Planting a Hedge for Wildlife

Planting a Hedge for Wildlife

Garden Wildlife Just Loves A Good Hedge

Hedge loss

The second half of the 20th century saw a huge loss of hedgerows in the UK. Between 1984 and 1990 alone, it was estimated that 20% of hedgerow length in England was lost. Many reasons have been attributed to the decline including changes in farming practice, damage caused by straw and stubble burning and poor hedge trimming practices, but the need to increase food production for a growing population necessitated the need for bigger fields. Also there was less need for the use of hedges for stock-proofing with the move to more arable farming, so the poor non-productive hedge had to pay the price for much needed agricultural progress. In 1997 new government regulations were introduced to restrict the loss of this environmentally valuable and fragile resource.

The 21st century has seen a growing awareness of the importance of hedgerows particularly in the way that they support wildlife. Rediscovering the old techniques of hedge laying and coppicing can quickly restore growth and vigour to an old hedge. These old skills are having to be relearnt and can be labour intensive, but the results are impressive. Also, the fact that grants are available can make the process for landowners worthwhile.

Have a hedge at home – here’s what you might attract!

You don’t need to own a farm or a country estate to have a lovely native British hedge (but it might help if you want a real big one!). The diversity of species that will live in even a small hedge can be remarkable. They are thought to support up to 80% of our woodland birds, 50% of our mammals and 30% of our butterflies. The rare hazel dormice are dependent on hedgerows for their existence. Surprisingly hedges are also important for bats as the linear nature of the hedge helps bats move between roosting areas and feeding sites. The greater and lesser horseshoe, brown long-eared, and Natterer’s bats are all thought to forage on insects living within hedges.

A large number of bird species are closely with hedgerows. Blue tit, great tit, wren, blackbird, robin and chaffinch prefer quite tall and wide hedges. Birds that favour scrubby or open woodland, such as dunnock, yellow hammer and the summer visiting whitethroat, also use hedgerows. If you live near open countryside the hedge base is important for ground-nesting species like the increasingly scarce grey partridge.

The hedge will also attract night-time visitors, it's not just butterflies that need nectar, moths need it too. Moths enjoy any white or cream coloured flowers so blackthorn blossom is a perfect addition to their diet.

A home hedge – benefits you as well as wildlife, so get planting!

Hedges serve many purposes in the garden. They can be sound and pollution barriers, create boundaries between properties, even deter unwanted trespassers. The pollution absorbing qualities of hedges extend to absorbing poisonous diesel particulates from busy roads.

A native hedge is also an interesting garden feature in its own right. You'll achieve year-round interest in the form of berries and seeds, flowers and a varied range of foliage.

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