Gardening: Hedges are important site for garden wildlife

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Many of you may have watched in amazement as I did at the excellent images and filming on the BBC Spring Watch programme recently aired a few weeks ago.

The story lines, the trials and tribulations were as exciting as any tense drama or television soap. These same scenarios may well be playing out in your own gardens as worried and stressed parent birds frantically race around the garden to tend to their fledgling brood.

From a gardener’s point of view it reinforced to me the importance of what we have to play when we are selecting are plants for our own plot. Quiet often the type of plant we would like to select for the garden may not be suitable for many of our nesting birds, they can often have to open a canopy, many birds generally like to nest in dense shrubs and a lot of these are native. The Common Hawthorn, Sloe, Holly and the Field Maple grown together make an excellent hedge. By allowing some Brambles, Honeysuckle and a little Ivy to develop within the hedge will add value to the hedge and enhance its ecological and biodiversity credentials. If you look around your garden you may find the remains of an old boundary hedge that may have got lost over the years. Managing these hedges will help to maintain important wildlife corridors for birds, mammals, insects and amphibians for years to come.

The hedge may need to be clipped and this should be delayed until after nesting season, this is best done during August by giving the hedge a clip over with shears. Hedges depending upon the species and special circumstances relating to damage to buildings or cases relating to insurance issues may need to be cut during the nesting season, if so, the hedge or shrubs should be carefully checked first for any nesting birds and the vegetation should not be cut to the extent that the nest is revealed and the birds disturbed. It should be remembered that it is an offence to knowingly disturb the site of any nesting bird.

Many species of insects also live in and around hedges and will go through the full life cycle within the canopy. At the base of the hedge many different species can be found like the Black Hunter Beetles that will make short work of any marauding slugs and other pests that may trouble the gardener’s plot. Ultimately these insects provide an important larder themselves in providing a tasty meal for frogs, toads and newts and the occasional lizard. Quiet often the bottom of the hedge may provide a mixture of native flora, this may include Primrose, Cowslip, Ragged Robin, Ox-Eyed Daisy and if you are lucky an Orchid. Again these areas need to be managed and the use of a strimmer, mower or shears should be delayed until late July and early August so that the plants can set seed and continue to thrive for the following year.

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