How to Plant Instant Hedging

Planting guidelines for instant hedging plants

Preparing the site for planting

Do try to get the site ready before your plants are delivered, this way you will be able to plant more easily and quickly especially if the weather is bad after delivery. Planting quickly after delivery is a certain insurance against your hedging plants deteriorating and will without doubt give the best results.

It is very important to remove all perennial weeds and grass from the planting area which should be thoroughly dug over as a trench, the size of the trench depends on the size of instant hedging you have ordered, please see below in the planting section. Preparing thoroughly now can be time consuming but is still much easier than trying to remedy problems after planting so is time very well spent.

If you have a lot of perennial weeds it might pay to use a systemic weedkiller such as ‘Roundup’ (kills the roots as well as the leaves of weeds) a week or two before preparing the site following the recommendations on the pack.

It is possible to prepare the site with a mini digger which can save time but some heavy soils can smear or compact sealing the edges and bottom of the trench trapping water which will kill the roots. Extra attention to loosening the sides and base with a hand fork will be needed and care needs to be taken not to mix poor quality subsoil with your topsoil. If the site is very wet the mini digger will almost certainly compact the soil (as well as making a very muddy mess!) so its better to either wait for drier weather and improved conditions, or do the work by hand.

Unless your soil is already good, it will pay to improve it by adding organic matter like well-rotted manure, garden compost or general planting compost/soil improver which should be well mixed in with the surrounding soil. Poorly drained planting sites always benefit from having some sharp sand or grit added in the same way, planting on a slightly raised mound can also help on wet sites, or adding perforated drainage pipe to get rid of excess water.

Rootgrow and bone meal

The best fertiliser to add is bone meal, an organic slow releasing feed as this encourages root growth which is essential to get your hedge established, as a guide 1 kilo will be enough for about 15 metres of hedge planting on a single row. It is important that bone meal does not come into direct contact with plant roots as it will scorch them, make sure the bone meal is well mixed with the soil and water well a day or so before planting if it is very dry.

We recommend using Rootgrow when you plant new hedging of all types, this is a really useful product endorsed by the RHS, an easy to apply product containing native mycorrhizal fungi that colonise plant roots greatly increasing the availability of water and nutrients to your new hedge. This means new hedges of any species will establish far more quickly, this can be especially important with bare root and rootball evergreen hedging plants that are vulnerable to losing moisture through their leaves after planting, particularly in the warmer spring months. Unlike bone meal, rootgrow should be in direct contact with the plant roots to colonise them as quickly as possible. Rootgrow should be sprinkled into the planting hole or trench directly next to the roots.

Planting

If possible do try and avoid planting if the ground is frozen, or immediately after very heavy rain as the soil can compact easily when very wet which will then make it difficult for the roots to establish. If it is very windy do protect the roots of your plants leaving them exposed to the wind for the shortest possible time.

Planting instant hedging plants.

Instant hedging plants are always delivered on a pallet because of their size, they can be left on the pallet for a day or two making sure they are kept well-watered. The ground should be prepared in a trench as with other types of hedging, the size of trench will depend on the type of instant hedging you have ordered

Standard troughs – prepare a trench at least 20cm deep and 25cm wide to allow for backfilling, making sure the base and sides of the trench have been loosened with a fork. The trough itself is approx. 17cm wide and 17cm deep.

Maxi troughs – prepare a trench at least 25cm deep and 30cm wide to allow for backfilling making sure the base and sides of the trench have been loosened with a fork. The trough itself is approx. 20cm wide and 20cm deep.

Large troughs – prepare a trench at least 35cm deep and 40cm wide to allow for backfilling making sure the base and sides of the trench have been loosened with a fork. The trough itself is approx. 30cm wide and 35cm deep.

Extra large troughs and Hedge elements – prepare a trench at least 35cm deep and 50cm wide to allow for backfilling making sure the base and sides of the trench have been loosened with a fork. The trough itself is approx. 35cm deep and 40cm wide.

Where the instant hedging is supplied in a plastic trough, this should be removed before planting sitting the hedge in the trench backfilling with well-prepared soil firming gently but firmly to remove air pockets while holding the top of the plants to keep them straight. When planted the compost should be just covered. Give the new hedge a really good soak after planting and continue with this twice a week until well established.

For instant hedging supplied in cardboard troughs (we are moving over to this system more and more on environmental grounds) – simply plant the whole thing including the cardboard (which will help with spacing as they simply butt up to each other) making sure to plant with the compost level and cardboard just covered with soil. Give the new hedge an extra good soak making sure the cardboard is saturated too (it will rot away in as little as a month provided it is wetted) and keep watering thoroughly twice a week until the new hedge is well established.

 

Mulching

A mulch is a layer of organic matter such as bark chips, garden compost or similar material that is applied to the surface of the soil around your new hedge (but not touching the stems) to supress weeds and conserve moisture. We strongly recommend mulching new hedges to improve the success rate and vastly improve growth in the first year or two, especially on lighter soils that don’t retain moisture. Mulching is still a great idea on heavier soils that can dry out and crack on the surface in dry spells for most plants except for Box and Yew and Lavender where too much moisture can be trapped making these species more susceptible to root diseases. A mulch should be applied at least 5-8cm deep (2-3 inches) deep and at least as wide as the strip you have prepared. Mulching should be carried out as soon as possible after planting and before weed seedling appear, watering very well beforehand if the soil is dry.

Aftercare

The first summer after planting is the most critical time for a newly planted hedge, it really is essential that new hedges have enough water, light and nutrients to establish and grow away well. They must be kept free of all weeds including grass over the whole width of the planting area (even the short grass of a lawn will compete for moisture and nutrients) for at least the first 2 years. New hedges need to be kept well-watered if the weather is dry, especially evergreen rootball plants and larger potted hedging. As a guide, a new hedge will need at least 5-10 litres per metre of hedge, twice a week but larger rootball plants will need substantially more. Evergreen hedging plants also appreciate misting over the leaves which like all watering should be done in the evening when the heat of the day has passed.

Late into leaf

In the first season after planting a new hedge will almost always come into leaf a little later than an established hedge of the same species. Plants need to establish new roots into the surrounding and need a close eye kept on watering, especially as the new leaves emerge. Well-tended plants will grow away more quickly and will tend to resist pests and diseases.

Rabbit protection

Rabbits can cause serious damage to new hedges, if you have a rabbit problem there are three options:

  • Plant species that rabbits don’t eat (Box or Yew)
  • Use spiral tree guards to protect the stems, smaller plants will need a 90cm bamboo cane to support the plant and the guard.
  • Multi stemmed or bushier plants will need either circles of wire netting for the individual plants supported with a small stake, or the whole area secured with rabbit netting.

Other animals can also cause damage so please do check your new hedge regularly.

Wind rock

Strong winds (even moderate breezes) can cause newly planted hedging plants to rock and sway opening a hole around the stem that can then fill with water which will eventually kill the plant. Really strong gales can even dislodge plants to the point that the roots become exposed which is also fatal. Check your new hedge regularly and re firm plants where necessary until they are well established. Straightening up a newly planted hedge is much easier than trying to take remedial action when they have grown much larger. Taller plants may need staking, particularly on windy and more exposed sites where (firmly supported) windbreak netting may also be useful.

Trimming and pruning

Instant hedging plants don’t generally need trimming after planting unless they have excess growth on them in which case a light trim will finish the planting job off nicely. Subsequent trimming will be the same as for established hedges.

As a rule, deciduous hedges can be trimmed in mid to late summer while evergreen hedges are best trimmed in early spring or early autumn but there are always exceptions, recommended timings for trimming all hedge species can be found on our website or in our catalogue.

Looking after your established hedge.

Most of the work is done by the time your plants have established and ‘filled out’, it should then be healthy and growing strongly. To maintain this, we recommend an annual feed and mulch in spring keeping the hedge in tip top condition.