Managing your Hedgerows
Hedgerows around the county are in full bloom at the moment. Dearbhala Ledwidge, Kilkenny Heritage Officer, explains why we should put off any trimming and pruning of hedgerows until later in the autumn.
When should I cut my hedgerows?
To protect bird breeding habitats during the nesting season, hedges should only be cut during the months of the year when birds are not breeding (1st September to end of February) - so hedges should only be cut after the 1st of September at the earliest - the longer they can be left the better.
In fact it's prohibited under the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000 to cut, remove or burn any vegetation in a hedge or ditch during the bird breeding season.
Why are my hedgerows valuable?
Hedges are an important heritage feature and a very important habitat for many plants and animals. They are particularly important habitats for birds - two thirds of Ireland's bird species nest in hedgerows. Birds also feed off insects and the fruits and seeds in the hedge, and they use hedges as sheltered travelling routes.
How often should I cut my hedgerows?
Ideally trim hedgerows every 2-3 years, to ensure some hedgerows are left undisturbed each year and there is less disturbance for wildlife; the exception to this is where hedges need to be trimmed annually for safety reasons. Cut hedges to an A-shaped profile, with a bushy top for maximum protection from wind and to encourage the growth of a dense hedge. Square cut hedges will put out a twiggy, lateral growth, encroaching on roads and paths.
For further information contact Dearbhala Ledwidge, Heritage Officer, Kilkenny County Council or the local Wildlife Ranger, Parks and Wildlife Service (Tel: 065-7760071). A very useful set of information leaflets on hedgerows and hedgerow management are available from your local Teagasc office or at www.teagasc.ie/publications.
Photographs: Birdwatch Ireland and Hedgelink.