How to trim a hedge

How to trim a hedge
How to trim a hedge
Spring is here, bringing with it the urge to get your garden looking its best. For many, a neatly trimmed hedge forms the backbone of a tidy outdoor space. But what do you need to know to ensure a job well done? In this article, we'll explain how to trim a hedge.

Consider the law

While it might seem like a simple task, hedge trimming can have legal implications. In the UK, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1985 protects nesting birds. It's illegal to disturb an active nest, including eggs or chicks. So, it's crucial that if you wish to trim your hedge during the nesting season (roughly March to September) that you are absolutely certain that there are no nests present. If unsure, it's always best to wait until autumn or winter.

Pick the right time

The ideal time to trim depends on the type of hedge you have. Formal hedges like privet or box benefit from two trims a year - once in late spring/early summer (May-June) and again in late summer (August-September). Informal hedges like holly or hawthorn need less frequent attention, with a single trim in late summer usually being sufficient.

Stay Safe

Always use gloves and safety goggles when trimming a hedge
Always use gloves and safety goggles when trimming a hedge
Before you begin, ensure your tools are sharp and well-maintained. Usethick gloves to protect your hands from sharp branches and any thorns. You should also wear safety glasses to help you protect your eyes from any flying debris, especially when using power tools. When using electric or petrol trimmers, follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and maintain a safe distance from bystanders and pets.

Assess your hedge

Take a good look at your hedge before getting started. This will help you determine the desired shape and how much trimming is needed. For a formal hedge, a straight edge and a slightly tapered top (wider at the base, narrower at the top) are ideal. Informal hedges can be left with a more relaxed, natural form.

Prepare for trimming

Use a string line to achieve a straight top, securing it between stakes at either end of the hedge and slightly below your desired height. Clear the base of the hedge of any debris or obstacles that might hinder your progress.

Make the cut

Trim your hedge carefully working from the bottom upwards
Trim your hedge carefully working from the bottom upwards
Begin by trimming the sides of the hedge. Work from the bottom upwards, using a sawing motion with shears or a power trimmer. Aim for a clean, straight cut, following the desired shape.Once the sides are finished, use sharp shears or a hedge trimmer to tackle the top. If you've used a string line, use it as a guide for a level cut. For a formal hedge, maintain the slight taper.

Clear away the trimmings

Gather up all the trimmings as you go. You can compost most hedge clippings, though some - like holly - might be too prickly. Consider using a garden shredder for larger branches, which can then be added to your compost heap for a nutrient boost.

By following these steps and taking your time, you can achieve a beautifully trimmed hedge that's not only aesthetically pleasing but also healthy and thriving.
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