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Hedge management for wildlife

We have a long, mixed species boundary hedge which until this year have had cut by a local farmer annually. 
I have recently read that cutting hedges every three years is the optimum for benefitting wildlife. Does anyone else do this and if so have you found this successful?


  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,421
    How much space is there?, once established some plants can grow several feet every year.

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,502
    Cutting one side one year and the other side the next year works for some.  If yours is a boundary hedge I suggest cutting every other year or the side one year and the top the next.
    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • It's an old established hedge and space isn't really an issue. I am concerned that the hedge will get out of hand over three years or become weaker if it gets leggy.
    It looks very nice cut but would like to give best support to the wildlife if possible too.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 87,881
    edited February 2023
    It depends a bit on the sort of wildlife that there is around and the local environment … a closely clipped hedge can become thick and firm enough to ‘bounce a tennis ball on’ as I heard it described … such a hedge is a marvellous place for a flock of house sparrows to hang out during the day, safe from the swooping sparrowhawk … so if you have house sparrows around you can enhance the area for them by clipping it tightly and putting up a grain feeder for them nearby … and they like somewhere for a dust bath too. 

    Look around and see what wildlife you have in your area, find out what they need and you can enhance the environment for them. 😊 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Thanks for the replies. I find advice from the Internet can sometimes be confusing and contradictory so I appreciate your thoughts. 
    We have lots of sparrows who seem to enjoy our Hawthorn's and make such a noise at times we call one The Singing Tree.
    I think I will have to see how it looks throughout the year and perhaps cut it after the nesting season which would be an alternate year as suggested by @Redwing.

  • A couple of years ago I attended a conservation farming walk in the Chilterns AONB. The farmers were trialling only cutting one side of their established hedges per annum, leaving the other side untouched. In addition to this, the cut side was cut at an angle (batter?) so that the base was wider than the top. This helps encourage flowering from top to bottom.

    You could cut now (before end of March) and this would give an early flowering side (uncut) and a later flowering side (the cut one) to provide vital food sources over a prolonged period.
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