How to Plant a Yew Hedge – Part 1: Preparation

For all of its majesty and grandeur – there is little in the garden to match it – a yew hedge is as easy to grow as any other…

For a start, it is hardy, drought resistant and happy in sun or shade. Nor is it that bothered by soil type: acid or alkaline, loam, sand or even chalk. The one thing on which it is insistent is well-drained soil – like most hedging plants, Yew will not tolerate being waterlogged. Finally, it is among the easiest of hedging plants to maintain, requiring no more than a late summer clipping to maintain shape and an annual pruning at the same time once it has reached its desired height.
Please note: while bare root plants are only available from November to March, container grown yew can be planted at any time of year…and here’s how to do it:
• Preparation is everything. Just as carpenters measure twice and cut once, so gardeners should dig twice and plant once…
• Avoid planting Yew any closer than 5m to buildings, walls or permanent paths as its roots can have an adverse impact on foundations
• Planting any hedge directly against a north-facing wall is generally unadvisable as the soil has a tendency to stay wet after rainfall
• Simply dig a hole approximately one spade deep somewhere along the line of the proposed new hedge and then fill with water. If your soil has naturally good drainage, the water will drain away steadily over the next 10-15 minutes. If your proposed hedge will be extending for more than 30m or so, dig two or more test holes along its length – it’s not that unusual for the soil in a large garden to vary
• If the result(s) are good, then you can start the simple ground preparations (see below) ahead of your new Yews’ arrival.
• However, if after those ten minutes have past, you find yourself still staring into a pool of water, you will need to improve the soil. We’ll explain how in our next post. Gardeners, though, sometimes have to face an unwelcome reality and if your soil is nothing more than solid clay, you may decide that the task is simply too great. Fortunately there are many clay-loving plants and having to plant a Hornbeam hedge, rather than one of Yew, is no compromise really
• Mark out the run of your Yew Hedge using stakes and string. This will help ensure your Yew Hedge has every chance of growing as you intend.
• You now have a choice of either digging a trench along the route or individual holes for each plant. Obviously, the latter option will require a little less work, though digging a trench will ensure the roots of the new plants will be growing into the best possible conditions.
• The trench should be at least 30cm deep by 60cm wide – individual holes should be dug to the same depth and at least 60cm square.
• Trench or hole, the ground should be thoroughly worked over to break up large lumps of soil. Any weeds, roots, large stones and any other detritus you may find should, of course, be removed.
• Next, dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter (not peat as this would be a waste of a valuable resource) and a little general purpose fertilizer.

This can be done well in advance, but your ground is now ready to receive the Yew plants. And we’ll explain how in Part 2…