Plant a native hedge
Hedges serve many purposes in the garden. They can be sound and pollution barriers, create boundaries between properties, even deter unwanted guests. A native hedge will also provide a valuable habitat for wildlife. About native hedges Planting a native hedge for wildlife is not only worthwhile but a diverse and interesting garden feature in its own right. You'll achieve year-round interest in the form of berries and seeds, flowers and a varied range of foliage, not to mention the increased number of birds, insects and small mammals you'll notice in the garden. You'll be rewarded in no time as you start to see the different mammal and invertebrate species that your hedge supports. Birds will be delighted with a new nesting site and feed on the berries, seeds and any insects and spiders lurking in this new found haven. Smaller mammals will use the base of the hedgerow for shelter and will soon add it to their network of trails. Remember your night-time visitors, it's not just butterflies that need nectar, moths need it too. They'll love any white or cream coloured flowers so blackthorn blossom is a perfect addition to the menu. As you watch your native hedge develop, you'll notice the long season of interest, from the spring and summer blossom through autumn colour and berries into the winter. Additional evergreens like yew, holly and common beech which holds onto its autumn leaves mean that there's always something to see. What to do What to plant - Choose a mixture of hedging trees and shrubs; birch, beech, native oak, hazel, dogwoods and hawthorn are ideal. - If you have a little patience, the best and cheapest way to create a native hedge is from whips. These are young bare-root saplings, usually around a year old that can be bought in bundles or as single plants from late autumn to early spring. Don't be put off by the look of these young plants which will be dormant when you buy them. They'll not only surprise you by bursting into leaf when the spring arrives but also by the rate at which they'll establish and grow. The native hedge will have an informal feel because it's made up of a mixture of different tree and shrub species. It will quickly form a dense barrier and will happily tolerate pruning. It won't be the sort of hedge that you can clip into a neat wall of foliage like leylandii or privet. Source the whips from your local garden centre. Or try a web search; there are a number of companies that provide native hedging plants in mixed bundles by mail order. It's also worth contacting your local council as some have grants available for this type of project. Soil preparation Prepare your site well; remember that the hedge will be in place for a number of years so a good start for your young plants is essential. Remove any weeds and large stones, dig the area over and  incorporate some organic matter. Any time from autumn to spring is great for planting. Just make sure the ground isn't frozen or waterlogged. How to plant - Plant your whips in a staggered double row roughly half a metre apart. The spacing of each plant depends on how quickly and how big it will grow. It's better to be generous when it comes to spacing as you can always fill any gaps at a later date. - Water well in and give your new hedge a thick mulch. This will help to reduce any competition from weeds as the hedge gets going. After care  Feed every year, top up the mulch and be aware that you might have to lend a helping hand with the watering through the first two years. - Autumn is the best time of year to prune the native hedge. You won't disturb any nesting birds at this time and the deciduous trees and shrubs are dormant. Don't be afraid to cut back hard as this will encourage the hedge to thicken up. Native trees to try Acer campestre field maple Crataegus monogyna hawthorn Fagus sylvatica beech Prunus padus bird cherry Quercus robur english oak Alnus glutinosa common alder Betula pendula silver birch Carpinus betula hornbeam Sorbus aucuparia mountain ash Taxus baccata yew Native shrubs to try Viburnum opulus guelder rose Ilex aquifolium holly Euonymus europaeus spindle tree Corylus avellana hazel Sambucus nigra elder Cornus sanguinea common dogwood Prunus spinosa blackthorn
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