03 Dec 2021

In The Garden: Hedging our bets for crop growth

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

In The Garden: Hedging our bets for crop growth

Growth of our field stock as well as our grass here at Caragh Nurseries has been exceptional the last couple of weeks.

All this rain and heat at the same time is creating the best climate for growth. The hedging plants are all looking full and lush, although trying to keep everything weed free is difficult - but we are on top of it.

Our hedging is the largest, volume wise, of our crops with the biggest species being laurels and beech as well as whitethorn and Portuguese laurels.

We produce laurels in huge quantities so that we always have enough in the different sizes. We pull percentages from the crops each year, but never all the crop, so that we have enough plants to produce our mature hedging stock and keep enough for potting too.

We always aim to have plants from around 40-60cm right through to 250cm + which means there is something there for everyone, and we have crops to pot for instant screening too.

Our beech hedging is mainly sold at 60-120cm and is sold bare-rooted from November through to March, but we also have crops at sizes right up to two metres tall to create a more instant hedge. The difference between the hedging plants and the ones grown for trees is that they aren’t staked in the same way for hedging. Most of our hedging, though, is cut back more than it would be for trees to create bushier crops and encourage growth and bushiness from the base of the plant. This is unlike the trees, where we clear up most of the stems to create a better looking tree.

As well as the four varieties mentioned, our hedging stock include several other laurel varieties as well as Photinia Red Robin, Ligustrum or Privet, Grisselinia - although this is often only grown as a potted crop - Yew and plenty of conifers

All of that takes up over eight acres of land, and at this time of year it needs to kept pruned to encourage that growth I mentioned. The biggest job is keeping on top of the weeds, making sure that the ground is clean so that the hedging plants aren’t competing with the weeds for nutrients that we need them to be getting to keep them in tip-top condition.

With the huge demand for all plants and trees this year, one of the things we were keen to do was to make sure that all stock was graded early enough, photographed and documented and ready for sale as early as September, so that our customers get the stock they want at the beginning of the season.

The lifting of all of our crops is weather dependent and can happen between October and November. That is when all our production crews head out to the field to bring in all the stock ready for sale and potting. It's a busy time. I must stop saying that - there was a time when we had seasonal peaks and troughs but now it seems I am always saying it's a busy time. I’m not quite sure why this is, but I’m sure there is a reason for it!

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