Sunday, 3 February 2013

Planting the bare-root hedging....

After a rapid thaw, in just a couple days, all the snow that had been hanging around for a few weeks disappeared and so we took the opportunity of the break in the weather to get our new hedge planted.

just a couple of days earlier....

We initially measured out the spacing with a marked length of timber (we've planted a double row at around 5 plants per metre), and then tried to sink the spade fully into the ground at each individual plant location.  Around 75% of them were fine, which meant we would just need to sink the spade to its full depth, wiggle it back and forth several times to make a rectangular slot, and then ease the roots of the plants down into position before closing back the soil using the heel of a welly.

an easy stretch, just used the spade to open up a slot.....

However, along the southern boundary of the site there's already a row of existing tall conifers, and so we had to search carefully for sufficient gaps between the tree roots, some of which are very shallow.    It can be quite dark in this location too, with the fence and tree canopy, so let's hope the new hedge can get enough light to grow properly.

at the southern end, needed to pick spaces between the tree roots.....

Bang in the middle of our new hedgerow route, we hit some old building debris just under the surface.  Although there were many stones and bricks along this length, I suspect this was just where the builders had dumped a lot of spoil when they either built or extended the four houses, because fortunately this material wasn't mortared together, which would have been a nightmare to break up - I'd originally thought that they were the foundations of an old outbuilding at that location, covering an eight metre or so stretch of the land.

Nevertheless, these bricks and stones all needed digging out and so this was by far the hardest part of the work, making around 40 individual holes for the new hedge plants in the affected area.  Each hole was dug down to more than a full spade depth, just to make sure we had enough soft ground for the roots to grow into when we planted.

a difficult stretch, where holes needed to be dug for each plant......

So then it was a case of just putting them all in the ground. As I've said in a previous post, we'd bought 50 hornbeams, 50 hazel willows and 25 each of sweet chestnuts and crab apples.  Our planning permission associated with the new land purchase required us to plant a '...mixed native hedge...'   All of them were three-year old plants and so were already of a reasonable height, most over a metre.  Total cost, just over £200 for the 150 hedging plants plus £15 for the bonemeal fertiliser, although we still have a lot of the bonemeal left over for dressing the vegetable patch in the spring.

We dug up the plants out of their temporary holding trenches, in batches when we needed them, stood them in a bowl of water for a while and then dipped the wet roots into another bowl of dry bonemeal to hopefully give them a better start in life.

The 50 hornbeams all went in first, set quite tightly against the wire stock fence.  We used long cable ties, loosely fastened, to train them upright and close to the fence, and to restrain them against the prevailing winds.  Then a row of hazel willows slightly offset in front, and to complete the front row we alternated between the chestnuts and the apples along the length of the hedge.

Where we'd had to dig full holes, we raided some topsoil from elsewhere in the garden to use as soft backfill during the planting, but the sites from which we borrowed this material will need replenishing in the spring.

Even though the ground was heavy and very wet in places, we still watered them in well to get the soil in direct contact with the roots.

All in all, three consecutive days of work to get the 150 plants into the ground.  We could have done it more quickly, but it was still quite cold outside so spreading the work across three or four hours each day was better.

The new hedge certainly doesn't look very impressive at the moment – they're just like tall bare twigs sticking out the ground !

move along - nothing to see here ......

Sometime in the next few weeks, I'll go around each plant with the secateurs and prune all the main stems below the top buds – this first year we want them to put on low-level bulk, not height.

We'll need to keep them well watered for the rest of this year, especially those nearer the existing conifer tree roots which will tend to suck any water of the ground very quickly.

So now let's just keep our fingers crossed that the dormant plants will kick into life again when it starts to warm up in March and April - I'll update with progress photos in a few months....

Update 31-May-13

You can see the hedge with some new growth in photos about half-way down the page on our recent post about landscaping the garden.


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