One of our favorite things at NCAT is get out to the field and help farmers implement projects that help the farmer as well as the little critters with whom we share our farm spaces. On this visit to Sequoia Farms, we had the opportunity to help design and plant a hedgerow. A hedgerow in its simplest form is a planting of perennial species on the farm in a row along borders, roads, or field edges. Hedgerows have many uses, including providing habitat for native insect pollinators, parasites, and predators; supplemental food for humans or livestock, windbreaks, stream bank stabilization, and more.
Here is a publication with a bit more information on hedgerows.
After a very rainy couple of days, the weather decided to give us a break on the scheduled planting day.
Conditions were perfect for collecting ridiculous amounts of mud on the bottoms of our boots. Who’s up for mud pie? Luckily for us, in addition to a break in the weather, we were able to host about 30 high school students through the Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship (SLEWS) program who were there to help us with planting the more than 1500 plants on 7,000 linear feet of primed and ready farmland.
The plants we selected were all native California perennials: the vibrant flannel bush (Fremontodendron californicum) which attracts larger bees and other pollinators; the spectacular ceanothus with its incredible deep blue to purple flowers – small flies and beneficial predators love this one; deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) which has long vertical leaf blades that attract damsel flies and the dense area near its crown is attractive to lady bird beetles as a place to stay over winter. In all we selected 18 different native species for this hedgerow, each of which present a much-needed food source and potential niche to fill for the many beneficial insects present in the area.
At over 7,000 linear feet, this hedgerow is the single longest that we have had the chance to help with. In recent years, the farm owners have become increasingly interested in more practices that increase soil health and biodiversity on the farm. Their decision to add a hedgerow to the mix is their most recent project aimed at increasing insect biodiversity on the farm.
During the planning phase of the project, NCAT staff were able to visit the farm, examine the planting sites, and make recommendations based on the ecosystem services desired by the farmers and constraints presented by the land on which we were going to plant.
There are many financial and labor saving resources that can help a farmer interested in implementing this kind of project on a farm. EQIP is a voluntary program of USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), which helps farmers confront natural resource challenges by providing grant funding for projects like the one described. If you live in California you also have the option to
apply for the Healthy Soils Program (HSP) which works in much the same way but is run through the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). HSP provides financial incentives for application of compost to farmland, among many other practices.
We would like to give a shout out to the SLEWS program who were a great help in the planting phase of the project. SLEWS is a great program which connects youth volunteers with outdoor educational opportunities.
For more information on farming to increase biodiversity on the farm please check out ATTRA’s publication on Farmscaping.