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How Hedgerows—aka Living Fences—Can Make Your Yard More Sustainable

Hedgerows are a not-so-secret way to benefit the planet from your own backyard. Learn the many ways hedgerows better the environment, as well as how to plant one.

hedgerow benefits
Written by
Riley Baker
Have you ever thought about the surprising ways you could help better the environment right from your own backyard? One such (often overlooked!) way is through the cultivation of hedgerows. Yes, those bushy, green boundaries that demarcate our properties can be a powerful tool in environmental conservation.
Hedgerows, which may be described as lines of closely spaced shrubs and tree species, are more than just an aesthetic feature of the landscape. They also offer a wide range of ecological and environmental benefits, from providing shelter and food for wildlife to acting as a natural windbreak and soil protector to reducing noise pollution and carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere.
If you're considering adding a hedgerow to your own yard, here's everything you should know—from how they benefit the environment to how to plant one.

What Are Hedgerows?

hedgerow benefits
When we delve into the world of ecology and conservation, the term "hedgerows" is often thrown around. But what are hedgerows? And why are they so important for our environment? 
Hedgerows are essentially living fences, usually composed of a mix of native shrubs, trees, and plants. They create a dense barrier that can serve multiple functions, ranging from marking property boundaries to providing wildlife habitats.
Hedgerows are especially prevalent in Europe, where they've been a part of the landscape for centuries. While they're still not as common in the United States,
more and more people
are recognizing the benefits of hedgerows and planting them on their properties.

The Benefits of Hedgerows

Hedgerows, often underestimated as boring shrubs, assume a crucial role in safeguarding the well-being of our ecosystem. They provide a wide array of advantages, ranging from promoting biodiversity to mitigating soil erosion. Here's everything you should know.

1. Wildlife Habitats

Acting as a sanctuary for a myriad of wildlife species, hedgerows serve a crucial role in our ecosystem. They offer not only a safe shelter but also a reliable food source and a corridor for transit, particularly for our feathered friends,
petite mammals
, and a diverse collection of

2. Biodiversity

Hedgerows, teeming with a vibrant mosaic of flora and fauna, are instrumental in nurturing biodiversity. This rich array of biological diversity is the heartbeat of a robust and flourishing ecosystem.

3. Soil Health and Erosion Prevention

Hedgerows can be instrumental in maintaining soil health and preventing erosion. They act as natural barriers to wind and water,
protecting the soil
from being washed or blown away. In addition, their roots help to bind the soil, further strengthening its resistance against erosion. 

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4. Carbon Sequestration

In their quiet, unassuming manner, plants in hedgerows perform a sneaky role in our fight against
climate change
. They
absorb carbon dioxide
, a notorious greenhouse gas, helping to mitigate climate change by sequestering it within their roots and leaves.

How to Plant a Hedgerow, Step by Step

hedgerow benefits
Have you ever considered how you can contribute to environmental conservation from the comfort of your own backyard? The answer is simpler than you may think: planting a hedgerow. Not only are these green barriers a charming addition to any landscape, but they also offer numerous ecological benefits. But how does one go about planting a hedgerow?
Here's the simple, yet crucial, steps you need to take—plus, the common pitfalls you should avoid when planting your hedgerow.

1. Select the Right Spot 

Choosing the right location for your hedgerow is key. You need an area that has good sunlight exposure and well-drained soil. Remember, different plants thrive in different conditions, so the plant selection will also depend on the location. 

2. Choose Your Plants 

When selecting your hedgerow plants, diversity is key. Aim to include a mixture of trees, shrubs, and flowers. Think about the nature of each plant. How does it grow? What are its preferred conditions? And most importantly, what does it bring to the local ecosystem?
For example, bring in a tough and resilient shrub that can provide valuable shelter and nesting sites for birds, and some
flowering plants
to attract
. The key is to think about how each plant can contribute to local biodiversity.

3. Prepare the Ground 

So, you've pinpointed the perfect location and have chosen your plant allies for this green venture. What's next? Well, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. The task ahead involves evicting any stubborn grass and pesky weeds that currently call this spot home. Then, gently loosen the soil. The healthier and more welcoming the soil, the more likely your chosen plants will settle in and flourish.

4. Get to Planting

The final step is to plant your hedgerow. Dig a hole for each plant that's twice as wide and just as deep as the root ball. Place the plant in the hole and backfill with soil. The top of the root ball should be level with the ground surface. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Planting a Hedgerow

When it comes to creating and maintaining hedgerows, there are several common pitfalls that can hinder their growth and reduce their effectiveness as environmental assets. Avoiding these mistakes can help you to cultivate a healthy, thriving hedgerow that contributes positively to your local ecosystem.

1. Choosing the Wrong Species 

Many people make the error of choosing plant species that are not suitable for their local environment when creating a hedgerow. It's crucial to select native species that are adapted to your locality's climate and soil conditions. Non-native species can often become invasive and outcompete native species, disrupting the balance of the ecosystem. Take the time to research local plant species, or better yet, consult with a local arborist or nursery. 

2. Poor Planting Practices 

Planting a hedgerow isn't just about digging a hole and dropping in a sapling. Proper planting techniques are necessary for the plants to establish themselves and grow robustly. This often involves preparing the soil, planting at the correct depth, and providing adequate water and nutrients. Overlooking these details could result in a struggling hedgerow that fails to provide the environmental benefits it could. 

3. Neglecting Maintenance 

Just like any other part of your garden, hedgerows require regular maintenance to stay healthy and beneficial to the environment. This includes pruning to encourage bushy growth, watering during dry spells, and occasionally
checking for pests
or diseases. Neglecting these essential maintenance tasks can lead to a decline in the hedgerow's health, reducing its effectiveness as a habitat for local wildlife and a buffer against pollution.