With the hedge cutting season around the corner, now is the time to consider hedgerow management.
The season starts on September 1 up until the March 1, as birds are still nesting during August. Teagasc says when considering a hedgerow management plan, understanding the nature of hedgerow growth with decision making in this area.
It says trimming hedges prevents hedgerows growing up into a line of trees. Given time, thorn species will grow into small trees. Appropriate management depends on which stage the hedge is at? and which type of hedgerow is on your farm?
Teagasc tips on hedgerow management:
1. Hedgerows with a dense base
Trim from a wide base with sides sloping to a triangular shape, leaving the peak as high as practical. Leave mature trees and new saplings, including thorns at irregular intervals.
2. Escaped hedgerows
Through lack of management these have grown high and escaped, loosing their dense base, but not yet becoming a line of mature trees with full canopy. These hedgerows are typically thin at the base with gaps and no longer stockproof. Allow these grow into relict hedgerows (as below) or rejuvenate by laying or coppicing.
3. Relict hedgerows
Here shrubs have grown into mature trees with a full canopy, while others have died out and not been replaced, leaving large gaps. Leave these alone. The wildlife value of these relict hedgerows is in the canopy, which provides food, shelter, home and highway for bats, birds and other species. It is too risky to rejuvenate by laying or coppicing. Fencing off stock from both sides prolongs their life by preventing stock tramping through gaps.
Best practice hedgecutting
Teagasc says from an environmental aspect we are not cutting hedgerows to look neat. If we want birds and wildlife in hedgerows, best practice is to side trim to a triangular shape, leaving the peak as high as possible, sloping both sides from a wide base. This allows light to the base encouraging dense growth at ground level.
Hedgerows with a dense base require trimming to maintain them and prevent them growing up into relict hedgerows of mature trees with distinct boles and full canopies. It is possible to cut the growing point at the top of the hedgerow without creating a flat top.
Teagasc highlight that currently many hedgerows which are trimmed regularly need to be allowed grow taller and wider.