Gardening tips,

Hedge trimming — tips & techniques

Check out our expert tips and techniques before you tackle your hedge this year. And enjoy an easier task with excellent results every time.

8 MIN 07 Apr
Last update: 05 Apr 2023
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You can shape hedges into wild figures and statues, but they also make perfect boundaries for your garden. So, understanding how to trim your hedge is an essential gardening skill, offering a neater, healthier bush that increases privacy and general garden aesthetics.   

Table of contents:
  • What is your hedge variety?
  • A good hedge trimming works wonders
  • The classic V-cut
  • The benefits of hedge trimming
  • The best time to trim your hedge
  • When should I avoid trimming my hedge?
  • Hedge-trimming tools
  • Common mistakes when cutting a hedge
  • Top Tips for hedge care
  • How to dispose of your hedge trimmings
  • Hire a gardener to trim your hedge
  • Why you should trim your hedges
  • FAQs

But where do you start? Do you begin chopping at the top or the bottom? And should the sides slant like a V? Or are they best with perfect right angles? 

In this article, I’ll share some expert tips and techniques for the most effective and successful hedge trimming you’re ever likely to enjoy. 

What is your hedge variety?

A hedge isn’t a plant variety – a hedge is your garden’s boundary, like a fence or a wall. And there are many different plant varieties that make excellent, privacy screens for your outdoor space.

So, if you’re considering starting a hedge, you might consider the following plants:

  • Privet 
  • Cherry laurel
  • Box plant
  • Cypress
  • Yew
  • Thuja
  • Forsythia

Each plant has its own characteristics, and it’s essential to know what you’re dealing with before you pull out the hedge trimmer. 

A good hedge trimming works wonders

Trimming a bush with secateurs
Use hand-held trimmers for the fine detail

Hedges grow tall if left untrimmed, quickly turning from eye candy to eye sore. So, trimming your hedge not only neatens your garden’s appearance but encourages healthy growth — just like mowing a lawn.

When you trim your bush, you remove dead or diseased branches, which limits potential disease and allows the plant to thrive.   

The classic V-cut

Your hedge needs plenty of light to thrive, affecting how you trim the plant. If you meticulously cut the bush into a rectangle, you’ll leave a lot of the bottom of the plant in the shade. 

So, a slightly trapezoidal (or V-cut) shape offers the plant a sunlight advantage. This means trimming narrower at the top and broader at the bottom.

However, some plants are fine with a rectangular cut, including privet, beech, yew, and holly. 

The benefits of hedge trimming

A well-trimmed hedge helps:

  • Maintain good shape and appearance
  • Remove dead or diseased branches
  • Minimise the spread of disease
  • Give a growth spurt
  • Create privacy in your garden

The best time to trim your hedge

It’s best to trim your hedge once or twice a year, depending on the appearance and the speed with which your bush grows., 

Here’s some guidance regarding when to trim your bush:

PlantWhen to trim 
Box plantLate spring/early summer
Privet Late spring/early summer
YewEarly- to mid-summer
LaurelLate spring/early summer
BeechLate summer/early autumn
CypressLate summer/early autumn

Remember, never trim your hedge during the nesting season — between March and August. This could disturb wildlife and even kill families of birds or other creatures that live within the bush. 

If you have to trim between March and August, make it a light trim with manual cutters rather than an electric hedge trimmer. Save heavy trimming between October and February. 

Lawn doctor Louis says:

Lightly trim side branches in the first summer to encourage bushing. Cut back growth by half in the second year between Feb & March. Then, trim side branches during the second summer for perfectly tapering sides. Cut the topmost branch to your desired height during the bush’s second autumn.

When should I avoid trimming my hedge?

As well as nesting season, there are other occasions where it’s inadvisable to trim your hedge. 

Avoid trimming during a drought or heatwave. Wait until the weather has cooled before cutting, even if the plant shows signs of illness or pest infestation. It won’t survive the assault. 

Hedge-trimming tools

Having the correct trimming tools is essential for successful shearing. 

Here’s a list of tools you might need:

  • Hedge trimmers — the essential tool. Choose between manual or electric trimmers. Electric is more efficient but can be more expensive.
  • Hand-held trimmer: while an electric trimmer is suitable for general shearing, a hand-held trimmer is better for the finer detail — pruning small branches and twigs. 
  • Ladder: Most hedges are taller than the average person — that way, they offer privacy. But that means you’ll need a ladder to trim the upper branches. 
  • Loppers: for pruning thicker branches
  • Gloves: never trim without gloves, or you’ll end up with multiple cuts and grazes from thorns and spikes
  • Eye protection: protecting your eyes from branches and shredding. 

Always make sure your tools are clean and sharp to ensure a good cut. Cutting with blunt blades makes the job more difficult, but it could also bruise the plant where it’s exposed to the air, making it more susceptible to disease or infection. 

Common mistakes when cutting a hedge

There are some common rooky mistakes people make when trimming their hedge, including:

  • Over-trimming: this will leave the hedge looking bare and could affect the plant’s recovery. 
  • Pruning at the wrong time: avoid extreme heat and the nesting season
  • Using the wrong tools: the wrong tools result in a poor trim and could affect the plant’s health
  • Not wearing protective gear: hedge trimming is potentially hazardous, so always protect your hands and eyes. 

Lawn doctor Louis says:

Proper protective equipment is essential. Protect your eyes from dust and debris, and always wear gloves to protect your hands and forearms from thorns and twigs.

Top Tips for hedge care

A string of conifers, trimmed into a V shape.
Go for the classic V shape for your hedges

Hedge trimming is just one of the tasks associated with caring for your hedging plants. 

Here are some additional tips to ensure your hedges thrive in your garden:

  • Water your hedges regularly, especially during dry periods
  • Fertilise your hedges in spring and autumn
  • Spread a thick layer of mulch around the trunk to retain moisture and deter weeds
  • Check your bushes regularly for signs of disease or pest infestation
  • Remove dead or diseased branches as soon as possible

How to dispose of your hedge trimmings

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Use your green waste bin to dispose of your hedge trimmings. It can be tempting to throw them in the corner of your garden (or even over the fence!), but dried-out hedge trimmings are remarkably flammable and could cause a fire hazard. 

Remember, plant debris is a nutritional garden resource, but it will take too long for the trimmings to break down in your home composter. So, add it to your green bin/garden waste bin, and it will be composted at your local refuse centre. 

Additionally, hedge trimming is messy work. Keep things tidy as you go with a garden waste bag, filling it while you trim each section. 

Hire a gardener to trim your hedge

A professional gardener trimming a hedge
Hire a professional for excellent hedge trimming

Not everyone feels confident with a power tool or manual hedge trimmer. Or perhaps you just don’t have the time or the right tools. 

In this case, hire a professional gardener to make light work out of this potentially enormous garden task.

Prices for professional gardening services vary wildly across the UK. Also, the size of the hedge will affect the final cost of the job. 

Professional hedge trimmers typically charge by the hour in the UK. Expect to pay between £20 and £40 per hour. As a rough guide, a regular hedge will cost around £2.50-£5 per metre, although it could be as much as £20 per metre if you’re looking for a hard trim.

Remember, go slow and make sure you have the right tools for the job. If you don’t have the tools, you could hire them or go to your local Library of Things. If that sounds too pricey, you could tackle the job yourself.

Why you should trim your hedges

Regular hedge trimming is an essential part of your gardening calendar. Not only does it keep your hedges in shape, but it also promotes healthy growth while increasing the privacy of your outdoor space.

By following the tips and techniques in this article, you’ll ensure your hedges are neat, tidy, and healthy for years to come. 

FAQs

Can you cut hedges in summer?

It’s best to avoid hedge trimming during the summer because this is a principal growing period for your hedging plants. Also, the summer is nesting season for birds and wildlife, so you should avoid disturbing them while they’re caring for their young. Avoid cutting your hedge in hot weather. 

When is it forbidden to cut a hedge?

According to The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, you should avoid cutting your hedge between March and July, which is the breeding season for birds. Unless there’s an unavoidable health and safety concern, you shouldn’t trim your hedge during this period. 

Should I cut a hedge at the top first or along the sides?

It’s best to start cutting from the top with tall hedges to get an even cut down the length of the hedge. However, it’s better to cut the sides first with shorter hedges, allowing you to get a neater edge along the top.

Ready to get trimming?

I hope you’ve got all the information you need to start trimming your hedges, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch

Alternatively, check out our website’s extensive Help & Advice section — you’ll find a plethora of lawn care and gardening tips that should help you transform your outdoor space! 

Thanks for reading, and happy gardening. 

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