Working with Hedgerows

Often farms specialize in one or a few crops creating a monoculture in their fields. This may lead to more efficient work resulting in higher economic benefits to the farmer. However, monocultures regularly result in pest infestations, a loss of biodiversity, and a reliance on external inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

So, here is where a hedgerow comes in. A hedgerow is a strip of land planted within or around the field as a place for pollinators and other beneficial insects to eat and live. These strips of land can either be weedy or planted with specifics in mind. Insect predator abundance in the field is greatest near the edges (Altieri, 1994). This means the “good” bugs are found where there is biodiversity. Seems pretty simple, right?

The hedgerow shown above has mostly California native plants and a few other drought tolerant species interspersed. Trees and larger shrubs can also be planted to encourage birds to perch and eat pests within the field. Adding sunflowers, peppers, and alyssum flowers help attract the Minute Pirate Bug and other predatory beneficial insects. Butterfly pathways can also be created for migratory species like the monarch (milkweed) and the Karner blue butterfly (wild lupine).

You don’t have to be a farmer to plant a hedgerow. Adding native flowering plants to your landscape helps reintroduce beneficial insects, pollinators, and butterflies into your garden.

Photo credit: Thank you, Nancy from SAGE – Sustainable Agriculture Education in Berkeley, CA. You can learn more about SAGE at:  http://www.sagecenter.org/.