Planting a bare-root Beech hedge

Now is the perfect time for planting and there are lots of bare-root (these are plants sold in their dormant state with their roots exposed) bargains to be had.

I’ve always thought beech (Fagus sylvatica) makes a wonderful hedge.  Not only do you get its wonderful green leaves during the summer but it hangs onto its dried autumn leaves giving you this rich russet coloured hedge throughout the winter months.  It is a native hedge that I am hoping will encourage more wildlife into my garden.

Soil  preparation is the key!

Firstly I marked out a strip approximately 75cm wide and lifted the turf. I then began digging over the soil.  I’m lucky enough to have inherited good soil at this house and it is easy to work.  If anything it is perhaps a little on the light side so will definitely benefit from lots of organic matter.  I added plenty of garden compost whilst digging and finally finished with a sprinkle of fertiliser (blood fish and bone – 60g per sq m)








To make sure my hedge was nice and straight I set up a line down the middle of the strip to plant against.  I’ve spaced my plants 60cm apart and used a cane this length to keep checking the distance as I went.








That’s all the hard work done….now just the simple job of planting.  Dig a hole, spread the roots out and ensure you are planting them at the same depth that they have been grown (use the soil mark on the stem as your guide).   Back fill with soil ensuring you work it between the root and firm in.  Give your hedge a good water and thick layer of mulch to suppress any weeds and keep the moisture in.  I trimmed the tips of the shoots on my plants to encourage branching and help establish a thick hedge.

Ongoing care:

  • Feed in spring with general fertiliser - Growmore or organic chicken pellets.
  • Keep the ground free from weeds.
  • Mulch to help keep in moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Water, especially during the first 2-3 years when the hedge is getting established.
  • Prune to establish even growth, trimming the side at an angle leaving it thicker at the base (1m) and tapering upwards.

Is Beech for you?

Likes - a well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade
Dislikes - cold or exposed sites or poorly draining heavy soils

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7 Responses to Planting a bare-root Beech hedge

  1. Hi
    Lovely blog! I’m on heavy clay in west Scotland (so v windy too) and planted hornbeam as part of a native hedge (mixed with Rosa Rugosa and Hawthorn). It’s doing really well (this is its 2nd winter) – not quite as lovely as beech, but definitely worth considering as an alternative on heavy soils. I’m not really sure what sort of maintenance bare root hedges need for the first few years though – so your pruning advice is really helpful. Should I prune the tops too where in places one leader has sprung way up over the rest of the plants, or leave it be for the time being?

    • Alison says:

      Hi Breakfast Lady,
      I love the title of your blog, I will be visiting. I’m a porridge girl myself and I can never go without this first meal of the day (it’s not pretty if I do!). Yes hornbeam is great on heavier soil and the mix you’ve got must be lovely….flowers, berries, hips. Yes I would definitely prune tops, this will help to encourage the plants to bush out more. Where the leader has really gone mad prune it back but not too hard, if you cut something back hard it then goes into overdrive and next year you will have the same plant head and shoulders above the rest. You’ll be fine to do it now. Alison

      • Oh thanks for the advice – that’s really helpful. As soon as it stops raining I’ll get the secateurs out! I’m really pleased with the hedge so far. Even in its first summer the roses flowered all over the place (and I had no idea that those roses smelled so wonderful! Added bonus) and had gorgeous big hips. Probably helped by the *endless* rain, but still. And hawthorn is my favourite tree/hedge anyway – just LOVE the blossom.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Hi Alison :) I found your blog through the Better Blogger Network. I have a husband that has an amazing green thumb, I just follow around and help him with the dirt, earth. This might sound weird but I love putting my hands in the ground and creating things (although I don’t know much about it). I’m looking forward to reading your blog and maybe learning enough to impress the hubby! hehe.

  3. Graham says:

    What depth do beech hedging need to grow. I would like to plant them on top of a thick stone wall if possible.

    • Alison says:

      They will grow into substantial plants and an established hedge will take up a large amount of water. On top of a thick stone wall doesn’t sound like a great idea but it’s hard to say not having seen it. I would want soil about a meter wide and around 60-70cm+ deep, giving the plants enough root run and moisture. Good luck.

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