Late February and early March are the perfect times to cut hedges. It’s just before they start to sprout and birds haven’t yet started to build their nests.
I like to give my beech hedges and laurels a trim around now. It shapes them for the coming months and it encourages growth, allowing the energy in the plants to be directed to where it should be. I like to level mine off at eye level. This means I’m not straining my shoulders, neck or back when cutting and I don’t end up with any bumps or lumps I might otherwise have if cutting at an awkward level.
Hedges start to grow in March and typically, keep growing until the middle of summer. So a little work now will keep them tidy, trim and looking their best. I also like to give them another little trim at the end of September. This not just keeps them tidy and thick but, taking a little off twice, means the bits can fit easier into my composter than doing the job once a year and being left with lots of cuttings in one go.
While a hedge clippers is grand for a small hedge, I would highly recommend investing in a good multi tool if you have the space to store it. It has a detachable head and can be used as a trimmer, strimmer and pruner. It will save you time and will help you achieve a far more even hedge.
The best time to apply feed to hedges is when rain is due within two days. You can also deposit lawn clippings under hedging –once they’re not too thick and once you’ve not recently treated the lawn with weed killer. Home-made compost from your own composter will also help your hedge to thrive.
We sell lots of bare root hedging in CountryLife in January and February. These should be fed in April or May to give them a little boost. An overdose of fertiliser could be damaging so easy does it! While you can plant a hedge any time of year, the best time to plant hedging is in the winter months as the plants are cheaper.
If you want to mix things up a little and grow a hedge that requires no maintenance, I suggest Rosa Rugosa. It is a rose species and grows to about 5ft high and 5 ft wide. It flowers from May to September. It comes in white, pink and red and birds absolutely love them so it brings wildlife into the garden too.
If you plant beech hedging, consider intermixing some red and green leafed plants. Copper beech also injects colour into a hedge. Intersperse some randomly rather than planting to a pattern –just in case you have some failures. In dry weather it is important to water young hedges at least once a week. Allow one watering can per plant.
Hedges grow best in deep soil. If your soil is shallow, then choose a variety like whitethorn which can cope best in such conditions.Young laurels and beech don’t tend to do well in shallow ground. And if you’re planting a hedge in a seaside area, Escallonia is perfect. Be mindful though that recently it has become prone to fungus
Bamboos are the best hedge for a town garden if you want a quick hedge and a barrier from the neighbours. They grow quickly and up to 8ft tall. But choose your variety carefully and plant them about two and a half feet apart. They are a good, low maintenance hedge but are not good for hedging near the sea front. Be mindful that the Sasa variety can also creep into a lawn.
The trick with hedging is to keep it weed free from the start. If briars become an issue, get down on your hunkers and treat them at root level with a tough weedkiller.
Malachy’s top tips for hedging
- Feed your hedge in spring and repeat in mid-summer
- Trim your hedge at least twice a year
- Compost your clippings
- Choose the right hedge for your needs and your terrain
- If choosing bamboo, Phyllostachys Bissetti is best
- Never trim your hedge in nesting season