Our new hedgerow has been in the ground for almost exactly one year now, but it seems that one particular area has grown noticeably better than the others. This is where we created our 'cherry-tree island' by putting down a weed control membrane and then covering with plum-coloured shale. The new growth on this three-or-four metre stretch outperformed the rest of the hedge last year by a wide margin.
We're assuming the better growth in this area was because these hedge plants didn't have to compete with weeds and grass for nutrients in the soil throughout the growing season, and so we've decided to put down a weed membrane along the whole length of the hedge. Now is an ideal time with everything dormant in the garden. We want more cover from the hedge this year to screen off the new garden - overall, last year's growth was quite disappointing despite the decent weather we had in the summer.
However, we know from experience that new trees can take a while to get established - our short length of laurel tree hedge at the front of the garden did absolutely nothing at all in its first year - it was still possible to walk through the gaps between the plants - but then it exploded into life the following year and now it's a very dense and beautiful evergreen barrier.
The first job was to pull up all the grasses and weeds by hand as far as possible, trying to get the roots out without disturbing the ground around the hedge plants too much. This was a full afternoon's work, but it gets us outside in the winter which is always a good thing. I've actually a lot of engineering work on at the moment for a couple of clients, but I first spent a few hours setting-up two computers to do analyses and so it gave me several hours free while they were running.
The grass sods and weeds we pulled out were simply thrown over the fence, and so the neighbouring farmer's pigs had a good treat at the same time !
I'd originally looked around on eBay for the usual weed control membranes, but then I boxed clever and another search found 110 used polypropylene woven sacks of size 1000 x 550 mm for £25 delivered. This is much heavier grade material than standard weed control fabric, but around the same price, and by simply placing these bags on the ground we get double protection, i.e. two times the thickness of the bag walls.
Individual 550 mm wide bags are also much easier to cut, handle and lay than a long 50m x 1m roll of membrane, and even allowing for a very generous overlap the total length provided by the 110 bags is more than sufficient for our 35 m long hedgerow. Like the weed membrane, these bags are porous and so will allow the rain to reach the tree roots, while also acting as an effective mulch to retain moisture and keep the weeds and grass under control.
However, before the 'new' bags arrived, I remembered we already had a couple of empty IBCs (intermediate bulk carriers), or 'big-bags' as they're commonly known, in the shed from when we had our 2 tonnes of plum shale delivered last year for the landscaping works.
These big-bags are very heavy duty, and by cutting them along their seams they made enough woven polyprop material to complete the shorter stretch of hedge between the island and the north end of the garden.
|membrane laid and temporarily weighted down|
with bricks etc before we bought the decorative stones
The material was tucked under the rabbit wire at the fence side, and the flagstones along the path side were lifted and then replaced with the membrane trapped underneath.
13 x 25 kg bags of green shale were then placed on the membrane to complete the job. We used the 40 mm grade instead of 20 mm so the stones wouldn't pass through the rabbit mesh, which is around 25 mm.
|with the stones laid....|
When our used polyprop bags arrived from the eBay supplier, it was then just a case of repeating the process for the longer length of hedge to the south.
|the whole length ready for the stones....|
This took a further 29 bags of stones to cover. This shale is also slightly lighter in colour than the northern section since it was sourced from a different quarry by the builder's merchant, but they didn't have enough bags of the darker colour left in stock.
All in all, around 20 hours work and just over £200 to complete, so it was a quite costly addition to the landscaping.
It would have been considerably cheaper to buy a 1 tonne big-bag of shale and have it delivered (and it would have all been the same colour !), instead of the 42 x 25 kg bags which we collected in the car in three batches, but the smaller individual bags were easier to handle, carry and place.
From the used polyprop bags we bought, I reckon we placed more than 60 but after counting up the balance we still have 78 remaining, so it seems we received many more than stated in the eBay listing.
So, job done. It all looks much tidier now, and let's hope it also helps the growth of the hedge this year.....