The difference between life... and a cold, hungry, death for our wildlife.
Did you notice the apple tree on Garleigh Road in the Autumn? It seemed such a shame that all the apples had been allowed to fall, and lie rotting on the ground. So I was very heartened this afternoon, to see many birds feasting on these fruits! Dozens of very hungry and cold blackbirds.
Trees and hedges are of huge importance to our wildlife.
Hedges provide vitally important protection, and food, for wildlife. A great many people have been telling me that they find it upsetting to see the great big machinery hacking back hedges when the berries are still on, depriving our wildlife of vital nutrition and shelter.
Hedges should not be pruned until late winter or early spring so that wildlife can take advantage of the insects and fruits provided during the winter months.
In the first spring, cut shrubs back to 45-60 cm (18-25 in) above the ground. This encourages bushy growth. The Wildlife Trust.
Trees and hedges are vital parts of the environment for wildlife, not just birds. If you are interested in planting hedges for birds, there is lots of information to help you choose the right plants to help the most creatures.
When to trim native hedges
Don't prune soon! If you live in the countryside you may have noticed that some hedgerows are cut after harvest, in late summer or early autumn, but this can be really harmful for birds.
Cutting between March and September may disturb nesting birds, and cutting after harvest seriously reduces berries available to overwintering birds that rely on this food source, such as fieldfare and redwing.
If you want to help out our feathery and furry friends, trim your hedge in February or March. A winter cut is also great for the hedge itself as the trees and shrubs are dormant so a shape-up won't stress them out. The Woodland Trust.
Let's try to get the message out - we should trim our hedges in February or March, not in the autumn when vital berries are still available for our wildlife!
Picture credit: BBC
Have you thought about planting a hedge in your garden?
Planting hedges instead of using fences and walls allows wildlife to travel and find food and shelter more easily, and means a bigger range of habitats in your garden! The Wildlife Trust.
Suitable hedge plants include beech, hornbeam, hawthorn, field maple, blackthorn, and holly. If you also grow rambling plants next to the hedging and allow them to grow over and through, this will also provide shelter and food. Good choices of rambling plants are honeysuckle, wild rose, and brambles. Also, your hedge will look and smell stunning with these plants in it!
BBC Gardeners World: Best Plants for a Wildlife Hedge
A mixed hedgerow is typically found lining winding country roads, or serving as a boundary on farmland. However, there's no reason why you shouldn't recreate this valuable habitat in your garden. A mixed native hedge provides flowers for pollinators, leaves for caterpillars and fruit or nuts for birds and small mammals, not to mention shelter for a huge range of species. You can make it better still by adding climbing plants such as honeysuckle to clamber through the hedge, and plant spring-flowering foxgloves, cowslips and sweet violets at the base. You'll have wildlife queuing up to take up residence in your garden.
PS I did ask Northumberland County Council why they do not leave hedge-cutting until February or March. They replied that:
At NCC, we undertake hedge cutting during our winter works period - October to February. This is the only time we have capacity to do the work, because we are not cutting grass during the winter. This ties in with the RSPB guidance which is to avoid hedge-cutting from March to August.
Verges are cut during June & July, this is the time when the grass has stopped growing at it's spring rate (when it grows extremely fast). Long grass can cause visibility problems for motorists at junctions and on bends in the road. Cyclists can be pushed away from the side of the road if grass flops onto the highway and pedestrians can be forced onto the highway if the grass is too long to walk on. These are the safety elements of this work. From a verge management side, we must keep on top of the never-ending issue of self set trees becoming established in the verge and creating bigger problems in the future.
Large machines are used for both of these activities in most cases, this if for efficiency reasons. NCC Local Services Team.