Singing Frogs Farm: Hedgerows & Resilency

The following was posted on Signing Frogs Farm e-news, August 11, 2017:

One of our favorite subjects to talk about on Farm Tours is our landscape ecology: namely, how to help our vegetable plants survive the kinds of temperatures and UV exposure we regularly experience in the summertime!

Hedgerows of perennial bushes provide windbreaks for shorter annual vegetable plants thereby reducing wind stress and water loss (evapotranspiration) for both the vegetable plants as well as the topsoil and soil biology. (This last part is often forgotten about.)

Equally as important, the hedgerows also trap large volumes of air under their foliage and against the ground thereby creating a cooling effect for nearby vegetables on hot days and a warming effect for vegetable plants on bitterly cold winter nights! In fact, we’ve measured temperature differences of 3 degrees up to 20 feet away from hedgerows caused by the presence of the hedgerows.

When you think about how quickly clothes fade when left out in the sun, or how rapidly our own skin burns under the midday sun, it’s actually quite remarkable that our leafy, delicate, vegetable plants can survive day after day after day of repeated heat and UV exposure without the means of escape into shade, an air-conditioned car, or anywhere else we Humans seek shelter from the sun. But while they can survive it, they don’t necessarily enjoy it.

The transpiration and respiration of the hedgerow plants’ leaves also helps to ameliorate the hottest and coldest weather conditions providing more pleasant, beneficial growing conditions for annual vegetable plants. In fact, the research done on these very benefits is quite extensive in the tropics within agroforestry systems, which is why we’ve gone to great lengths to establish numerous hedgerows throughout the farm fields… In addition, hedgerows provide habitat for songbirds and snakes, occasionally have fruiting bushes or trees for an economic harvest, reduce or diminish erosion and the effects of a pounding rain, draw up deep nutrients and deposit it on the soil surface in the form of leaf litter, have something flowering every month of the year, and… they’re beautiful!

Which is where our landscape ecology comes in… Over the past 11 years, we have planted over 3,000 Sonoma County native, pollinator-friendly, perennial plants on our farm – almost exclusively bushes, in lines called hedgerows. While the conventional thinking (of forward- minded ag scientists) is to plant hedgerows to create permanent habitat for beneficial insects as well as year- round food resources for pollinators (especially native bees), these tremendous benefits are quite possibly matched by the aforementioned climatic benefits created by hedgerows.

* If you want to plant more native, pollinator-friendly perennial plants in your yard or garden, go to www.pollinatorpartnership.org and find the ‘Planting Guides’ webpage where you can enter your zipcode. It will give you a list of all the pollinator- friendly natives sorted by annuals, perennials, flowers, bushes, trees, etc. Happy growing!

The above was posted by Elizabeth & Paul Kaiser, Signing Frogs Farm e-news, August 11, 2017.  Come see them at the Sustainable Food and Farm Conference February 10, 2018!