The guys at Haddon Copse Farm want to re-establish the hedgerows that have been grubbed out over the past few decades and asked me to do some planting for them.
Spraying the grass with weedkiller wouldn’t be appropriate as they’re certified organic. So I suggested that I rotovate where the hedge is to be planted which would have multiple benefit: the grass would be knocked back so it wouldn’t be able to compete so well with the young hedging plants and the soil structure would be improved allowing the hedges roots to establish quickly. We would then mulch with composted woodchip to suppress grass and weed growth.
Unfortunately it has been so wet this winter (in case you hadn’t noticed) that there hasn’t been the opportunity to rotovate – it would have turned the soil into a soup! And they took delivery of the whips at the farm a fair few weeks ago now, with the warm weather they are starting to shoot. So the decision was made to get them into the ground straight away.
First we strimmed where the hedge is going to take the grass right down (which had already been quite well grazed). Then, rather than just shoving the whips into slits,
Emma dug out a small spit for each whip. This broke up the soil structure where the whip was planted and also allowed the planted whip’s roots to spread out before the removed soil was carefully replaced and gently pressed back in with a toe of a boot.
We planted with the provided species which were: 50% Hawthorne; the rest were equal quantities of Hazel, Dogwood, Field Maple, Blackthorn… and I am sure there are one or two I’ve missed. There is also a quantity of wild rose to plant and we will return to plant these when the rest of the hedges are
planted as I don’t want to split the pack until we’re ready for them all to go in the ground to save the potential for the roots to dry out on the unplanted whips(!)
I opted to plant in drifts rather than purely random to create a more striking hedge – having drifts of 5, 7 or more Blackthorns together will mean a more vibrant display of their late spring blossom.
The other thing I took account of was the soil conditions. In areas the soil was still really waterlogged, if drying quite well in others. In the wettest areas I concentrated the dogwood planting as they do like their feet in water.
So after a relatively slow start as we worked out a system we really got into the planting with Emma doing all the hard work digging the holes and me putting on the rabbit guards, planting the whips, toeing them in and sticking in a supporting cane.
We finished planting just under eighty metres on a double staggered row as the sun went down and treated us to the most beautiful sunset. That’s around three hundred plants in a day (we were too knackered to count them). Now we’ve just got to wait a few years until we can lay it!