The advantages of hedgelaying

Hedgelaying is a traditional countryside management practice that has been used for centuries to maintain and restore hedgerows, which are a vital part of the British countryside. Hedgerows are not only important for wildlife and biodiversity, but they also play a crucial role in the cultural heritage of the countryside. In this blog post, we will explore the many advantages of hedgelaying, from conservation and biodiversity benefits to the role it plays in maintaining cultural heritage and traditional rural skills.

One of the primary advantages of hedgelaying is its conservation and biodiversity benefits. Hedgerows provide essential habitats for a wide range of wildlife, including birds, mammals, invertebrates, and reptiles. They act as corridors for movement, providing safe passage for animals to travel between different habitats, and are also important for nesting, breeding, and foraging. Hedgerows also help to protect against soil erosion and provide shelter for livestock.

Hedgelaying is a traditional countryside management practice that can be used to restore overgrown and neglected hedgerows, which may have become too dense and tall to provide suitable habitats for wildlife. By laying a hedge, it is possible to rejuvenate an old hedgerow, encouraging new growth and making it more suitable for wildlife. This can lead to increased biodiversity and a greater variety of species in the area.

Another advantage of hedgelaying is that it helps to maintain the cultural heritage of the countryside. Hedgerows have been a feature of the British landscape for centuries and are a vital part of the rural heritage. They are often associated with ancient boundaries, field systems, and traditional land use patterns. Hedgelaying helps to preserve and maintain these cultural landmarks, keeping alive traditional rural skills and crafts that have been passed down through generations.

Hedgelaying is also a great way to promote rural sustainability. The process involves cutting back overgrown hedgerows to a manageable height, and then weaving the remaining branches and stems together to form a denser and stronger hedge. This method of hedge maintenance is more sustainable than simply cutting back or removing hedgerows, as it allows the hedge to continue to grow, providing habitats and corridors for wildlife, while also providing a strong barrier for livestock.

Furthermore, Hedgelaying also can be beneficial for farmers and land owners. Hedges provide natural boundaries that help to define fields and farmland, and can be used to create shelter for livestock, thus improving their welfare. A well-maintained hedge can also be a valuable asset for farmers, providing a supply of wood for fencing, gates, and fuel. They can also provide a source of income for farmers as some of the wood from hedgelaying can be sold for use in landscaping or construction.

In conclusion, Hedgelaying is a traditional countryside management practice that has many advantages, from conservation and biodiversity benefits to the role it plays in maintaining cultural heritage and traditional rural skills. It helps to restore and rejuvenate overgrown hedgerows, making them more suitable for wildlife, while also promoting rural sustainability and supporting farmers and land owners. Hedgelaying is a simple, sustainable, and cost-effective way to maintain and restore the UK’s hedgerows, and it plays a vital role in the countryside’s biodiversity and cultural heritage.

Tom Stilwell has been hedgelaying in the South Downs for the past 20 years. Please call 07753 746 024 if you would like a consultation on a project.

Putting the garden to bed for winter

Putting your garden to bed for the winter is an important part of maintaining a healthy and vibrant outdoor space. By taking the time to properly prepare your garden for the cold weather, you can help to protect your plants, conserve water, and prevent pests and diseases from taking hold.

Here are some key steps to follow when putting your garden to bed for the winter in the UK:

  1. Clean up your garden: Start by removing any dead or diseased plant material from your garden. This will help to prevent pests and diseases from overwintering in your garden and spreading to healthy plants in the spring. It’s also a good idea to tidy up any overgrown areas and clear away leaves and debris that can harbor pests and diseases.
  2. Protect your plants: Frost and cold winds can damage or kill tender plants, so it’s important to provide them with some protection during the winter months. If you have any plants that are sensitive to frost, such as annuals or tropicals, move them indoors or to a greenhouse. For larger plants, you can use burlap or frost cloth to provide some protection from the cold.
  3. Mulch your garden: Mulching your garden can help to conserve moisture, regulate soil temperature, and prevent weeds from taking hold. Choose a mulch that is appropriate for your garden, such as straw, wood chips, or compost, and apply a layer that is about 3-4 inches thick. Be careful not to pile the mulch up against the stems of your plants, as this can cause them to rot.
  4. Cut back perennials: Perennial plants, such as shrubs and herbs, will benefit from being cut back in the fall. This will help to remove any diseased or damaged growth, and will also encourage new, healthy growth in the spring. Be sure to use clean, sharp pruning shears, and make sure to sterilize them between cuts to prevent the spread of diseases.
  5. Water your garden: Even though the weather is getting colder, your plants will still need some water to survive the winter. Be sure to water your garden thoroughly, especially if the weather has been dry. This will help to hydrate your plants and prevent them from drying out.
  6. Protect your soil: The winter months can be harsh on your soil, so it’s important to take steps to protect it. If you have bare patches in your garden, consider covering them with a layer of compost or mulch. This will help to insulate the soil, and will also provide nutrients that will help your plants to grow in the spring.
  7. Plan for the spring: While it’s important to focus on preparing your garden for the winter, it’s also a good idea to start thinking about what you want to plant in the spring. Take some time to research and plan your garden, and make sure to order any seeds or plants that you will need. This will help to ensure that you are ready to hit the ground running when the weather starts to warm up.

By following these steps, you can help to protect your garden from the harsh winter weather and ensure that it is ready to thrive in the spring. A little bit of effort now can go a long way in helping your garden to flourish in the coming year.

Garden Design in Autumn

Now is a perfect time to start planting bulbs for the Spring. Certain types of bulb are best avoided for flower borders as they tend to multiply and become unruly and leave bare patches of dead, brown leaves through the summer after display- these include Daffs, snowdrops, crocus and bluebells. So, these are best planted in areas of woodland or grass. Good bulbs for the borders are tulips and alliums of which there are many varieties – a nice idea with tulips is to plant ones that flower at different times so that you get a continuous display of colour through Spring – this particularly applies to early tulips when there is not a lot of colour about. An excellent early tulip is called ‘exotic emperor’ – Large white flowers.  {P.s. if you find you’re not getting success with snowdrops year after year, then try buying them ‘in the green’ [i.e. when they’re growing leaves] in the new year and plant them then}.

A fantastic garden to visit for a day out in late Jan/ early Feb is Brandy Mount Gardens in Alresford, Hants SO24 9EG. It has the national collection of snowdrops and Daphne [flowering slightly later].

Mulching in Spring

As all the perennial plants are starting to take off in the garden, now is still a very good time to mulch the borders – one of the most worthwhile tasks. A thick layer of mulch, if applied now (preferably in February/March), such as well-rotted manure, compost or leaf mould, will save months of laborious weeding through the summer. It will also help to retain moisture in the ground through the dry months (very important especially for roses), keeping roots cool and it will enrich the soil. If you can, get mulching! 🙂

Fragrant Winter plants for a shady corner

If you have a small space in semi-shade, maybe near a gate or door then the following combination of plants works very well, particularly through the winter months: Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (shrub), underplanted with Bergenias and Viola Odorata. All these give wonderful fragrance in Winter/early Spring. Further shrubs could be added behind to continue the planting and length of season, e.g. Viburnum judii (wonderful fragrance into early spring and not too large growing), Philadelphus ‘Manteau d’hermione’ (a small growing philadelphus, flowering in summer, won’t like a lot of shade).