Friday 22 November 2013

Seed for a quickthorn hedge : "One for the rat, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow".

Hawthorn : Tough and hardy
Its well into November and probably the best time to collect hawthorn seeds; any earlier and they might not be mature, leave it any later and the birds will have had most of them. So this afternoon I headed up on to the hill to collect seed from local trees. Hawthorn is tough, it grows old on the thinnest soils in the most exposed places and of course its spines  make the established quickthorn hedge an impenetrable barrier to livestock.

The fence that John and I completed in the summer will probably last twenty years. When 2033 comes around the posts will have rotted at the base and it will need to be replaced.... not by me. A well maintained hedge on the other hand lasts hundreds of years. The plan is to plant a predominantly hawthorn hedge outside of the new fence.Three hundred metres of boundary fence will need over 2,000 hedging plants 40 - 60cm tall,, mainly hawthorn and blackthorn that cost about 70p each, the same as erecting the fence. I'll try to grow my own, it'll take three years to get them to the point of planting and a further three or four years to establish a hedge.That's a long time when you are 70.

Get the berries before the birds
The berries have to be soaked in water and then mashed up, this releases the seed from the fruit pulp. The seeds are then planted in a suitable mixture of leaf mould and sharp sand and left outside for 18 months to germinate. You have to be patient to do this.

There's an old farming adage about sowing seeds,"one for the rat, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow". In other words sow four times as many seeds as plants required. If I want 1,000 plants, have to sow 4,000 seeds. Another trip up the hill will be needed.

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