Beech hedges are one of the most popular types of hedges. These deciduous hedges, some of which retain their leaves in winter, are used as opaque privacy screens and at the same time as a decorative border to the neighboring property. Both hornbeam and red beech are suitable for a beech hedge. Both have no special requirements and are relatively easy to care for.
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Properties of red and hornbeam hedges
Both red beech and hornbeam are ideal for hedge planting. The foliage of both types of hedges remains through the winter, mostly on the plant until the leaves shoot, but turns brown. The leaf shoots of the common beech begin in April and the hornbeam in May. The hornbeam is less demanding, more robust and also grows a little faster.
Both develop strong and dense foliage and are very easy on pruning. They grow moderately fast, with an annual increase of about 20-40 cm. Red beech and hornbeam should not be planted mixed if possible, as the red beech would displace the hornbeam due to its stronger growth.
You can sow beech hedges or buy pre-grown plants in different sizes and plant them. While hornbeams are deep-rooted, European beeches are shallow-rooted, which must be taken into account when planting.
Plant beech hedges
- Beech hedges are best planted in autumn before the first frost.
- This allows the plant to form sufficient roots by spring.
- Planting is also possible in spring.
- First loosen the soil extensively!
- Install drainage in heavy soils to avoid waterlogging!
- Roots must be able to spread well in the ground.
- It is best to stretch a string for straight planting!
- Then you dig the first planting hole or, better still, a planting trench.
- The planting ditch is more recommendable because of the loosening of the soil.
- A planting hole should be twice as wide and deep as the root ball.
- The planting pit should be about half a meter deep and wide.
- Fill the planting hole or trench with water.
- Shorten the roots and shoots of the plants and plant them.
- Do not plant red beech hedges too deep, as they are shallow roots.
- There are between 2 and 4 plants per meter.
- Then fill the planting hole with the excavated material and press it down gently.
- Only press the soil so firmly that the plant is stable, so that the water drains off well.
- Finally, the whole thing should be well watered (slurried).
Watering and fertilizing
Immediately after planting, the root area must be well grouted. Sludging means that the irrigation water should stand around the plants for a few minutes. In this way, voids in the ground disappear and the plants get sufficient hold.
If the soil is already relatively moist, pouring on is sufficient; sludging is then not necessary. Later, water is only poured when the top soil layer is dry. In persistent drought, however, regular watering and sufficient moisture in the soil should be ensured, even in winter. Drought can easily lead to an infestation of mealybugs in the common beech.
When replanting in autumn, fertilizer can be dispensed with, as the beech hedge first has to grow. Otherwise, it should be regularly supplied with an organic fertilizer in the first few years during the growth phase, from the end of February to the end of July. This is important because it is weakened by regular pruning and loses its strength.
A good fertilizer is, for example, the falling leaves of the beech hedge. If you leave it on the ground and it rots, it provides the plants with plenty of nutrients, as does compost or mulch made from green cuttings.
With all other fertilizers, care should be taken that they do not get on the green leaves, otherwise burns could result. Older beech hedges usually no longer need fertilization, provided the soil is not too sandy. In sandy soils, older plants also need to be supplied with fertilizer from time to time.
The undemanding hornbeam hedge thrives very well in shady to sunny locations as well as in partially shaded ones. In contrast to the European beech hedge, it tolerates much more humid soils and higher groundwater levels. Any normal garden soil is suitable. This should be humus and rich in nutrients. In addition, it can be neutral, acidic, but also calcareous. Compacted soils are less suitable.
The European beech tolerates both sun and shade very well. The soil should be loose, well-drained, moist, calcareous and rich in nutrients. However, poorly nutrient-poor and weakly acidic soils are also tolerated. A certain amount of clay in the subsoil would be ideal. The European beech reacts very sensitively to persistent drought, waterlogging and late frosts, as well as to fluctuations in the water table. Otherwise it is very robust and hardy up to minus 30 degrees.
Beech hedges can be propagated using seeds, cuttings and, in some cases, cuttings. From time to time, small seedlings also grow in the area of the hedges, which can be used for propagation. However, young plants are offered relatively inexpensively in the trade, so that the effort of your own, lengthy cultivation is not always worthwhile.
Propagation of a hornbeam hedge
Propagation by seeds:
- Hornbeam seeds are collected between September and early October.
- The freshly harvested seeds are sown immediately.
- Hornbeam is a cold germ, so sow it outdoors!
- Germination time up to 18 months.
Propagation of cuttings :
- In late spring, cuttings are cut from herbaceous shoots.
- These are put in rooting powder and then in the appropriate substrate.
- As a rule, cuttings are very difficult to take root.
- Planting the cuttings in autumn is recommended.
- The substrate should consist of garden soil enriched with humus or compost.
- The corresponding ratio is two parts humus and one part garden soil.
- The soil around the cuttings should not dry out!
- A layer of mulch helps retain moisture in the soil and protects against frost.
- Cover the first three years with fibrous compost if possible.
- This ensures an optimal supply of nutrients.
- Carefully bend some branches down to the ground and cover with soil.
- If necessary, weigh it down slightly so that the branches do not stand up again!
- Then water the whole thing well!
- The use of a rooting powder also makes sense here.
- Always keep the whole thing moist!
- In the fall or the following spring, roots should have formed.
- The cuttings are then cut from the mother plant and planted.
Propagation of the beech hedge
Propagation by seeds:
- The beech nuts are the seeds of the common beech.
- Beechnuts have a so-called germ inhibition.
- This dissolves after about three months of cold and damp storage outdoors.
- The seeds can then be sown in protected seed beds outdoors.
- Then cover the seed beds with a 2-3 cm thick layer of sand!
- To protect against frost, cover with fleece or straw mats or mulch.
- Propagation is very difficult and should be left to professionals.
Propagation of cuttings:
In late summer, cut cuttings from old shoots and place in the ground.
Cut the beech hedge
When pruning a hedge, proper tools and safety should always be ensured to avoid injury. The pruning requirements of the two types of beech hedge show some differences.
Cut of the hornbeam hedge
The first cut of the hornbeam hedge is made immediately after planting. Younger hedges should be pruned more often within the first 2-3 years as they still need training.
Older hedges are cut for the last time in summer, from mid-August, and then again in spring. Shortly before the plants sprout again, you can bring them into the respective shape with another cut. To ensure that all parts of the plant receive sufficient light, it is advisable to cut the hedge so that it becomes narrower towards the top than the lower part.
Cutting the beech hedge
The basic pruning of the European beech hedge takes place before the first leaves emerge, from mid-February. At this point, a vigorous pruning is best tolerated. In addition, dead and diseased parts of the plant are easier to see and can be removed. The birds’ breeding season has not yet begun either, so there is nothing to be considered in this regard. Spring pruning should not be carried out at temperatures below minus 5 degrees.
Another, less vigorous pruning can then be made after June 24th, when the brood care of the birds has been completed. At this point in time, the European beech is in a short pause in growth, which means that it is able to repair or close interfaces more quickly. If a beech hedge has not been cut for a long time, it can be cut back radically into the old wood at the end of July without any problems.
Making the cut
- When cutting a hedge, cut the sides first
- Remove at least half of the new shoots
- To ensure sufficient light, the hedge is cut narrower towards the top
- The second pruning of the year is mainly used to branch the hedge
- Mainly the unbranched shoots are blended
- Finally, it is shortened horizontally at the top to the desired height
- Water well after the cut
Beech hedges can be attacked by various fungi and pests. Fungal diseases include leaf spot fungus and powdery mildew.
Leaf spot fungus
The so-called leaf spot fungus can be recognized by brown spots of different sizes on the leaves. Sometimes these brown spots fall out of the leaf, creating holes. The other areas of affected leaves turn yellowish in color.
Control is only possible with a fungicide. As a preventive measure, the hedge should be cut regularly so that the foliage can always dry well. Cut plant material should always be completely removed and disposed of with household waste.
Powdery mildew appears as a gray-white, powdery coating on the upper side of the leaf. The infestation can usually be reduced significantly by pruning. All affected parts of the plant should be removed. A one-sided nitrogen supply should be avoided at all costs. If the infestation is particularly severe, treatment with an appropriate fungicide is possible.
The pests that can attack beech hedges include the hornbeam spider mite and the beech wool aphid.
Beech wool louse
The beech wool louse is also called beech aphid, beech ornamental louse, beech aphid and woolly beech louse. It can cause relatively great damage to beech hedges. After pupating, the lice live in regular colonies on the underside of the leaves. Red beech hedges are particularly popular with this pest.
The leaves of the affected plants bulge, curl up, turn brown, and eventually fall off. The lice excrete honeydew. This honeydew is, in turn, a breeding ground for various mushrooms. What is known as sooty dew can form, which can be recognized by a black coating. The honeydew of the lice can attract additional insects that can damage the beech hedge.
If the infestation is less severe, removing affected leaves and twigs can prevent it from spreading. The clippings must not be placed on the compost; they must be disposed of with household waste.
Natural enemies of this beech wool aphid are lacewings, ladybirds, ichneumon wasps and hover flies. The use of insecticides is also possible. The whole plant should always be sprayed, including the undersides of the leaves.
Hornbeam spider mite
This pest can be recognized by the upper side of the leaf, which is speckled yellow when infected. These small spots expand into larger spots. Little by little the leaves die off. If the infestation is particularly severe, fine nets cover the surface of the leaves. Depending on the season, oily agents and plant sprays can be used to combat it.
A beech hedge, be it red beech or hornbeam, does not usually make any great demands. As a privacy screen or property delimitation, they are a real eye-catcher. With a little skill, appropriate care and, above all, a regular cut, you can enjoy a beech hedge for many years and also offer birds a nesting opportunity.