Planting and Advice

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Hedges are easy to plant and form an attractive boundary more quickly than many gardeners imagine.  As well as providing a structure to a garden, hedges can be a perfect paradise for wildlife offering food during the winter months and nesting in the spring and summer.

How to select your plants:

What sort of plants are needed?

  • Is the hedge intended to give a formal structure to the garden or is it intended a boundary between fields? (Native species)
  • Is the hedge going to be allowed to grow to its full height to create a screen?
  • Is it going to be used to aid security or to create a wind barrier? (Thorns or evergreens)
  • Which type of plants are preferred, deciduous or evergreen?
  • Are you hoping for a “wildlife” hedge which will attract small mammals and birds? (Berried species)
  • What are your local soil conditions and what hedges are grown locally to you

When to plant a hedge

The planting season for  hedging plants extends from early November until the beginning of April.  This is, however, dependent on the soil conditions and planting should only be undertaken when the soil is not waterlogged or frozen and easily workable.

How to plant a hedge
Preparing your soil:

  • One month prior to planting, spray off any existing vegetation with a glyphosphate weedkiller (Roundup or similar)
  • Dig a strip or rotavate approximately 90cms wide to prepare the ground and incorporate organic matter or compost particularly in areas where the soil is heavy clay
  • Soils that  become waterlogged in winter may need a more  permanant drainage solution


  • Planting distances vary according to species
  • Native hedging are between four and six plants per metre (generally five in a double staggered row)
  • Beech and hornbeam are generally planted at four plants per metre (in a double staggered row)
  • Bare root yew and box are generally planted at three plants per metre in a single row
  • Using a small sharp spade open the ground.  Lay the roots in the soil and plant at similar depth to the original soil line on the stem.  Firm the soil gently back around the roots ensuring that all root fibres are covered
  • If using rabbit guards, place the cane firm inside the guard and push it firmly into the soil, coil the spiral around the plant.   Mulch around the base of the plants with organic matter to aid mositure retention


  • Weed growth must be controlled around the planting area to reduce competition for available moisture and nutrients.  During the first summer months the plants may require watering during dry spells.  The installation of a leaky hose along the hedge line will increase growth rate and aid survival
  • Top dress with a general-purpose fertiliser and re-apply mulch for the first two years
  • In the second season the weeds can be controlled using a sprayer or granular herbicide
  • Trim out the leading shoots after the first year’s growth to encourage side shoots to develop and thereafter cut the hedge once or twice a year.
  • Check annually for rodent, rabbit and deer damage
  • Keep the hedge and a strip of around 45cms either side of it weed free

Hedges generally take between three and five years to establish and form a visible structure.  Larger plants that are well cared for will produce an established hedgemore quickly.

Standard tree planting guide

Before planting your tree:

  • Bare root and root-balled trees are only available from October to the end of March
  • Pre-planting soil preparation is most important
  • Loosen the soil generally to eliminate compaction and improve drainage

How to plant a tree:

  • Dig a large hole – larger than the diameter of the roots and break up surrounding compaction especially in the base and sides of the hole
  • Place the tree in the hole ensuring that the soil level is at a similar level as when the tree was grown previously
  • Spread out the roots around the hole and in the case of rootballed trees, loosen the wire netting and hessian from around the base of the stem
  • Re-fill the hole with the addition of compost mixed with the soil when planting on heavy clay
  • Eliminate air pockets and firm the soil around the roots
  • Water well to settle the soil around the plants and further eliminate any remaining air pockets

Staking of trees

  • Staking is necessary to prevent wind rock and disruption to the roots
  • The stake should lean into the prevailing wind
  • Drive the stake in before backfilling with soil to avoid damaging roots
  • Secure the tree to the stake with a flexible tree tie
  • Add spiral rabbit guard


  • Weed growth must be controlled around the planting area to reduce competition for available moisture and nutrients.  During the first summer the tree may require watering during dry spells.  It is best to water well once or twice a week rather than giving only a little water more often which will bring the roots to the surface
  • Top-dress  in the spring with a general-purpose fertiliser and re-apply mulch for the first two years
  • Check the tree tie and loosen when necessary.  Remove the stake and tie after about three years