Hedges are great. They can serve as attractive delineators of property lines, lovely accents to your landscaping design, and more. Well placed hedges and individual bushes or shrubs can be the final element that makes your home environment feel complete.
But to keep them looking good and to keep them healthy and vibrant, you need to know how to maintain your hedges. And that means that you need to know the ins and outs of trimming hedges.
Understanding not only how to trim hedges but when to cut hedges will keep your environment in its best possible condition throughout the year. Judicious pruning is one of the most important actions you can take to ensure that your hedges thrive and serve your desired function.
Before you start making cuts on your hedges, bushes, or shrubs, you need to make sure that the timing is right. If your hedge is made up of flowering bushes, pruning at the wrong time of year can mean those flowers don’t come. And that’s only one possible problem.
Poor timing on your trimming can result in poor health for your hedges. If you go too long without trimming, you may need to prune too deeply to get your hedge back in shape— which can lead to disease, bare spots, and uneven regrowth.
Unfortunately, getting the timing right on trimming hedges is not as simple as asking, “what month do you trim hedges?” There are variables involved. Not every kind of bush requires the same maintenance.
Before you start clipping, it’s important that you know what kinds of plants make up your hedges. Some plants need to be trimmed more than once a year. Some only need pruning once a year. Some only need to be trimmed every two to three years!
Knowing your plants will keep you from accidentally cutting all the buds off your bushes by trimming your hedges at the wrong time. Not all flowering shrubs develop buds at the same time, and knowing when your plants set their buds can be the difference between gorgeous, flowering hedges and a hedge that is simply missing that special something.
And you should also remember that hedges that are not quite two years old should not be trimmed yet, generally speaking. Let them grow strong, then prune them to maintain health.
With all of those caveats established, most hedges should be trimmed after the plants have gone dormant for winter, but before the first frost. That means very late spring at the earliest and very early winter at the latest.
Some say that the best time to trim hedges is on a cloudy day. This reduces the risk of leaf burn. But if you go about trimming hedges on a sunny day, it won’t be the end of the world. You should do your trimming during the day, though. It’s much easier to clean up the pruned bits when you can see them.
There are many tools on the market for trimming hedges. Some are electric, and some are powered by pure elbow grease. The most important thing to remember about trimming tools is that you want your cutting tools to be sharp and your ladders to be stable.
Ladders are important to use when you go out to trim your hedges. If your hedge is tall, you’ll need a ladder to reach all the branches that need pruning. And if you have a shorter hedge, a ladder can still be very useful.
Hedge trimming ladders allow you to get a birds-eye view of your hedge, no matter the height. That means you can always see what you’re doing and it means you won’t need to hold potentially heavy cutting tools at an awkward angle to get the top of your hedge.
When you purchase a ladder for trimming your hedges, make sure it can adapt to your environment. There are hedge trimming ladders with tripod bases, adjustable legs for uneven ground, and safety features designed to allow you to work with both hands comfortably and securely.
As far as cutting tools go, the right tool depends on the size and species of your hedges. If you have smaller hedges, hand shears will do nicely. They allow you to fine tune your pruning and shaping as well as take care of the bigger parts of the job.
When you have larger, longer hedges, a power trimmer is a good idea. Can a hedge trimmer cut branches? Yes, if it’s strong enough. Gas powered trimmers are great for hedges with thick branches.
Electric trimmers aren’t quite as powerful, but can handle almost anything a gas powered trimmer can. It should be noted that cordless trimmers are typically a little less powerful than electric trimmers that you plug in. However, if you will be climbing a high ladder to trim your hedges, you shouldn’t use a plug-in trimmer.
Finally, it is very important to wear durable, comfortable work gloves when trimming hedges. Whether you are pruning by hand or with a power tool, you want to protect your hands from twigs, thorns, or painful new callouses.
So you’ve figured out when to best trim your hedges, you have the right tools, and you’re ready to get out and get to work— is there anything else you should know to make the job easier? Sure!
The most aggravating part of any outdoor job is usually the cleanup. This can be especially true when you’re trimming hedges with mulch around their bases. The simplest solution is to lay down a tarp around the base of your hedge to collect the trimmings. When you’re done, you’ve got all your trimmings in one place and you can simply walk them over to your compost.
Another great tip is to be careful about how deep you make your cuts. To encourage lush regrowth and avoid damaging your hedge, only cut about one third of any given branch away. This will keep your hedge looking full and healthy even as you clean up and even out its edges.
One of the best things you can do for the health of your hedges is to properly shape them when you trim. Trim them so that they are more narrow on top than on the bottom. This allows more sunlight to reach leaves on lower branches. That will keep the leaves on your hedge uniformly lush from top to bottom.
On a similar note, when trimming hedges, trim from the bottom to the top. Since you’re tapering upwards, it’s easier to keep a clean line by going from wide to narrow than the reverse. And step back to check your work regularly. That will help make sure you don’t cut too deeply by accident.
Be careful about cutting the branches that make up the bones of your hedges. Even with overgrown hedges, you will rarely need to prune the thick, central branches of your shrubs and bushes.
There are a lot of things you need to keep in mind when trimming hedges. What kind of plants do you have? What tools do you need? Is it the right time of year for these plants? Are there local ordinances about when you can and cannot trim your hedge?
These questions are just the start and they can be overwhelming. But it’s ok. You don’t have to do everything on your own.
If you had a landscaping company design and plant your hedges, you can get all the information you need from them about plant species and their hedge trimming recommendations.
Say you’ve just moved into a new home with existing hedges, though. You can still reach out to a landscaping company to get a consultation. They may be able to give you the information you need— and their prices for trimming your hedges for you might just be more reasonable than you expected!
Effectively trimming hedges can be difficult and can cause a lot of headaches. But whether you entrust your hedges to professionals or do it yourself, with the right information and tools your hedges will become an absolute highlight of your home environment. Happy trimming!
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