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As we move into June, it’s a good idea to start thinking about trimming your hedges in preparation for summer. New hedges require formative trimming for their first couple of years after planting, which usually needs to be carried out in winter or early spring. Once your hedges have grown beyond that formative stage, they only need a maintenance trim about once or twice a year, and now is the time. Proper hedge maintenance not only enhances the curb appeal of your home but is also essential for fostering healthy growth. Neglecting your hedges can lead to structural issues, entanglements, and the growth of unwanted pests.

Why you should trim

Maintenance trimming is all about tidying up your hedges. It’s mostly done for aesthetic purposes - a neatly trimmed hedge looks better than one that’s unruly and overgrown. But there are also health benefits for the plant - excessive overgrowth can cause harm to hedges. It reduces the amount of light and moisture that gets through, which can stunt their growth. Trimming helps to get rid of dead or excess branches and leaves, which can invite pests and diseases. On top of that, it also directs the hedge’s energy and nutrients to the healthy parts of the bush, which helps it to grow back thicker and stronger.

What you'll need

A reasonably well-equipped shed or garage should have everything you need to trim your hedges. A pair of handheld hedge shears should have you covered for smaller shrubbery, but larger hedges might require something more powerful to speed up the job a bit. An electric hedge trimmer lets you trim a lot faster when you’ve got a lot of cutting to do, but at the sacrifice of some precision. A handy pair of secateurs are ideal for cutting small or medium branches and let you work more closely. If you have really tall hedges that require you to work at height, you’ll need a sturdy stepladder to reach the top.

Formal v informal hedges

The way you trim your plant will likely depend on the type of hedge. A formal hedge is one that’s neatly trimmed all over to create a smooth, shaped appearance with straight or curved edges. Informal hedges, on the other hand, are a bit more relaxed and natural. Therefore, the difference in trimming is significant. Informal hedges require pruning much like other shrubs, just so that misplaced shoots are removed and it’s kept tidy and cut back to its required size. Formal hedges should be tapered slightly on both sides so that the base is wider than the top. That way, light can still reach the bottom.

Things to consider

When trimming hedges at this time of year, it’s important to check that there are no birds nesting. If you think birds are active in your hedge, stop work straight away and leave it until after the end of August if need be. If you have conifer hedges, don’t trim them after August, as this can lead to bare patches developing. Evergreen hedges shouldn’t be cut when they’re dry - give them a water the evening before you trim them.  If you’re cutting straight lines, it’s better to use a guide as opposed to doing it by eye.

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