Hedge Planting: How to Plant a New Hedge

We have plans for this part of the garden. Think secluded, think paradise garden, think a twist of something Edwardian, think trellis, roses, hedging and large borders. Also, throw in a pizza oven to boot and we're cooking with something tomato based with a bit of basil, some chorizo and courgettes, possibly a side salad. Okay, stop drooling. First though there are jobs to be done. Hedging. We're going to take you step by step through hedging.

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Now, as you all may know we love hedging. We love it so much that we tore out some laurels, and noticed how much wind whistled through our hillside garden and promptly planted a new one, we opted for hornbeam because it's hardy, easy to keep in shape and great for birds and bugs.

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This is our chosen area for the hedge which will cut across the width of the garden. It won't be a tall hedge and we will still be able to see the orchard but we want something to give a little sense of something romantic - by the way, we're putting a compost loo here too. We'll take you through that another time but first we have to remove the turf which is literally using a spade to cut the turf, lift it and stack it. Don't throw away turf, you can see in the photo below that we have stacked the turf to the right, in front of a coppiced hazel. You stack it grass side to grass side and over six months it will rot down into loam. You can see the uses of loam below because that's what we have spread out over the new bed which will take the hedge. Just shows what can be done in a few hours with a small space, even a dumping ground like this which was full of rotten tarpaulin and couch grass.

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You need to set a line down for your hedge if you're going for straight lines, if you want something curved use a hosepipe to get the shape you want. We're planting either side of the line, alternating between hornbeam and Rosa rugosa Roseraie de L'Hay. A line is simply a piece of string between two canes pulled taut. You can get fancy string lines on bobbins but frankly if it costs you loads of money, it's bobbins. Any bare rooted hedging needs to be soaked in a bucket of water, we have had these heeled in but that doesn't mean you should not put them in a bucket of water - these have been here for a good fifteen minutes and will remain there until planted. The reason to keep the roots damp or wet is simple, roots in the air will quickly dry out and you will be planting dead plants, even a damp piece of sack will help you keep any root ball happy when moving them.

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For the Rosa rugosa Roseraie de L'Hay we dig a sizeable hole, around a spit wide, a spit deep (that's the width and depth of a spade you are using, we call them spits; no one said gardeners were polite people - we won't tell you how to test whether soil is warm enough). Look at the photo below and see how the hole is close to that string line. This will keep your hedging straight. Look at that soil too, all that loam and compost we have used has taken a poor area of the garden to something enriched. How did we get rid of all that couch grass? It's called a hand fork and being on your knees - close weeding!

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Pop the bare rooted rosa out of the bucket of water and into the hole and quickly cover with the soil you have taken out of the hole. You can add mycorrhizal fungi to the soil you are putting in to create strong growing conditions for the plant. There's a lot to be said for mycorrhizal fungi, it is beneficial to plants and over the years we have changed our opinion on it. We will come back to this in a later post.

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You want to make sure that the rosa is planted so that the crown is beneath the soil surface, as with any rose.

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With newly planted roses you want to cut them back by half to stimulate root and top growth. You cut with a sharp pair of secateurs and make any cuts at a forty five degree angle above a node. A node is the part of the plant that generates stems, buds and branches. Cutting above one will stimulate this little knobbly part of the plant to send out lots of growth. Why cut at forty-five degrees? Well, like a house, a flat roof will hold water, an apex roof will shed water, so a cut on a slant will allow rain to drip away and not sit there and rot the plant.

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A hornbeam bare rooted plant is a little different and needs a builder's bum to get into the ground - no, not really but do note that Andrew is wearing a hat on a sunny day; even at this time of year you need to protect your head and skin. That includes your bum.

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Planting bare rooted hedging like hornbeam simply means in the soil that you make a slit trench. What's a slit trench? Simply drive your spade in a spit deep - remember what a spit is? That's right, the depth of your spade and then waggle back and forwards to create a 'V' shape.

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Pop the plant in and firm around with a soft foot - no stamping plants in - or bashing down with your hands. You can with any bare rooted plant jiggle gently to make sure all the soil comes into contact with the roots.

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You prune such bare rooted hedging as hornbeam by a third, unlike the rosa which was by half - this tells you everything about the plant and its growth. Plants pruned by half tend to have quite aggressive growth in root and stem. The hornbeam will keep pace with the roses as they grow and won't be swamped.

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Finally, water in. Yes, we know they have been a bucket of water but they've also had a massive shock. You've given them a radical haircut and they need to drown their sorrows. So, give them plenty to drink. This eighteen foot row has two gallons of water.

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