How do I maintain my hedge?

Through spring and summer is a great time to trim up hedges. The warm weather means they are in a rapid growth stage, though if they are hungry or don’t have enough water there will be little new foliage to trim. Ensure you feed your hedge especially at the start of spring when plants sap is on the move, and water well after feeding to avoid leaf burn.

If your hedge is a newly planted one, then you are in a good position to ensure a well shaped plant right at the beginning. The best hedge will be dense right to the ground, and the way to do this is to focus on trimming up the thicker stems rather than the just shaping the soft new leafy growth. Cutting into harder growth encourages shrubs to push out new stems, and your aim is to encourage the plant into doing this low down to create plenty of cover all over the plant eventually. So look to the future when trimming your new plants, rather than just this season.

It’s a good idea to mulch around your hedge plants to increase the organic matter in the soil. Hedge plants are chosen for their fast growth habits, and this can take a lot out of your soil. A good gardener will seek to replace this organic matter on a regular basis, as it not only feeds the soil microbes, but will also grab onto any fertilizer and act as a slow release mechanism to the plants. There are many different mulches, from hay, sugar cane mulch, wood chips and compost. Things like woodchips need nitrogen as they break down, so it is a good idea to supplement your mulch with a fertilizer with a high nitrogen balance.

If you have any gaps autumn is a perfect time to propagate hedge plants from semi-hardwood cuttings. Simply select shoot tips that have fully formed leaves right to the ends (in other words the tips are no longer actively growing and excessively succulent). Trim the cuttings to about 5-10 long and remove the bottom two thirds of the leaves and insert several cuttings into a well-drained potting mix in a sheltered position out of direct sunlight. For maximum success you can dip the bottoms of the cuttings into rooting hormones available from your local garden centre. When roots appear from the drainage holes it is time to plant directly into place.