Operation Biodiversity: Mission to plant 100,000 native trees and hedgerows

Glanbia Ireland is digging deep this December, January and February. It is partnering with its family farm suppliers and has begun an exciting new initiative to plant 100,000 native trees and hedgerows across the countryside in Ireland.

It’s all part of the company’s exciting new Operation Biodiversity programme which is supported by the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.

The initiative is already up and running and Glanbia Ireland’s experienced CountryLife horticulturalists are working with farmers in what is typically a quieter time of year on many family farms.

Glanbia Ireland’s team of horticulturalists at its network of 14 award-winning CountryLife Garden Centres have created tree and hedgerow bundles for different soil types. It is helping farmers pick the best mix of bare root hedging and native trees to suit their particular needs. It’s the perfect time of year for such biodiversity work.


To help drive this initiative, Glanbia Ireland will donate 10 bare root trees for every low-cost bundle of 15 trees purchased. The options feature a ‘Rich Species Bundle’ to suit both limey and acidic soils, including a variety of trees such as oak, alder and mountain ash.

In addition, for every two hedgerow bundles purchased a further bundle will be donated to cover an additional 10m. Each low-cost hedgerow bundle has been carefully selected and includes 40 plants, which are a mixture of both bare root trees and hedging plants.

Glanbia Ireland has even put together the perfect mix for either acidic or limey soil.

‘Always striving to do our very best’

Bryan Daniels, an award-winning dairy farmer from Co. Kilkenny, is one of many farmers leading the way.

“What we’ve done on the farm over the last 20 years is we’ve done a lot of hedge laying, we’ve planted a couple of thousand Sceachs and are trying to thicken out and rejuvenate the hedgerows. We’ve also planted a couple of hundred trees – mostly native oaks, ash, larch and Scots pine.

“It’s very important farmers get involved in Operation Biodiversity. Anything small that we can do on the farm is very important. A lot of farmers are unaware of the good they are doing and thankfully we’re seeing far less butchering of hedgerows now.

“Farmers are more aware of the importance of hedges and aren’t as inclined to cut them back to the soil.

“We lay anything between 50 and 250 yards of hedges a year and as we mostly have clay banks, we’re planting whitethorns now. I’m going to plant a wider shelter belt on some land we’re leasing.

“Our land is all between 780 and 1,000ft above sea level so we’ve lots of holly, blackthorn and more on the farm. It’s lovely at this time of year.

“We are always striving to do our very best, to make our imprint on our farm and leave it in even better condition for the next generation. It’s important that every farmer embraces planting trees and hedgerows and Operation Biodiversity is a good way to get involved or to build on your foundations.”

And Bryan’s top tip when planting trees and hedges: “Pick your spot wisely and make sure it’s fenced off so the cows aren’t tempted to have a nibble as they make their way to the parlour. Plants need time to settle and grow.”

Significant volumes of trees

Glanbia Ireland Chairman John Murphy says the business will donate significant volumes of trees and hedging plants as part of a long-term programme to encourage biodiversity.

We believe that by working together through our Operation Biodiversity programme we can help enrich our landscape for generations to come.

“Every single tree or metre of hedgerow planted makes a difference and builds on the great work that many farmers are already doing,” he said.

Operation Biodiversity has teamed up with renowned environmental educator and broadcaster Éanna Ní Lamhna to spread the word and the entire initiative is supported by the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.

Horticulturalist at Glanbia CountryLife Dungarvan Malachy Doherty said: “It is very important that we encourage wildlife and create special environments for biodiversity on our farms and in our gardens.

“Our horticulturalists will be available to give advice to those inexperienced in planting hedges and trees. We’re all available in the various CountryLife stores. Even if your local agri store doesn’t have a garden centre, there’s still advice to be had.

“It doesn’t really matter what stage you’re on in the biodiversity journey – whether you want to plant one tree or a hundred. It will all help and we’re here to help too.”

Sustainability and biodiversity is at the heart of everything Glanbia Ireland does. Operation Biodiversity builds on the many actions already in progress on farms and the strong foundations put in place by its earlier programmes, including Operation PolliNation and Operation WildNation, to allow our pollinators and other species to thrive.

Glanbia Ireland’s experts will help guide people along the journey with educational videos, planting tips and advice so that everyone can help make a difference.

For further details on the Operation Biodiversity initiative and to follow Glanbia Ireland’s blogs and educational videos, just click here and here

10 top tips

Malachy’s top 10 tips when planting hedges or trees:

  • Choose the correct plant for the site – one suited to the aspect, the soil type and pH;
  • Prepare the soil. If it’s briary or waste ground, weed control is important. Strim the area to the clay if possible and rotovate;
  • If your soil is acidic, whitethorn, blackthorn, alder, oak, Scots pine, mountain ash are good choices;
  • Similarly, in limey soil, a mix of whitethorn, spindle, hazel, grey willow, oak and mountain ash work well;
  • If planting hedges and trees, put the hedging plants to the front, trees to the back. This allows hedgerows to be trimmed down the line, without damaging the trees;
  • To protect newly-planted hedges, drive a post every 10m at either side and run bailing twine along the line. This will support the hedging and help prevent wind rock;
  • Similarly, in exposed areas, drive a stake to support taller trees. But remove after two years to allow the tree to flourish;
  • We recommend you plant bare root hedging within 10 days of purchase. If the weather isn’t suitable, put the bagged hedging in soil. This will give you a window of up to a month to find a suitable day to plant;
  • Don’t plant on a very rainy day. The ground will just be too wet;
  • The ideal time to plant hedging and trees is over Christmas time – but no later than the end of February.