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Plants for a ditch, native growth is to be welcomed.

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James Kilkelly
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2010 10:02 pm    Post subject: Plants for a ditch, native growth is to be welcomed. Reply with quote

Plants for a ditch, native growth is to be welcomed.
by GPI

Alpine strawberries, a possibility for your ditch, photo / pic / image.

It's a common enough sight, a miserable looking earth ditch populated with patchy hedge growth. This is what stares many homeowners in the face every time they look along one or more sides of their site. Asking for the ditch not to be knocked when the house was being built seemed like a good idea at the time, but now many are not so sure. Confused

Let me put your mind at ease. Keeping the ditch with its accompanying plant life was a good decision, and here's why...

Arrow Ireland has the lowest native woodland cover in Europe, so every bit of native growth is to be welcomed.

Arrow Native growth will provide refuge and food for small wildlife such as hedgehogs and bats, not to mention the estimated two-thirds of Irish birds which nest in Hedgerows. You will also see an upsurge in butterflies due to that banks abundance of flower.

Arrow Hedges and trees upon ditches have been found to regulate water within gardens, helping to reduce flooding and filter water.

Arrow As rough as it is, a planted ditch is far more interesting than the glut of sterile block walls and fences spread throughout the country.

That's all well and good, but what about that patchy ditch on my site I hear you say. Well, there are quite handy ways to fill out and jazz up your boring earth bank. Ways that will not only improve it visually, but improve its value as a wildlife habitat and stock proof fence.

For example, inter-planting the existing growth with a few more native varieties. Introducing some native plants in no set order goes a long way towards creating a multi-faceted wild hedge. Any of the following plants will look quite at home on a planted bank if spaced at 0.6 metre (2ft) intervals...

Blackthorn/Sloe (Prunus spinosa)
Hawthorn/Whitethorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Hazel (Corylus avellana)
Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
European Spindle (Euonymus europaeus)
Goat Willow (Salix caprea)

These native hedging plants are still available bare-root at present, comprising just plant stem, roots and whatever clay still clings to the roots. Bare-root plants such as these have a relatively short window to facilitate planting, just running the course of their dormant period from mid-October to mid-March.

They fortunately have the up-shot of being more economical to buy due to the lower production costs involved, often 1/3 the price of similar potted varieties. If you are contemplating filling out a ditch or planting a new hedge then think bare-root.

Planting in the ditch.
Find your gaps along the bank, then at each position dig a planting pit a touch wider than the spread of the new plants roots. For bare-root plants there should be enough depth to the hole to add a good layer of topsoil and compost/organic matter mix all along it beneath the plants.

You see when planting bare-root hedging along the bank, instead of backfilling with the soil you removed from the pit you should instead backfill will a 50 / 50 mix of topsoil and compost/organic matter. This is important, as the addition of organic matter aids water retention around the transplants roots during times when your raised ditch dries out.

Another great defense against newly installed plants drying out are water storage granules. These crystals swell up with water and provide a reserve if needed on dry days. You blend them into the soil/compost mix.

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You can mix the soil you've removed from the planting hole with water storage granules and well-rotted organic matter in a wheelbarrow or on the ground next to planting. The organic matter you incorporate can be leaf mould, well rotted kitchen compost or well rotted farmyard manure. Garden centre bought soil enrichers can also be used.

Bare-root hedging benefits from being lightly shook up and down whilst the backfilling of soil/compost mix is taking place. This allows the mix to fill in between the roots, avoiding air pockets. Once planting is complete you should water the hedging plants using at least one full 10-litre watering can per plant; a practice known as puddling in.

With the top of the ditch filled out you may consider planting something along its lower half. Primroses are wonderful for this, and really add to the woodland feel. But let me leave you with this one little plant suggestion, try planting Alpine strawberries along this area if you would like flower colour followed by a delicious fruit. Wink

Any queries or comments on Plants for a ditch, native growth is to be welcomed, please post below.

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