Dead hedging in the forest garden

A dead hedge, made from posts and scrubby branches, is an ideal temporary windbreak and wildlife habitat.

Dead hedge in field, made out of posts and old branches
Dead hedge in the Ornamental Forest Garden, protecting a bamboo

I’ve just found out about the benefits of a dead hedge from Janie who came on the forest garden workshop. It’s a hedge made from cut branches and foliage, so an ideal way of using up hedge cuttings.

They are also nice and easy to make—you bang some home-made posts in pre-made holes in the ground (6-8cm posts are easy to hammer in, smaller ones flex too much) and pile up the branches inbetween the posts. Use a big pointy metal stick (I don’t know the proper name) to make the holes.

Simple illusration showing 4 upgrights, with horizontal lines inbetween

The essence of a dead hedge is captured in this primitive yet adequate illustration

We planted a Yushania anceps ‘Pitt White’ bamboo in the Ornamental Forest Garden but it’s been battered a bit by winds, as the windbreak hedges have yet to get established, and the Broom nurse trees aren’t in place yet. So a dead hedge is an ideal solution.

Inside the dead hedge, showing small bamboo

The other side of the dead hedge, showing the weak and poorly bamboo

A top tip is to build the dead hedge near to where you are cutting the branches. Unfortunately I had wood chipped the brash from the hedge last week, so I had to drag up a few piles of branches a couple of hundred yards.

Another great tip I picked up from Facebook is to use existing stock fencing as one side of the dead hedge, it’s a quick way to create a windbreak.

The dead hedge will take a while to decompose, as the branches aren’t touching the ground. It provides ideal shelter for insects, small birds and small mammals, plus you can top the hedge with more cuttings when it starts to reduce in bulk.

Pile of branches at bottom of track

Don’t do it like this, having to carry branches up tracks; rather, make the hedge where you cut the branches!

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