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How to Trim a Hedgerow Correctly

Updated on August 17, 2017
Jan Saints profile image

Januaris is a miniature garden designer and author of landscaping guides. He loves to write about garden flowers, ponds, lawn, and hedges.

Pruning promotes a healthy growth in plants. It encourages growth of new branches, something which makes living fences bushier and denser. If combined with trimming, it can make your hedgerow quite neat and attractive.

cutting shrubs
cutting shrubs | Source

Hedgerow pruning must be done correctly and at the right time, if good results are expected. You must know why, when and how to prune your trees or shrubs, and of course, the tools and equipment to use.

You can hire a trimming service provider to take care of your trees or shrubs, but if you have the equipment, some tree management knowledge and time, I can encourage you to do it on your own. Read on to find out how to trim your hedgerow correctly.

In Brief, How to Prune a Hedgerow Correctly

1. Decide on when to prune

2. Decide on how much to cut

3. Find the right tools & equipment

4. Find & wear safety gear

5. Make the right cuts

6. Remove damaged parts first

7. Clean equipment after removing diseased branches

8. Remove other unwanted parts

9. Protect stems & major branches

10. Dress the wounds

11. Clean off the cut materials

Decide on When to Prune - Know the Best Time of the Year to Do Hedgerow Trimming

First, dead or diseased branches can be removed at any time. Dead branches can harbor pests, so you should not allow them to remain in your fence. On the other hand, diseased branches can spread the disease, so you need to cut and dispose them when you detect the infection.

Second, the best time for pruning is in late winter or early spring. Plants lose less sap during these periods, which means that they don't suffer a lot from the cuts. Also, there are fewer pests and diseases in these dormant seasons, and so transmissions are minimal.

Third, the plant species can determine the pruning time. Some shrubs and trees do better when cut in late spring to early summer. So know your plant species in order to determine the best time to cut them.

Decide on How Much to Prune

It is advisable to trim your hedgerow as minimal as possible. This is because the practice can cause serious damage to the fencing plants. You should leave at least two-thirds of your fence untouched.

Consider the age and species of your plants to decide on how much to trim. Young plants and the evergreens require little cutting. On the other hand, older and overgrown shrubs & trees (except the evergreens) respond well to intensive cutting.

Regardless of how much you've decided to trim, ensure you remove these parts: root & base trunk suckers, sagging limbs, acute-angled secondary stems, water sprouts, broken, diseased or dead wood, closely-growing or running secondary stems and limps that are competing with the main stems.

Find the Right Hedgerow Pruning Tools and Equipment

Consider the size of the branches and the height of the fence to choose the right trimming equipment. With the right equipment, you will be able to make correct cuts.

For branches with 0.75 inches of diameter and below, use hand pruners. The bypass hand pruner is the most recommended. This tool doesn’t crush plant tissues like the anvil hand one.

If the branches have diameters in this range, 0.75-1.5 inches, use loppers. This equipment has longer blades suitable for pruning taller hedges. And like the hand pruners, there are two types of loppers: anvil and bypass. Use the latter for the best results.

If the branches are 3 inches or larger, it is recommended to use pruning saws. The saws can cut thick secondary stems, including the ones located at greater heights. For taller fences, attach the saw to an extension to enable you cut the top parts.

When it comes to choosing the right trimming tool, there is one tool that you shouldn't fail to have for your hedges, and the tool is no other than the pruning shear. Personally, I have settled on the Fiskars Bypass Shear which is the most efficient, versatile, light and user-friendly trimming tool out there. I keep my green fence looking smart, attractive and lively with the help of this tool.

If you are confused on which pruner to buy for your hedges, I recommend that you try this one provided by Fiskers - a leading manufacturer of gardening and landscaping tools. The tool itself comes with top-notch features, including fully-hardened, precision-ground steel blade (stays sharp even on heavy use), low friction coating (improves gliding, prevents gumming up & resists rust) and maximum cutting capacity.

Find and Wear Safety Gear From the Start to the End

Since safety is the number one thing to consider in any task, you must wear protective clothing to prevent injuries and accidents when pruning your hedgerow. Some plants are thorny while others release harmful sap, and the equipment itself can cut you. So there is a need to prune safely.

Wear an apron or a long sleeve shirt to protect your thorax and abdomen. Wear also gloves and safety shoes to protect your hands and feet respectively. In addition, ensure your head and eyes are safe by wearing a helmet and safety goggles respectively.

Make the Right Cuts for Great Results

Hedgerow prunning experts recommend making healthy cuts when trimming trees or shrubs. You should avoid flush cuts or leaving stubs as these cutting practices cause large wounds.

Consider the location of buds every time you want to trim a major branch. It is wise to make a cut 0.25 inches above a bud. Do not cut branches halfway between buds as this can cause withering and drying of your plants.

The best cut is achieved in three steps. The first step is to make a shallow cut on a suitable part of a branch, preferably near the stem collar. Stem collar is the part that connects a branch to a stem. The second step is to make another cut opposite the initial one, but slightly up or down the branch. The trimmed part should fall off after this cut. Finally, cut the remaining stub ensuring there is no peeling of the bark.

Remove Damaged Branches First

Start your pruning process by removing the dead or diseased branches. And as mentioned earlier, you don’t have to wait until late winter or early spring to remove the damaged parts .

Dead wood is usually brittle: it can break easily with little force peeling off the bark of the healthy parts. You can prevent this problem by using a sharp shear, lopper or pruning saw.

Clean Your Equipment After Removing Diseased Branches

If you are sure of having trimmed diseased branches, you should clean your equipment before continuing with the healthy ones. Pruning equipment is well known to pass diseases and pests from one plant to another, so control the harmful organisms by thoroughly cleaning it.

You can use isopropyl alcohol or bleach to clean your equipment. Put the disinfectant in a large container and dip the equipment in the solution for at least five minutes. This will kill the harmful microorganisms.

Remove Other Unwanted Branches

Unwanted branches here refer to narrow & weak crotches, crossing branches, co-dominant branches and even water sprouts & suckers. These parts don’t contribute anything to your green fence, so you need to remove them.

thin branches
thin branches | Source

The weak and narrow secondary stems create weak areas in your green barrier, and can be removed through a process called crown thinning. The crossing branches cause rubbing which encourages plant damage while the co-dominant branches tend to grow quicker than the other secondary stems spoiling the fence shape. The suckers and water sprouts grow waywardly and compete for resources with the main plants.

The Art of Creative Pruning: Inventive Ideas for Training and Shaping Trees and Shrubs
The Art of Creative Pruning: Inventive Ideas for Training and Shaping Trees and Shrubs

Want to shape your hedgerow like a pro? Well, just make use of this book! This is the guide that helps me to trim, shape and train my trees, shrubs and hedges. It basically contains all the information that you need to fine-tune your garden, yard and fencing plants. I have never been disappointed by its useful information.

If you are looking for more specific or finer hedge trimming ideas, look no further than this book. When you read it through, you will definitely acquire some newer ideas to refurbish your hedgerow. It is a guide that you should have if you are serious with creating a living fence that is protective and appealing at the same time.


Protect Stems and Major Branches- Useful Tip

You should strive to minimize tree damage when pruning your hedgerow. Your cuts should not extend to the stems or the major branches. Always cut the major branches a few inches from the stem collar.

Position your cutting equipment in a way that doesn’t damage the new, desirable secondary stems. Your trees and shrubs will heal effectively if you don’t damage these parts.

Dress the Wounds

This is not as complicated as you might think. You can select only the major wounds and apply a suitable dressing. The best dressing inhibits the cut branches from growing back and keeps disease-carrying insects away.

You can use an insecticidal dressing to treat all the wounds at once. You need only to spray the chemical solution over your trimmed trees or shrubs. This form of dressing keeps insects away during the healing period.

Clean Off the Pruned Materials to See the Final Shape

There will be a lot of branches and leaves lying everywhere around and on your hedgerow after you are done with pruning. You need to clean them off to allow for quick recovery of your plants. Your living fence will look neat from the word go, if you do not leave the cut materials around it.

You can dispose the leaves and soft branches in your garden where they can improve soil fertility. You should burn or bury any plant materials with pests or diseases. And you can use the larger secondary stems as firewood.

final shape- example
final shape- example | Source

In Conclusion...

That’s all about how to prune your hedgerow. As you have read, the process doesn’t require any special skills. And you don’t have to hire hedge trimming services: you can do it on your own. So, let your green fence grow healthily, neatly & attractively by pruning and trimming it in the proper way.


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  • Lonsdale D. "Principles of Tree Hazard Assessment and Management.". Forestry Commission, Great Britain. (1999).
  • University of Delaware (UD). "Pruning Woody Plants.". University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. College of Agriculture & Natural Resources. (Rev 2010).
  • Kidd R. "Tips on Tree and Shrub Pruning.". Michigan State University (MSU) Extension. (2012).
  • Croxton P.J., Franssen W., Myhill D.G., Sparks T.H. "The Restoration of Neglected Hedges: A Comparison of Management Treatments.". Biological Conservation. (2004).

How can you describe the results of your last hedgerow pruning?

See results

If the results were below average, do you think now you can trim your living fence better?

See results

© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores


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