Creating a Wild Backyard - Hedgerows
Hedgerows are living fences of trees, shrubs and other plants. They
can consist of a simple row of trees and shrubs or as a pyramid of
plants, from low grasses and flowers to tall trees. Hedgerows are
beneficial because they create corridors for wildlife in fragmented
landscapes. In addition to passageways, hedgerows also provide food
and shelter. Hedgerows can serve as fences between fields and can
help reduce energy costs by planting them alongside your house where
prevailing winds hit.
How to Plant a Hedgerow
Hedgerows work best for wildlife when they are wider than 20 feet.
When deciding what to plant, try to include a combination of
evergreen plants, like holly and juniper in addition to deciduous
species. If you plant shrubs that produce berries at different times
of the year, then wildlife will be more attracted to your hedgerow
throughout the year. The most successful hedgerows have a diversity
of plants and height structures. The variable plant heights favor
more species and provide more cover than a group of plants all at
the same height. If possible, then leave
snags and logs within your
hedgerow to increase shelter for wildlife.
For ideas on what to plant, check out the
Native Maryland Tree page
as well as the page on
Planting Shrubs for Wildlife. A pyramid type
of hedgerow is best for wildlife, with tall trees in the middle and
bushy shrubs on either side followed by dense, low-growing plants.
Hedgerow Planting Tips
Plow or disc the area in which you have planned to plant your
hedgerow. Call your local agricultural extension agent about the
possible application of herbicides to reduce heavy weed growth while
your hedgerow is being established.
It is best to plant your hedgerow in early spring, right after
the last winter frost, usually from late March to mid-April.
Plant trees and shrubs about six to eight feet apart. Plant each
row about eight to ten feet apart.
Plant one or two rows of tall trees flanked by a row or two of
shrubs. A 20-foot wide hedgerow will have two rows of shrubs
flanking a row of trees. This amounts to three rows with each row
ten feet apart.
If your hedgerow is for wildlife food and cover, leave breaks in
the planted rows so that natural vegetation can grow and become part
of the hedge.
Make sure the planting holes are deep and wide enough to accept
and cover the roots of each plant.
Mulch placed around each tree and shrub after planting will
discourage weeds. Commercial mulch, straw, or hay piled about three
inches thick and one to two feet around each plant will help the
How to Maintain Your Hedgerow
It is important to maintain the levels of vegetation you have
created in your hedgerow. When your smaller shrubs grow into large
trees, the habitat "edge" effect will be lost. You may also wish to
discourage certain plants from growing in your hedgerow. The
following are suggestions for maintaining a hedgerow for wildlife.
Every three to five years, prune any fruit trees you may have.
Cut off the tops of your junipers and pines when they reach 20 feet
in height. These measures will cause the plants to produce less
woody material and more leaves and fruits.
To be sure your hedgerow will have a variety of plant growth
stages, selectively cut the trees in the hedge every five years.
Cut back the vegetation between the shrub rows every two or three
years. This will reduce the growth of woody shrubs and trees and
keep the green grasses, vines, and flowers growing in between the
For Additional Information, Contact:
Sarah B. Witcher
Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife and Heritage Service
580 Taylor Avenue, E-1
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Hedgerow picture designed with vector graphics from:
Tracey Saxby, Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (ian.umces.edu/imagelibrary/).
Dieter Tracey, Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (ian.umces.edu/imagelibrary/).