Grow Your Own: August
Grow Your Own: Thinking ahead
This coming winter one of my main projects is to plant two new hedgerows on the estate to improve our eco systems and wildlife habitats. Although they will not be planted until the autumn, the planning and ordering of the plants tends to start way in advance, and so I thought it would be a good time to share with you some of our plans for the winter.
The first project is to plant 1,300 metres of hawthorn hedgerows. These will stretch through the land at the back of the Estate and will form some nice dividers in the fields giving them more character, but most importantly providing excellent benefits to the wildlife, especially the bird life that inhabits the Estate as it will create an excellent nesting habitat.
A number of months ago I ordered 2,500 hawthorn trees from a brilliant local nursery to us called Shallowmead Nurseries. They will be growing the trees on for us all summer so that they will be a good height and, most importantly, have excellent roots when we are ready to plant them in autumn.
Hawthorn hedgerows have many benefits. Firstly they provide an excellent nesting habitat for small birds as we are trying to increase the song bird population at the hotel. The next benefit is to our bees as the hawthorn flowers provide a very valuable nectar source for our bees. And as we are trying to increase the amount of honey we produce it is important to increase the amount of available nectar, and the early spring hawthorn blossom is perfect to help with spring honey production.
The final benefit is a slightly different one because Jennifer Williams (Naked Jam) will forage the Hawthorn berries to make a hawthorn Jelly for the Tree Houses for the breakfast hampers, and also use some of the berries mixed with other fruits she finds to create a mixed berry jam.
The second hedgerow we are planting is an additional gorse hedgerow. This might sound slightly unusual but gorse is extremely important as a sheltering area in harsh winters for birds and small animals as it is so dense and stops the wind penetrating through it. In summer the dense spiky growth provides protection from predators, too, so song birds can nest safely.
When this project was planned I was keen not to import gorse from hundreds of miles away, so working with Shallowmead Nurseries we are propagating gorse from gorse already growing on the grounds. At the beginning of August, Kate, Shallowmead’s propagator, came to Chewton and we collected sacksful of gorse cuttings with her. Then I had the privilege of going back to Shallowmead with her where I was able to watch her prepare and strike the material for cuttings. This way the plants have only travelled five miles from the hotel to their nursery and they will make a return journey of five miles `when they are rooted.
This second hedgerow has another use because it will act as a shelter for our third bee apiary which we will be installing next spring. The gorse will be planted around some mature hawthorn trees which currently run through the middle of one of our fields. By using the gorse to create a hedge in front and behind these trees, we can site the hives in the gaps between the trees and they will have excellent shelter from the wind. So not only is this project good for the birds it is good for the bees, too.