Spring hedge planting
At Deane Farm we belong to DEFRA’s Countryside Stewardship scheme, which is part of the government’s strategy to protect and enhance the natural environment. There are a range of initiatives available and one that we have opted into is planting new hedges. The dry February has been ideal so it has been a busy few weeks getting everything in the ground!
What are the environmental benefits?
The environmental benefits of planting new hedges support our regenerative farming objectives at Deane Farm. As well as increasing biodiversity and habitat, hedges also provide a connection between existing habitats. This builds on our work with the RSPB to boost cirl bunting populations. Don’t forget to check out our ITV interview if you missed it! Increasing habitat connection allows free movement that improves access to water, shelter, food and breeding habitat.
Planting new hedgerows can also help to control soil erosion and runoff, which is especially important in this steep corner of Devon. We have planted along contours to decrease slope length, reduce the force of surface flow and encourage infiltration.
First we prepped the ground to limit competition from other vegetation so the young trees get off to the best start. Every tree has a support and guard to protect it from pests such as rabbits and deer until established. We planted at a rate of 6 plants per metre so across nearly 650m, the number of trees multiplied up pretty quickly! There have been some long and chilly sessions for Peter and the team to get all the plants in the ground!
The aim is to produce a bushy hedge so we will be cutting it during the first two years to encourage taller and wider growth at each cut. The new hedge is fenced to protect it from Deane Valley flock in case they think it’s a suitable breakfast option!
What did we plant?
The trees were sourced from specialist companies as two year old transplants. DEFRA specifies that these must be between 450mm and 60mm high.
The planting mix is made up of native species that grow in the local area so the new hedges fit in well with the natural landscape and support local wildlife effectively. The dominant species in hawthorn. Hawthorn is also known as May blossom and has a strong rural history. It features in a range of ancient legends and folklore with strong May Day celebration associations. The old saying ‘cast na’er a clout ere May is out’ links to the hawthorn and roughly translates as you’ll need a warm coat until the month of May is over, referring to the likelihood of a cold snap in the spring just before the hawthorn comes into flower. Spring growth is slow to appear this year so it is likely to prove true that we will not see the hawthorn blossom for some weeks yet!
Hawthorn must not make up more than 70% of the planting mix so the remainder is similar native species such as blackthorn, crab apple, field maple, dog rose and dogwood. All species planted provide a range of blossom and fruits that support a multitude of wildlife. Crab apple for example is an early pollen and nectar source for insects and the leaves are food for moths such as the eyed hawk moth, green pug and pale tussock. The fruit also serves as food to a range of mammals such as mice and voles. These species also have strong links to rural history. The straight twigs of dogwood were used to make butchers’ skewers in times gone by. Skewers used to be called ‘dags’ or ‘dogs’ so the name translates as ‘skewer wood’.
Now we are hoping for good establishment conditions for our new hedges so the trees grow away well. Hopefully warmer spring days are just around the corner. The dry cold February meant that we were previously contemplating heading up to the plants with the water bowser so March’s rain has been just the thing to hopefully get them going. As the year turns and winter is behind us, the Deane Farm seasonal tasks move into spring. Plans for planting spring cereals and beans are all in place, fingers crossed for favourable weather to get the next season of crops in the ground.