Let’s dive right in: hedges are an indispensable element of our designs, never to be left out, and always a success.
Despite this, they’re often seen as a second thought or optional, placed after production. But this is misguided. It’s akin to planting an orchard before a hedge or postponing the hedge until “there’s time.”
The truth is, hedges are anything but boring. They fulfill many ecological functions and offer numerous benefits to people. They’re incredibly useful, multifunctional, ecological, and profitable. Therefore, they’re a vital part of any good regenerative ecological design.
Here are 12 reasons why you should plant one (or more) hedges:
- Protection from the wind: Strong winds damage not only exposed plants but also cattle, buildings, and soil, leading to weakened structures and erosion. Windbreak hedges provide a multifunctional solution to protect against cold and dry summer winds. The zone that benefits from wind protection is equivalent to 6 to 15 times the height of the hedge. In the same area, crop yields increase by up to 35%, and animal production increases by up to 30%.
- A snack on the go: Who doesn’t like to snack on fresh fruit while heading home or walking to a meadow where animals are grazing? There’s no reason why a hedge can’t have the function of food production.
- Provides food and shelter for wildlife and microfauna: A hedge specifically designed to promote biodiversity is beneficial for both wildlife and farmers. The flowering of the hedge attracts pollinators and beneficial insects, while also providing shelter for predators that eat small prey, such as rabbits and field mice.
- Mitigates water erosion and hydrates the landscape: Water erosion is one of the most serious and alarming problems in our territory. Hedges for controlling water erosion serve to mitigate soil and nutrient losses while also capturing water efficiently. The planting of this type of hedge in contour lines can store up to 5m3 of water per linear meter per year in the soil. A hedge for controlling water erosion contributes to increasing crop yields and reducing crop water requirements, given its water retention capacity.
- Protects riverbank margins: Riparian gallery vegetation on both banks helps to create shade, freshness, and humidity, potentiate and maximize water infiltration into the soil, filter and purify water, regulate the hydrological cycle, contribute to the biological balance of wetlands and/or rivers, increase available oxygen, and promote aquatic life. The riverbank hedge contributes decisively to the stabilization of the margins.
- Purifies: Hedges can help purify various types of pollution: noise, air, visual, or water. In the case of hedge plantations around wetlands, they facilitate drainage, allowing water to infiltrate the soil and enabling farmers to enter their wetland areas earlier, located at the edge of the agricultural plot.
- Reduces or stops forest fires: Hedges consisting of fire-resistant vegetation can reduce the intensity or stop forest fires. A birch plantation in northern Portugal entirely stopped a forest fire fueled by an adjacent pine forest.
- Providing shelter and food for livestock: Hedges can benefit livestock by offering shelter during extreme weather conditions and reducing trampling in grazing areas. In our climate, hedges can make high summer temperatures more bearable for animals. Additionally, certain species of hedges can serve as fodder for various types of livestock, such as Blackthorn, Maple, Carob, Plum, and many others.
- Producing biomass, firewood, and by-products: Hedges are a versatile source of biomass that can be used for composting or mulching, as well as producing organic fertilizer for adjacent soils. They can also provide a range of by-products, such as mushrooms, medicinal plants, and crafting materials. Many tree species can be used for firewood or biomass, such as Eucalyptus, Poplar, Chestnut, Beech, and others.
- Dividing spaces and creating privacy: Hedges can be used to create borders between properties, or to divide plots of land. They can also serve as living fences that support pollinators of orchards. Hedges can be integrated with conventional fences to create a beautiful and functional boundary.
- Enhancing local landscape quality and character: Hedges can transform a landscape with their diverse and colorful appearance. They attract birds and beneficial insects, providing both beauty and ecological benefits.
- Creating microclimates: Hedges can regulate microclimates by reducing wind speed, increasing humidity, and regulating temperature. They absorb strong winds and provide shade and moisture, creating a hospitable environment for plants and wildlife.
In conclusion, a successful hedge should be mixed, multifunctional, multilayered, and organic, composed of different species and families, plants with different functions and characteristics, species that flower and fruit at different times of the year, and different layers and heights.
Hedges offer a variety of benefits with minimal maintenance required, making them an ideal addition to any landscape.
So why not consider planting one today?