You know it’s time to look after your hedge when…

Keeping on top of your hedgecare regime is really important, for your hedge health, appearance and the long-life of these natural boundaries.  But how do you know what you should be doing to keep your hedge in check? And when should you be doing it?

It’s a good job you’ve landed on our Trees and Hedging blog page – we’ll set you straight (and your hedge-trimming, too!).  You know it’s time to look after your hedge when…

…the sun is out

Obvious really.  Enjoy a little gardening time whilst you can!  Particularly if you’ve planted new trees and hedging varieties, you’ll need to keep them well-watered, whatever the weather, and weed free for the first year after planting to encourage good growth.

…it’s top heavy

Hedges should be cut so that it is slightly wider at the base than the top; this not only looks more attractive, it allows good light to the whole hedge, keeping it healthy.

hedgetrim…your neighbours have trimmed

A tidy, trimmed hedge is a healthy hedge.  Trimming encourages fresh, new growth and keeps the hedge’s shape.  So if Mr and Mrs Evans at no. 22 have their secateurs and pruning shears to hand, you can match them, snip for snip!

…your hedge needs a little TLC

Your established hedge (+2 years old) will need a once-a-year trim for an informal look or 2 or 3 cuts to keep a formal hedge tamed.  These “maintenance trims” are best started in the Summer.

…you want a more formal hedge

Buxus sempervirens (box), Ligustrum (privet) and Lonicera nitida should be tamed with a trim twice to three times whilst its growing.  Prunus laurocerasus (laurel) looks good after two cuts a year.  If your hedge is a holly one – Ilex aquifolium – trim him once in late summer.

Carpinus betulus (hornbeam) and Fagus sylvatica (beech) are trim-once-in-late-summer kinda guys and the popular Crataegus monogyna (hawthorn) thrives on a cut twice a year – summer and autumn.

…your hedge has flowered

With flowering varieties, you should trim in the Spring – best straight after they flowered. It’s fine to trim your flowering Pyracantha now and into late summer.

…you want to avoid bare patches

Some conifers should be trimmed up to three times a year: in April, July and late August. Our Western Red Cedar is actually a Cypress, and a less vigorous and slower-growing alternative to the Leyland Cypress.  Don’t cut back beyond the green growth, or the plant won’t recover and it will leave bare patches. “Little and often” is best and don’t trim again after August.

beech hedge…your beech has grown

Beech can be pruned in August.  They’ll have grown a little after their rapid growth earlier this year.  If they’ve got too big, cut back hard in mid-winter but not in a really cold snap.

…it’s a privet

If you’ve got a privet hedge, you’ll be a seasoned trim expert.  Privets benefit from a trim at least twice a year, from May to August. The more you cut, the denser, more even your privet hedge becomes.  Much easier to keep in shape and manage the size, too.  Looking to resize? Prune it hard in April to reduce the hedge.

…your laurel’s looking a little ragged

Prunus laurocerasus (laurel) should be cut in July or August. Because of its big tough leaves, these often look ragged after hedge trimmers have been used.  You can remove any damaged leaves with secateurs to boost hedge health and make it look lovely again.  Need a reshape? Cut back hard in spring to transform overgrown hedges.

hedge nest…the birds have flown the nest

Always check you don’t have any nesting feathered friends before you trim.  It’s actually an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built. The bird nesting season runs from the beginning of March to the end of July, but it may last longer for certain birds or bigger broods – check first!

…you’ve forgotten to do it

You might be new to hedgecare or have inherited a hedge in a new property.  Even the best pruned hedges get unruly.  Imagine, if just one centimetre of new growth is left each year, after 10 years the hedge can be 20 centimetres wider and 10 centimetres taller!

Best keep on top of it.

So.  Your hedge has got too tall or too wide for the space.  What now?  Don’t panic! It might take a couple of pruning manoeuvres over a couple of seasons, but you can regain control by managing the top, taking off as much as you need and then taking off one side in the Spring and the other side next spring – known as “splitting a hedge”.    The outer layer of growth should be cut away on one side, back to the older stems but not back to the trunk.  You’ll need some long-handle shears.  Be patient and don’t be tempted to cut back too hard – there are only certain plants who can cope with this: deciduous and broad-leaved evergreens, such as hawthorn, beech, holly, lonicera, laurel or privet.

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