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Today we will explain why you need to have hedgerows , and what they can offer your garden. Live hedges are hedges composed of local species , without ornamental intent.

Many gardeners – beginners or not – believe that it is necessary to import materials from outside to improve their garden. Some buy potting soil, others mulch or fertilizer. Other kilometers of plants to make hedges, which sometimes come from far away! 
In fact, any garden offers a lot of free local resources , as long as they are available.

Too often, here are the main expectations of owners with respect to their hedges:

1. “A hedge is not for neighbours to see me.  
1.  A hedge is to hide the <write what suits you> at the bottom of the garden. 
2. “A hedge is for not seeing the neighbors.  ” 
3.” Eventually, it is used to cut the wind. ” 
4. It marks the property line and it slows down burglars . 
4. “What, is it used for something else? Enrich hedge trim sellers? Nah, I have more ideas. As long as you can not see me when I cook the barbecue … “

This design is tantamount to considering the hedge as a “green wall of green”, nothing else. We are able to do better than that.

The groves, hedges with multiple uses.

Take the example of the use of the grove . Thousands of kilometers of hedgerows populated the breeding areas – like Normandy. There are still some, but their use is less systematic. 
Their first use was to form a living limit, difficult to pass by animals – domestic in one sense, wild in the other. The secondary use was to keep the leafy twigs after pruning to give the leaves to feed the animals during the winter . The last use was to recover the wood from these twigs for use as firewood. 
In addition, it sheltered of course the wind and the sun while offering lodging and covered with the birds, small mammals and insects such as bees .

Not bad is not it ? After that, the fact of not seeing this bastard Nestor in the nearby field was surely a detail.

This type of country hedge was also not necessarily the height of a classic 2 m screen: cut every 2 or 3 years – to have interesting logs as firewood – it alternated between a height from 1.2 m to 3 m.

Hedges of a single species, or mono-specific hedges.

The classic “mono-specific” hedge – made up of many single-species feet – first serves to hide the view and cut the wind a little, and offers few resources.

The two least interesting species are cedars and cherry laurels , as their branches decompose very poorly. They can not be easily composted to improve the carbon-nitrogen ratio of their compost. They grow very fast, which requires cutting frequently .

Two other classic hedges are privet and bower . We can recover their sizes for composting, and use the leaves to mulch directly the garden and the massifs, it is already better. By cons they do not feed much birds.

Hedges of several species, or hedgerows.

They fulfill the same basic uses as a mono-specific hedge: windbreak, breeze seen in season, source of wood, source of mulching , source of balanced compost . But in addition, they produce berries for animals, and serve as shelter . This can for example temporarily divert the starlings from your fruit trees, or keep the titmice pests of parasites near your garden.

Here are some good species to form resource hedges:

The black elder

Very vigorous, it produces berries for the birds, and its smell removes rodents. It can be made of manure to repel the burrowers of his garden.


Despite its sharp spines, it is a small tree of quality: it attracts many birds that eat red berries, cenelles.

The charm, or bower

Its foliage does not persist all winter, but it is said marcescent , that is to say that the leaves dry stay on the branch, keeping it a certain opacity.


It does not cross very often in hedge, but it offers a beautiful green foliage slightly shiny.


Very suitable for hedges, yew is persistent and dark, so it is better to use it in the corners than in the middle of a line of deciduous species. Its fruits are particular: the external red part is edible, but the interior of its black seed is toxic.

The black spine, or blackthorn

Thorny, this small wild plum makes small plums very bitter birds are happy.

The dogwood and the dogwood

We particularly love their colorful woods in winter and the animals appreciate the dogwoods – some humans at the armed palace also 😉

Willow willow

They are very practical to get chopsticks very straight, and their bark is colorful in winter, it brightens the garden. Plus: a willow maceration beast makes an excellent hormone cuttings .

We stop there, but the list can continue: all the small trees and wild shrubs have their place in a compound hedge. You may notice that I have not mentioned horticultural species with colorful foliage or ornamental flowers, but they are not necessarily excluded. You can also put fruit trees for your consumption, but picking in a dense hedge is not easy.

In conclusion: the living hedges are nurturing for all!

A good hedge is nurturing both for soil as compost or as mulch, and also for wildlife . If you are interested in the notions of earth-friendly gardening and undercover cultivation , this is the first thing to plant. First develop living surroundings, a diverse environment, the garden will come in a second time.

For the anecdote, here is an ancestral method to install hedgerows without planting anything.

It’s the birds that do half the job! How?

Stacks of branches are placed 1.2 m high at the location of the future hedge – usually when clearing a woodlot. We wait a few years for the happy zozios to hide in the pile and lose seeds – sometimes they are clumsy with their beaks, or they have crossed their digestive tract intact. And here they are, kindly come to sow what they prefer to eat!

Dr. Kanika Singla

Ph.D., IARI Postdoctoral Scholar, UC Berkeley

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