grow surprisingly fast. So expect little or no growth in the first year but by the third year three it should be increasing in height by 30-40 cms per annum. Never trim the top of your yew hedge until it has reached its final height as once you cut the growing tip off  the rate of growth slows right down - to as little as 5 cms per annum. 

Keep your yew hedge weed free, follow our note on pruning yew.... and watch it grow. Tempted to try?

Categories: Hedge Plant Advice
Tags: yew  clay  drainage 
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