Coastal Californians have long relied on hedgerows to help
tame the salty sea wind that blows in off the Pacific in the wintertime. Farmers recognize their benefits for erosion
control and windbreaks, but now hedgerows are gaining new respect as a way to
attract beneficial insects and birds to farms, thereby helping to reduce the
use of pesticides. 

Scientists at the
University of California Santa Cruz are working with local strawberry growers
to establish hedgerows at the edges of their fields. While these hedgerows are significantly longer and wider than
anything you might plant in your backyard, their plant list is perfect at any
scale: try coffeeberry, elderberry,
California sagebrush, “Blue Blossom” ceanothus, and native buckwheats. Plant wild strawberry around the edges for
an attractive fall fruit. Scatter
wildflower seeds such as poppy, lupine, and yarrow. Mulch with a thick layer of newspaper and wood chips to keep down
invasive weeds. If you don’t think your
yard can accommodate an overgrown hedgerow, look around you. A neglected alleyway or a vacant lot nearby
might be the perfect spot if the owner is agreeable.

A hedgerow takes on a life of its
own. If you don’t keep a nature journal
already, consider starting one when you plant your hedgerow. Sketch its progress as it grows; keep a
count of the birds that are attracted to it. You may be surprised at the rich diversity that even a small hedgerow
can support. 

Coffeeberry: Rhamnus californica

Elderberry: Sambucus mexicana

California sagebrush: Artemesia californica

Ceanothus: Ceanothus thrysiflorus

Buckwheat: Eriogonum latifolium and E. giganteum

Wild strawberry: Fragaria chiloensis