Stewardship Species Blackthorn Farm Stewardship Hedging
Blackthorn or Prunus Spinosa is often used as one of the mainstays of Stewardship Hedgerows especially for stock-proof situations. It is a small deciduous tree or shrub native to the UK and most parts of Europe from the family Rosaceae and is a strong densely growing plant with stems covered with smooth dark brown bark and the twigs which form straight side shoot on the plant then develop into long thorns.
The growth nature of Blackthorn therefore makes it ideal for stock-proofing either as a single species or as part of a Stewardship mix. The blossom which is one of the earliest to appear in March and April as pretty, white flowers on short stalks is an important source of pollen and nectar for bees. Birds also take advantage of the dense nature of Blackthorn to nest in safety in spring and feed on the various caterpillars to be found on the foliage. The blossom will then develop into the recognisable blue-black sloe berries which could be harvested for wine making or flavouring gin.
Blackthorn planted as part of a Stewardship scheme would normally be spaced in a double or sometimes even a triple row at between 5-7 plants per metre, once established, growing at a rate of about 30cm per year, not dissimilar to the rate at which other Stewardship plants grow.
The pre-preparation of the ground to be planted would mean weed killing the area through the summer and usually if planting several hundred Blackthorn to save time a farmer will slit plant, this entails making a slit in the ground with a spade, the Blackthorn transplant is then inserted into the ground and the slit closed with the heel of the foot and firmed in. If rabbits and hares are a problem, then wrapping the transplant with a protective spiral guard is a must to limit the number destroyed by the animals.