A mixed hedge rich in berries and fruits
Hedges are a characteristic feature in some areas of Scotland. Hedgerows enhance the landscape and provide food and cover for birds, invertebrates and small mammals. The best hedges have a variety of woody species and a rich weedy flora at the base. A dense, bushy structure is stock-proof and provides plenty of shelter for invertebrates, birds and mammals. Even slightly open hedges make efficient wind breaks, providing shelter and thus warmer conditions on the leeward side, which benefit reptiles in particular.
Tussocky grasses beside the hedge base will be used for over-wintering by the beetles and spiders that prey on crop pests. Hedgerow trees and hedge junctions are particularly appreciated by bullfinches and other birds. Any dead wood in the hedgerow is a valuable habitat for invertebrates and fungi.
Hedge bottoms can be rich in wildflowers and provide a haven for invertebrates, ground-nesting birds, small mammals and reptiles. To maintain this biodiversity, pesticides should not be applied to the bottom of an established hedge. Application of fertilisers will similarly damage the wildlife interest of the site by stimulating excessive grass growth. Prescriptions 23 and 24 encourage this type of hedgerow management.
The Standard of Good Farming Practice requires that no hedge trimming be carried out between 1 March and 31 July. Ideally, hedges should be left undisturbed until the end of the year, as the shrubs that flowered in mid summer provide berries and seeds a month or two later - food for birds and small mammals during the autumn. Between December and February is an ideal time to trim a hedge. Most woody species found within a hedge produce flowers and bear fruit on the previous year's growth. Where possible, therefore, hedges should not be trimmed annually.