On the Hedge - When to Trim, Cut, Back and Make Pretty

Anyone is capable of planting a hedge, but it takes time and effort to properly maintain it. Densely planted shrubs are a fantastic and environmentally friendly way of defining borders and establishing boundary lines. Also excellent for privacy, keeping pets in (or out), and providing habitats for small insects, it's easy to see why most UK households have a hedge on their property.

However, it's not enough to simply plant up a hedge and leave it to grow. Hedges that have been recently planted require very specific maintenance, especially within the first couple of years of planting. Without proper care, your hedge can quickly become leggy, unkempt and unsightly.

Don't despair! Here at The Arb Team, we're experts when it comes to hedge maintenance, and we've come up with a few pointers when it comes to keeping your hedge in tip-top condition:

When to Prune:

Pruning times vary depending on which hedge you have. The general rule of thumb is that pruning should take place in the winter while the hedge is dormant and hasn’t produced any of its buds. If you have an evergreen hedge, it will need to be pruned early on in the season due to its slow growing nature.

Deciduous hedges such as privet, hawthorn and viburnum, can be gently pruned each summer after blooms turn brown. You'll want to focus on removing dead or diseased branches to promote the health and growth of the hedge.

If your hedges are made up of conifers, such as leylandii, they will need two serious pruning sessions each year.

An important thing to note when undertaking work on your garden hedges is nesting season, especially if you have tall, dense hedges. It is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act of 1981 to destroy or damage a wild bird's nest while it is in use or being built. The nesting season usually lasts from March - August, so watch out for our feathered friends!

How to Prune:

When it comes to hedges, hand pruning is the healthiest and most effective method to encourage new growth. Using shears in conjunction with hand-held pruners will keep hedges tidy and stimulate bud production. Long-handled shears or an electric strimmer are quick and easy ways to shape your hedge to perfection, but you're really going to need to get in amongst the branches to unleash your hedge's true potential.

As buds multiply, your hedge will become so thick that the sunlight can't filter through the leaves, stunting interior growth. Your hedge will become larger and larger each year; however it will be lifeless and woody inside. To prevent this issue, while shearing, reach inside every couple of feet and snip a branch or two at a 45-degree angle. This will allow sunlight to infiltrate the branches and stimulate growth beneath the surface, resulting in a fuller and healthier hedge.

A little extra bit of advice from us professional tree surgeons: when shearing the hedge, work from the bottom upwards for a more natural look. Hedges should also generally have the shape of an upside-down ‘V’, where they’re wider at the bottom and narrower at the top. Due to its exposure to sunlight, the top of a hedge naturally widens over time, so you’ll want to reverse this process. Happy pruning!

Maintaining Your Hedge:

Now you've mastered when to prune and how to prune, the all-important maintenance begins. First of all, you'll want to keep the base of the hedge and its surrounding area free from weeds, especially if it's newly planted. Once you've weeded, it’s time to hydrate that hedge! While rain does hydrate your hedge somewhat, it does need watering a couple of times a week (especially in the summer), to stay strong and healthy. Evenings are the best time to water because there’s more of a chance of the water reaching the roots. Watering in the midday sun might cause the liquid to evaporate before it can filter through the soil, meaning that the hedge won’t be getting the nutrients it needs to grow.

Although they're not that hungry and can do pretty well without it, hedges will benefit from an annual feed. The best time to do this is in early spring, when they'll need the extra energy for their new buds. Visit your local garden centre and buy some all-purpose, organic fertiliser to feed the hedge. This can also be used on other trees and shrubs dotted around your garden.

There you have it, some tips and tricks for a healthy hedge, right out of the tree surgeons bible! We hope your questions have been answered, but if you need any further advice or are concerned about the overall health of your hedging, please get in touch with us. Our contact details are:

Phone - 01792 885184

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