Planting a hedgerow not only attracts native pollinators but offers foods that distract the wild creatures sharing your garden space from nibbling the veggies you work hard to grow.

Winter is still well in our grasp, but spring is within my line of vision, and this is the time of the year when I’m thinking about ways to improve or expand our garden landscapes here at Desert Canyon Farm. Over the past number of years I have been planting a lot of wildlife garden habitat, which includes several hedgerows around the farm that provide food, shelter, and protection for a great number of wild critters.

Raspeberries. Illustration © Holly Ward Bimba, excerpted from The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener.

I long ago planted a primary hedgerow here at Desert Canyon Farm that runs along the north side of our home, near to my primary food garden, and next to a row of wine grapes.  This hedgerow also happens to flow along a wildlife route through our farm that channels a herd of deer, raccoons and skunks, a fox family, two different kinds of squirrels, birds of so many kinds I can’t count them all, and of course pollinators and beneficial insects.

These types of hedgerows usually are built around bushes and shrubs, but also easily accommodate some trees and vines; even perennials can fit into the mix. They should provide lots of varieties of blooms throughout the growing season to foster pollinators, both native and domestic, of all kinds. If they produce nuts or berries or other types of fruit that can be utilized by wild animals, that is a real bonus.

What you’re striving toward are plants that will hopefully offer food sources to wildlife. The roses, apple tree, and Manchurian apricot tree in my hedgerow provide food to the birds, foxes, and raccoons, along with the squirrels, who also partake of the offerings. Shelter and protection for various types of wildlife, where they can build their homes or just utilize the space as protection, is really important. Our mother deer tuck their new fawns secretly into the hedgerow for many hours of the day while they go off to forage. I have stationed a birdbath within the hedgerow which provides a water supply for the birds, but many pollinators like honeybees and wasps also use that birdbath to get drinks. I’ve seen the squirrels getting drinks there, too.

Gooseberries. Illustration © Holly ward Bimba, excerpted from The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener.

If you want to start creating hedgerows in your garden landscape, some really excellent types of plants to consider including are roses (especially shrub or climbing varieties), fruit trees of any sort, grapes, goji berry vines, shrub types of fruits like choke cherry or plums, nut trees, hawthorns … well actually the list can be pretty endless! Every so often along my hedgerows I notice that there is a place that is sort of thin along the line, or that just doesn’t have much blooming or enough color blooming at certain times of the season. In these spots I plant perennials to embellish the hedgerow a bit. I like to use perennials that are long-lived, such as echinacea and rudbeckias, both favorites of butterflies. Penstemons work well for us, too, because they attract a lot of bumblebees, which are native pollinators here. The flowers are showy and colorful and they add a nice touch to the trees and shrubs that make up the majority of the hedgerow.

Another bonus to having hedgerows as part of the garden landscape is that if you plant strategically, they offer the humans that move through the garden some protection from wind and dust, but also give a sense of privacy to the space. This is one of the benefits I most appreciate here on our farm.

Rosehips. Illustration @ Holly Ward Bimba, excerpted from The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener.

I hope, as you’re drinking hot cocoa near your wood stove this winter, you will give some thought to planting a hedgerow or two at your place this spring. Hedgerows can be any length or width. My north hedgerow is about 4 feet wide and maybe 50 feet in length. I have others here that are great long beasts, and one that is only about 20 feet long. The important thing is to create a informal habitat for wildlife within or near the rest of your garden landscape. Have fun!

Tammi Hartung

Tammi Hartung is the author of Cattail Moonshine & Milkweed Medicine, Homegrown Herbs, and The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener. She has been growing and working with… See Bio

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The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener

by Tammi Hartung

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