Planting a Native Hedgerow
Hedgerows are a valuable addition to any landscape, from the smallest suburban yard to large industrial-scale farms. Hedgerows – lines of dense plantings of trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs – have long been used in place of fences to divide properties or fields, as windbreaks and privacy screens, and as habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife species.
Where To Plant A Hedgerow
The best place to plant a hedgerow depends on its purpose. Hedgerows can be used to create stock-proof “fences” around pastures, to serve as a privacy screen or hide an eyesore, to serve as a windbreak, to reduce erosion and runoff along stream banks, to serve as a wildlife corridor between two different habitats, to attract bees and other pollinators to crops, and many other uses. Plant your hedgerow where it will best meet your primary needs, and provide as many secondary benefits as possible.
When possible, choose a spot with enough room for at least two staggered rows of plants, and an uncultivated grassy area up to several yards wide on either side of the hedge, especially if you will be using chemical pesticides and herbicides nearby. The grassy buffer will help protect plants and beneficial insects in the hedge from chemical drift.
The Best Hedgerow Plants
The best plants for hedgerows depends on your region and the hedgerow’s intended purpose. For example, if you plan to use your hedgerow as a fence for livestock, you will need to choose shrubs that are very dense, while your priority for a privacy hedge in a suburban yard is likely to be beauty and aesthetic appeal. Windbreaks should emphasize evergreens and conifers, while a hedgerow intended as a wildlife corridor or haven for pollinators should include as much diversity as possible.
Whenever possible, plant 2 or more rows of plants in your hedgerow, and include a mix of several different species each of trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowering plants. Native mast-producing trees and shrubs are an especially valuable addition to wildlife hedgerows, because they provide both food and shelter to a huge variety of animals, from whitetail deer and wild turkeys to bees and butterflies. Mast producing trees and shrubs can also be used to create an “edible hedge” for humans.
If you are planting a wildlife hedge, it is especially important to plant a hedgerow that provides food and shelter in all four seasons, so plant a mix of summer and fall fruiting berries and nuts, and choose flowering plants with the goal of having at least one species in bloom from early spring to late fall.
Maintaining a Hedgerow
Selective thinning every 5-10 years can help maintain a diverse and healthy hedgerow community. Weeds should be managed by hand or with spot applications of herbicides to prevent damage to the hedge. Heavy mulching can also help keep weeds down in the early years while the hedge is becoming established.
Incentives and Grants
There are a number of government programs that can help offset the costs of planting a hedgerow through grants or cost-sharing programs, including the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).