For a well-shaped hedge, it is important to know the main pruning techniques. Apart from the period during which hedges can be trimmed, pruning techniques, lopping or wattle work are all skills that must be mastered, in order to avoid ending up with overtrimmed plants or irregular shapes. A supply of manure is also an important factor and is quite helpful in obtaining a denser plantation. 

The informal hedge is a natural association of trees or shrubs which, when used in gardening, allows for aesthetic arrangements. Besides this decorative role, the natural hedge has many advantages as it prevents the erosion of slope edges and helps fight off pollution. To keep these multiple functions, it is essential to maintain them. Maintenance varies depending on the types of hedges, formal or informal.

Pruning, priority maintenance of the natural hedge 

Pruning is the natural hedge’s basic maintenance and will give it its final shape. Taking into account the growing cycle of plants, the most appropriate pruning period is around the months of May and June and from late August to early October.

In a garden, an informal hedge is one in which the plants are left on their own to freely develop. Maintenance is limited to removing dead or diseased branches and cutting off excess branches.

For the formal hedge, pruning is regularly carried out while being careful to keep the top narrower than the bottom. It is done using a stretched rope to keep the right height. Pruning starts from the lower sides, and gradually moves upwards.

First-year pruning is done on branches, except for conifers that need to reach the desired height. Second-year pruning aims at achieving a 2-foot wide hedge for an approximate height of 5 feet. For the following years, choose pyramidal pruning in order to minimize the seedlings’ height growth.

Additional maintenance of the natural hedge 

Sometimes the hedge’s branches grow at right angles. To this end, wattle work can train them to develop lengthwise by attaching them with rope. Wattling offers the advantage of increasing the hedge’s density and stimulating wildlife propagation.

As it grows and gets older, the natural hedge thins out and becomes sparse at its base. Lopping is a corrective measure that consists of trimming stems located at a height ranging between 1 to 3 feet above the ground. This favours a more vigorous growth of shoots at the base, which will fill the gaps in the hedge. To avoid such gaps, the hedgerows are annually trimmed to a fifth of their length. Lopping takes place towards the end of November.

On old hedges, branches are trimmed down to a height of 10 inches above ground level. Stunted or dead plants are replaced by new, vigorous ones. Pruning should be done regularly for two years to contain plant growth in order for the hedge to regain its original appearance after 4 years.

Supplying manure consists of spreading fertilizer or compost between shrubs in the spring. Dense plantations need more manure as the nutrient needs of living hedges are more significant. To curb the rapid development of certain hedges like privet or black poplar, the delineation of the roots is recommended. This can be achieved by burying a strip of plastic or asphalted paper along a deep trench located 15 inches away from the natural hedge.

Essential maintenance equipment 

To provide proper maintenance, it is necessary to have the appropriate tools. The required tools vary depending on the hedge’s height and length. Clippers can be used to make small adjustments and facilitate the cuts in the centre of the natural hedge. But the pruning shears remain the preferred choice. However, their use is limited to maintenance work of little importance because their handling can be tedious and low-yielding.

For more significant maintenance work, you can opt for the electric or pneumatic hedge trimmer. The pneumatic version has the advantage of being more powerful but also requires more extensive maintenance. Prior to making your choice between the electric and pneumatic hedge trimmer, it is advisable to rent each kind for a day or two to proceed to comparative tests.

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Published in Hedges by Alexander on 04 Jul 2011