Does your garden hedge work for you? Have you left your hedge to its own devices, so that it is now bushy and unkempt?
With the right management, hedges can benefit your garden and property. A dense luscious hedge can provide a smart boundary line; it can act as a security measure, it can even provide shelter for wildlife, all whilst still remaining aesthetically pleasing.
Regular maintenance will ensure that your hedge remains in good condition, continues to have healthy growth and sustains a good overall shape.
If you are thinking about maintaining your hedge, you’ll need to make sure you have the right tools for the job:
Secateurs & Hand shears
These are ideal for small hedges that require minimal pruning and trimming.
Electrical hedge trimmers are best suited to larger, dense hedges. Remember to always wear protective clothing, gloves and goggles. If you opt to use electrical tools ensure that you adhere to the operating instructions, and if you are ever in doubt about the equipment, seek professional advice.
An out of control hedge can bring unwanted problems. Larger hedges can end up blocking access, they can cause conflicts with neighbours if they grow beyond your property boundaries and they can also block natural light from your indoor and outdoor space. There are a variety of hedges, all requiring maintenance at different times of the year. Known as ‘hedge cutting’ seasons, the basics are:
Formal evergreens (like box or privet) should be trimmed two to three times a year during the growing season (May to September). Fast growing evergreens such as conifers may require more frequent trimming to keep them under control and in good shape.
Dense deciduous hedges such as beech should be cut in late August. If you have a deciduous hedge that requires a major overhaul, this is best carried out in late February whilst the hedge is still dormant.
For the benefit of wildlife do not cut hedges too early in the year, so that you avoid nesting birds.
Remember these handy tips if you are planning to take care of your hedges:
The amount you prune depends on how you want the hedge to look and the shape that you are aiming for.
Cutting a hedge to the same height and width every year can result in woody tips and poor growth.
To encourage a bushier hedge cut at least 2cm above the previous year’s growth.
Taper the sides of the hedge towards the top to allow natural light and rain water to reach the lower sections and the base of the hedge.
Keep your hedge free from grass and weeds in its early years to reduce water loss during dry spells.
If your hedge appears to be growing with ‘gaps’, cut the stems to within 10-15cm off the ground. This will promote fresh growth from the base, and will eventually result in a thicker hedge.
If you are pruning for the first time, use stakes and string to mark out the size and shape you need to prune to. Take regular breaks to take a step back to ensure that you are happy with the shape as this may not always be obvious whilst you are working.
Always make sure that your tools are in working order before you start. This will prevent damage to the hedge, but more importantly will ensure your own safety.