Living Larders : Hedgerows

We are planting hedgerows here to add to the few we have already.

Species include : Alder, Elder, Rowan, Holly, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Beech, Birch, Ash, Aspen, Dog Rose, Serviceberry, Willow, Poplar, Gorse, Western Red Cedar, Sea Buckthorn, Hornbeam, Weigela, Buddleia, Juniper, Aronia, Blackcurrant, Whitecurrant, Redcurrant, Broom, Mahonia, Griselina,

The hedges are along the fences of the paddocks, the copses have been arranged so that they give a great deal of “edge/margin” between the copses and the paddocks. We want as much length for all the benefits these will give us.
A few trees will be allowed to mature to give over head shade into the pastures, and established habitat.

Mostly our planting over the last 30 years has been individual trees and rather random shrubbery, except around one road side but now we are focusing on the hedgerow for many benefits

  1. browse for the livestock – we are planting a great mix of species and planting close to the fence so the sheep will be able to access a wide range of deep rooting herbal choices
  2. habitat for the wildlife – birds, bees, all sorts of insects need more shelter and food sources : adding areas of dense evergreens will give these most protection.
  3. Pollinators – the willows start the season early, beaten only by the gorse .. we have plenty of both of these .. and will have more .. a mixed species give a steady supply of pollen throughout the year .. we do not have beehives ourselves yet but they are planned, but we do have lots of other bee species and want to give them lots more resources.
  4. some nesting bees need long grass beneath hedgerow and fences … and some need bare ground in dry places .. so the hedgerows will be perfect for these
  5. The mychorizal activity with the tree roots will give our pasture a feed – these interactions release the base minerals for other plants to feed from. The alder, gorse and others will also fix nitrogen .. chipping as we prune and trim will give the benefit back to the soils around the farm
  6. Nuts and fruits for ourselves and birds to share .. with more perennial foods grown in the base and alongside the hedge and copses
  7. Materials for cropping – coppicing poles – the raw materials for biochar and for charcoal .. we dont do these yet – yet more topics for workshops in the future
  8. We are training brambles along our open fences to provide a greater crop, easier picking, and will help supporting old fences .. another “crop” of these will be the long shoots for making bramble baskets in the late summer (hopefully will have a workshop on this in August)
  9. Shelter is a really important part of our future livestock care, and the wildlife benefits too .. more extreme weather needs better shelter, this also helps to reduce costs. Our sheep and birds do all have houses but we want them to be out and about more .. hedgerows will do that too
  10. The leaves that fall each winter provide really important feeding for the mychorrizal layers and many insects.
  11. Deciduous trees may lose their leaves through the winter, but will be a better windbreak, as the air is slowed but not deflected.
  12. Hedge laying .. may be an option later on .. but that will certainly need a workshop to learn a new skill.
  13. Willows will be helping us to soak up some of the wetter areas. We are leaving lots of our wet meadows, floating bog and creating more open water but as there has been no ditching or draining for very many decades there are soggy areas that could be better pasture .. and drying them up will also help to reduce the fluke populations.
  14. Some of the species make a valuable crop of tree hay – especially the likes of willows .. these can be pollarded to be cut in the summer, bundled up and dried in cool dark storage for feeding in the winter.
  15. We also need to work on a “vine” layer in the hedgerow .. we have lots of ivy at the house which we will be encouraging to transplant – and Wisteria was one possible which is also a nitrogren fixer- we have a highly vigorous one by the house too BUT it is TOXIC to livestock so we will have to find other places for that away from grazers.

Our hedgerow will not be flailed .. we do not have a machine to use it with. Cutting for browse for our sheep we will take out different parts of the hedgerow through the year so there will be a constant pruning. Various species have other uses – like the poplar and willow that can be made into pegs for sale for others to grow trees themselves.. as well as making into structures and wreath bases.

We will aim to keep the hedgerows relatively low because we want good thick growth to provide the habitat for birds and insects, as well as lots of natural choice browsing for the sheep .. the poultry will love dustbathing beneath them .. alongside the ground bees who love the open areas below.

Hedgerow is a perfect permaculture solution – low cost, multifunctional, and many benefits across our food ecosystem.

Youtubes on British hedgerows