Growing a natural hedge – without even planting it!
This is a wonderful concept of getting a natural hedge for absolutely no cost while contributing to the environment and natural diversity. This type of hedge has been invented by a man called Benjes Hermann and thus it’s now called a Benjes Hedge.
It’s very simple: you collect any old prunings, leafmould, herbaceous autumn prunings, literally any woody material you can find and lay it out in a line or curve or whatever the shape of your hedge wants to be. The pile should be about 1 metre wide and about 50cm to 1m high and obviously as long as you wish. The sides of the pile can be supported with upright sticks or posts about 1-1.5m apart. Isn’t this a great way of ‘getting rid‘ of unwanted branches or prunings.
By creating these long wooden piles, we attract a whole range of creatures and micro-organisms. There will be billions of micro-organisms and insects that feed on the decaying wood. There will also be birds sheltering and nesting. This is the secret of this hedge. The bird droppings are actually sowing the seeds into a sheltered and more fertile ground. The birds are bringing seeds from the neighbourhood and plant them for you. Other shrubs are wind-pollinated and their seeds drift around the air and hopefully get caught in your hedge. So in theory there is no need in planting any shrubs and just wait and see what happens. When I created a hedge like this in Bundoran I was slightly too impatient for that so I used some willow, blackcurrant and more cuttings for the upright supports and they grow very quickly – just to give it a head start.
I think it’s such a wonderful idea for any community group, school or environmental group because the benefits are manifold:
· You find a place for your prunings (instead of burning them!)
· You create diverse habitats and food for a variety of life
· It costs nothing
· It really is fun to do!