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Hedgerow Planting with John Dunne

Hedgerow Planting with John Dunne

John farms 125ha between owned and leased land. He lives in Tinacrannagh, on the outskirts of Portarlington town. He farms full-time and is helped by his son James, who is studying Agricultural Science in UCD.

It is a busy farm with 90 suckler cows calving in spring. John also operates a dairy calf-to-beef enterprise, purchasing 120 calves annually. The majority of the stock are brought to beef, but he will also take advantage of a good live trade if the opportunity arises.

On a farm of this scale, the working agenda is always full but the priority at the moment is to get a 100m hedge planted before the deadline of March 31. In addition, calving will be starting in February, so getting the hedge planted as soon as possible is top of the list.

While the new hedge is a requirement of John’s Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) plan, he is aware that it will also enhance the overall biodiversity of the farm. Furthermore, he recognises hedges’ role in alleviating climate change by capturing carbon dioxide and storing it as carbon in woody growth, roots, leaf litter and soil organic matter beneath the ground (also known as carbon sequestration).

John has prepared well. He has sourced strong plants from a local supplier and will use a compostable film to keep the new hedge weed free for the first couple of years.

Biodiversity

John joined the ACRES scheme in 2022 and selected a number of actions to help water quality and to promote biodiversity on his farm. He fenced  2927m of a 1.5m Riparian margin mainly along the river Barrow which borders the farm in Tinacrannagh. He also installed 2 owl boxes and his attention is now turning to planting 100m of a  new hedge.

It is a job with a deadline of March 31st 2024 under the acres scheme but also his attention will turn to calving the 90 cows in February so getting the job done is an absolute priority.

He wants to follow best practise to ensure that the hedge will get a good start and to ensure that it will become stockproof in a few years time. The following are the steps he took,

  1. John hired out a mini digger for a day and created a soil bed ie turned the sod upside down .It makes it very easy to plant the thorn quicks into loose soil. There was no requirement to  spray off the area beforehand.
  2. The whitethorn were planted  in a double staggered row, with at least 5 plants per metre as per Acres specifications
  3. One tree every 50m will be allowed to grow up in the hedge and John has  put a tree guard around the plant selected . This will identify the plant so that it is not pruned.
  4.  The trees were cut at an angle  1 inch above ground level.
  5. A compostable plastic/film was placed over the trees to prevent weeds from growing directly around the trees
  6. The plastic/film was pressed into the soil using a spade so that the clay will hold it down.
  7. To increase the species variation he used Alder intermittently .
  8. The hedge will be fenced on both sides to prevent livestock accessing the trees.
  9. John will keep a close eye on the hedge any plants that fail will be replaced.

Whitethorn quicks, compostable plastic and tree guards 

John hired a mini digger to prepare the ground

Owl box installed in the hayshed

Read the full January/February Update 2024 from John's farm here