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Dead hedges, evergreen hedge and all things composting

Date posted: Wednesday 21st November 2018

Dead hedges, evergreen hedge and all things composting

On Sunday we were privileged to hear Guy Barter, Chief Horticulturalist at RHS Wisley talk to plotholders and answer questions about all things composting. One of his suggestions for reducing the need for bonfires was making a dead hedge for lengths of woody cuttings and prunings that can’t be composted. On one plot a very fine dead hedge has been constructed and according to Janet and Nick it didn’t take any time at all!

We’ve begun clearing the ground between the dead hedge that screens the beehive area and the park railings alongside Church Grove Walk in preparation for planting a evergreen holly and pyrancantha hedge.

Andrew Saunders is leading on this hedge planting that will be a continuation of the original native deciduous hedge running the length of the SE perimeter. The original dead hedge contains mostly discarded Christmas trees and the height has dropped considerably and the thought was also that it might pose a fire risk, too tempting to would-be arsonists. Dead hedges are a sustainable way of recycling cuttings and brash that can’t be composted, and also provide habitats for a range and variety of wildlife, as this RHS Wisley blog post says:

“Combining wood brash into hedgerows provides habitats as well as structure in the woodland. Now that work is slowing down in the gardens, I return to the woods to rejoin the work of thinning the young trees and dealing with the huge amounts of brash, foliage and small branches that result from each felling. It is slow and careful work and decisions on which trees to keep, and which would be better removed, are not always easy to make. The work is progressing, though, and now the place is starting to look more like a wood and less a plantation of straight lines.
Getting creative with brash
The huge amounts of brash created must be dealt with. Not content to heap it up or simply burn it, a project is under way to create something both useful and lovely to see. The branches are cut from the fallen trees and woven together to form what we call ‘dead hedges’ – man-made hedges that snake through the woods, curving around those trees that remain standing. They are loosely formed to allow birds and mammals to get in, and yet being woven makes them surprisingly robust.
Habitats galore
Now and then, an old brash pile is taken apart to make way for a new one and some of the old material is incorporated into the new, the remainder being left to rot down. In taking apart the old piles, we can see what has been going on inside and what we see is heartening, for we find the roosts and burrows of birds and small mammals. Little by little, more wildlife are making this place their home, building nests and raising young. There are cup-shaped nests of birds, leaf and grass nests of mice, tunnels dug by voles, hiding places for toads, frogs and newts. Wild bees tuck themselves into the moss and leaf litter. Deer scrape the ground to make resting places. The activity of birds amongst the woven brash suggests that the brash acts not just as a stopping-off point between the trees, but also as a larder, being habitat for beetles, flies and spiders. Walk through the woods at any time and you’ll see them flitting in and out, from one to another. Even as we work on building the newest structure, the birds are there to see what they can find.” (RHS Blog 15 Dec 2016) dead hedge – RHS https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/advice-blogs/wildlife-in-my…/dead-hedge-laying