Grounds maintenance work carries on for all 12 months of the year. In midwinter The Keep It Green team are maintaining boundary hedges, keeping a watchful eye on grassland and planning for next spring.
It’s perfectly normal for trees and hedges to lose most of their leaves and become dormant during the colder months of the year. With no sap flowing, no nesting birds and not too much vegetation to cope with, this is the ideal time to tackle hedge trimming.
What does hedge trimming do?
A thick, healthy hedge provides privacy, shelter, security for the landowner and habitat for wildlife. But left to its own devices, a hedge will rapidly transform itself into a row of trees. That’s lovely for squirrels but the hedge will no longer serve its purpose.
This beautiful taxus (yew) hedge was trimmed in early september. Evergreen hedges can be trimmed at almost any time of year
Hedge trimming encourages each plant to develop lateral shoots and grow out rather than up. It’s that sideways growth that makes the hedge bushy and dense. A really thick hedge is not only stock-proof, it’s far neater, more beautiful and makes a really effective wind-break.
At Keep it Green, we prefer to cut native species hedges as late in the season as we can. Especially if it’s a species that carries berries for birds to forage on. However, if the hedge borders agricultural land, of course we’ll work with the owner to avoid damaging growing crops.
Berry bearing hedges like this Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) are best cut as late in the winter as possible so that the birds can take full advantage of this natural food source
By far the most cost-effective way to establish a new hedge is to plant bare root stock during the autumn and winter months. Bare root is also a quick and easy way to fill in any gaps in a hedgerow.
Bare root stock is normally available between October and February and there is a wide range of species and heights to choose from. The dormant saplings simply need to be planted at the correct depth and spacing and preferably in a straight line. I always try to ensure the roots are spread out so that they will anchor the plant strongly from the outset. I’m also a big fan of using weed proof membrane or mulch to reduce competition from weeds.
It’s a cold job and hard on the back but well worth the effort. I like that there are no plastic pots or packaging involved with bare roots.
Protection for your new hedge plants.
It’s ironic isn’t it? We plant hedges to help wildlife in the long term, and yet the little wotsits will happily chew young bushes down to the ground. Depending on the circumstances you might like to erect a temporary fence – recommended for deer, cattle, sheep or rabbits. Or you could opt for tree guards – they are designed to expand and grow with the plants and do an excellent job of protecting the bark until the plant is big enough to be unattractive to rabbits. They make nice little shelters for minibeasts too. Sadly though – they tend to be plastic.
In a hurry for hedging?
Bare root hedging plants look a little bit like sticks. They will bud up and spring into life as the soil warms up but it does normally take up to 5 years for them to form a dense hedge. It’s great to watch a hedgerow developing but if you need your privacy now – why not opt for a pre-grown instant hedge? More costly than bare root but then of course you are buying time – and time is priceless!
A second advantage of instant hedging is that it can be planted all year round. It does need heavy lifting equipment to plant it and it will need irrigating until it establishes but Wow! The results are awesome.
Instant hedges growing in the nursery. These will be divided into sections and put on pallets before being delivered to site. The plants have been growing side by side for 5+ years and have already interwoven their branches into a dense hedge.
The KIG team establishing pot grown laurel plants to create a semi-mature hedge. After a couple of years of careful trimming these will form a neat privacy screen between the garden and the road beyond.
If your fencing needs repairing or replacing, winter is by far the best time to tackle the work. We can (and do) work with fencing all year round but it’s so much easier for us to schedule the work in while other grounds maintenance work is less demanding and while livestock is safely tucked away indoors.
Post and rail fencing for a stable yard in Sussex. The fallen leaves and dull sky tell you that the work has been done in November just before the ponies come in for the winter.
All of our fencing is bespoke but this project was more bespoke than most. This rustic fence has been milled from large sections of chestnut tree in the traditional manner, all the rails were cut to size to fit the notches and installed carefully to create with this lovely boundary fence at the bottom of a horse paddock.
Lawns and grassland management
Believe it or not, grass does keep growing in the winter. If the soil temperature is 5 degrees or more, the roots will still be taking in nutrients and preparing for the spring growth spurt.
It’s not unusual for the Keep It Green team to be mowing in a mild January or February. And we’ll certainly be applying winter feeds and moss control treatments.
Moss reproduces during cooler wetter weather so prudently dosing your lawn with iron sulphate in the winter months will help to control it. Please do NOT use one of those combined feed, weed and moss treatments at this time of year. The weedkiller won’t work in cold weather so you are throwing chemicals around unnecessarily. Plus applying the wrong balance of nutrients in winter will likely result in a particularly ugly lawn disease called fusarium. If in doubt, ask for professional help.
Grounds Maintenance Plans for Next Year
Grounds maintenance for the entire year starts in winter time with the making of a masterplan. It’s all about reviewing the previous year, identifying strengths and weaknesses, setting timetables and getting quotes.
Our next blog will look at budgeting in more detail but in the meantime, if you need a quote or an estimate for any aspect of grounds maintenance, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our service include but are not restricted to
- Grass cutting
- Hedge Trimming
- Tree maintenance
- Path and patio maintenance
- Land clearance
Contact Keep it Green Garden Maintenance