Why a Benjes hedge is ecologically valuable, where and how to properly create the natural privacy screen in the garden and the best tips on greening and care.
What is a Benjes hedge?
At first glance, the accumulation of dead twigs, branches and green cuttings seems a bit chaotic, but the wild mess has quite a system. Such a Benjeshecke (also deadwood hedge called) from loosely piled up wood is ecologically very valuable and offers many native animals a protected habitat. It consists of stakes driven into the ground in two rows. Between them, the loose accumulation of greenery and woody cuttings forms a kind of rampart that will green itself over time, thus providing a natural visual screen.
The name “Benjes hedge” was established at the end of the 1980s and goes back to the brothers Hermann and Heinrich Benjes. The two landscape gardeners were looking for a sensible use for the waste from pruning. Together they developed and spread the idea of the deadwood hedge.
Benjes hedge: ecologically valuable
This particularly sustainable hedge is a privacy screen, nutrient supplier and ecosystem all in one. The slow rotting of the woody cuttings provides the soil with important nutrients and minerals. At the same time, the mesh of twigs and branches is an ideal retreat for birds, hedgehogs or wild bees. In addition to nesting opportunities, the Benjes hedge even provides shelter and winter quarters for rarer garden inhabitants such as lizards, slow worms, shrews, toads and dormice. Over time, the dead wood turns into lush greenery. Birds, among others, ensure this by carrying germinable seeds into the Benjes hedge as they feed.
Advantages of a deadwood hedge
Direct reuse of cuttings, no costly disposal (for example via green waste collection points) necessary.
Due to the available material in your own garden, the Benjes hedge is an inexpensive alternative to fences and classic hedges.
Possibility of natural garden design with ecological added value for the native flora and fauna.
With increasing greenery, the Benjes hedge also provides more and more habitat for different species of animals.
A Benjes hedge is extremely low-maintenance, there is no need for topiary as with conventional hedges.
Natural privacy screen in ornamental, cottage and kitchen gardens.
Material for the Benjes hedge
The beauty of this type of hedge is that you need only a few materials and often have everything right at hand. The filling material can be pruning of trees and shrubs, as well as stems of faded perennials, green and lawn clippings. The only thing you should avoid is coniferous prunings, as they quickly create an acidic environment.
In addition, to create a Benjes hedge, you will need straight branches or stakes of the same size (if they come from a specialty store, make sure they are untreated wood), a sledgehammer, loppers, a saw, and good work gloves.
The right time and place for a Benjes hedge.
The winter months are ideal for your small construction project, because then you have enough tree and green cuttings available for the Benjes hedge after the garden clean-up work in the fall. If you have completed the Benjes hedge by March at the latest, with a little luck the first animals and plants will be able to settle in it by early summer.
To accelerate the plant growth of your Benjes hedge, you should choose a light and airy location that offers several hours of sunshine every day. This will also help you prevent fungal infestation. Tip: Ensure a minimum distance of about one meter from the property line to avoid possible trouble with neighbors.
Garden tips for creating a Benjes hedge.
Stronger deadwood goes at the bottom, thin clippings are placed at the top.
do not plant a Benjes hedge on highly nutrient-rich soils, otherwise dominant plants (for example, tall perennials such as goldenrod) can quickly establish and spread.
To stack the deadwood well, your hedge should reach no more than your chest.
The branches or stakes for the Benjes hedge should be at least five centimeters in diameter.
The distance between the stakes in a row should be between 50 to 75 centimeters, so that the wood cuttings do not fall out sideways when stacked. For the narrow side is enough 50 centimeters as the width of the hedge.
Creating a Benjes hedge: step by step
- Drive stakes or branches into the ground about 30 to 50 cm deep with a sledgehammer. To prevent the wood from splintering, you can use a square timber as a driving aid. Tip: Make sure that all stakes are approximately the same height after driving in.
- Loosely pile up fill material within the timber structure and then compact it by carefully treading down the dead wood. By the way, after creating your Benjes hedge, you should not do this again to allow the nesting animals to rest.
- Shorten branches that stick out very far from the hedge with the help of loppers, and weave thinner branches that stick out after filling into the structure.
- Over time, the deadwood will slowly rot and collapse more and more. This is taken care of by insects and their larvae, as well as worms and other soil organisms. Thus, new fill material can be piled up again and again.
Greening the Benjes hedge: the right care for your deadwood hedge
Due to the fact that the Benjes hedge is relatively undemanding, it does not require too much care – this is especially true for the first time. Every once in a while, you should trim back any plants that are proliferating heavily and top up the hedge with new greenery. An occasional layer of soil or foliage will help give the hedge more stability.
To speed up greening, you can add suitable plants (possibly rock pear, buckthorn, sloe, vetches, nasturtium, cornelian cherry) to the hedge. Replace rotten stakes with new specimens.
I have 30 years of experience and i started this website to see if i could try and share my knowledge to help you.
With a degree a Horticulture BSc (Hons)
I have worked as a horticulture specialist lead gardener, garden landscaper, and of course i am a hobby gardener at home in my own garden.
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