Hedge planting under your agri-environment scheme

Gary Fraser, Countryside Management Delivery Branch, DARD

Published 25 Jan 2012
Hedges are an important feature of our landscape.  Well managed hedges provide food and shelter for wildlife and a barrier to livestock. Hedges also help stop the spread of disease and provide shelter for livestock. However, many hedges are in poor condition or may have gaps due to damage or neglect. A positive programme of replanting or interplanting will help restore a hedge and improve its value to wildlife and the landscape. Agri-environment scheme participants can receive funding for field boundary restoration.
The best time to plant and restore field boundary hedgerows on the farm is from November to March, so there is still time to plant a hedge. If you are replanting a field boundary this year careful planning will help you the establish hedge plants and make sure you comply with your scheme requirements.
If you are a participant in the Countryside Management Scheme or Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme with start dates before 2008 check your agreement to find out how much planting to carry out. If you are in the NI Countryside Management Scheme (NICMS) check your scheme agreement for your maximum allowance. NICMS participants claim for field boundary restoration work on the Single Application Form and it is important you only claim for the length of hedgerow restored during this claim year.
The hedge should be composed of 75% hawthorn, the remaining 25 percent of hedge should be a mix of at least five other native woody species such as hazel, guelder rose, holly, dog rose, or blackthorn randomly planted along the full length of the hedge.  Each metre of newly planted hedge should contain approximately eight plants. Native trees such as rowan, oak or cherry should be planted every 10-15 metres along the hedge.  
Order the plants as soon as possible from your supplier and try to obtain strong, good quality locally sourced plants.  If they need to be stored before planting, place them in moist soil to ensure the roots do not dry out. Planting should be avoided during periods of very wet weather or spells of frost and snow.
Prepare the planting site well. On grassy sites, spray a one metre wide strip with glyphosate about four weeks before planting. Cultivate a trench about 300mm deep and 600mm wide, adding well rotted manure if you wish.
Plant in a double staggered row with 250mm between plants and 300mm between rows. After planting use secateurs to prune hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, guelder rose and dog rose at 10cm to 15cm above ground level.  This allows new growth to develop from the base of the plant.
Placing a black polythene sheet over the planting area will help suppress weeds in the first few years of hedge growth. This should be at least one metre wide and can be applied before or after planting.  After planting place some loose gravel on the plastic to hold it in place.
Following these guidelines will help ensure your new plants establish successfully and grow into a well structured hedge, which will be an asset on the farm for years to come.
It is important to check your scheme agreement and scheme booklet for full details and always ensure that you claim the length of hedgerow restoration accurately.
If you need further advice on hedge planting, contact Countryside Management Delivery staff at your local DARD office.

Check your Agri-environment scheme agreement and scheme booklet for full details of field boundary restoration and always ensure that you claim the length of hedgerow restoration accurately.