Hedge Trimming Basics: Easy Maintenance
New hedges should be pruned from an early stage to establish a shape and prevent leggy, unhealthy growth. The amount you prune back will depend on the type of hedge.
Start shaping the hedge as soon as practical - a formal hedge whether new or established, should be tapered so that it is wider at the bottom than the top, ensuring the lower part will get the sunlight it needs for healthy growth.
Once the hedge is established, regular maintenance will ensure it keeps healthy and neat. If you're experienced you can cut a hedge by eye, but it can be a good idea to set your lines with lengths of string taut between canes. If a formal hedge has got out of shape, cutting it back severely is often the only remedy. But bear in mind that this method is not suitable for all species. Conifers, in particular, react badly if you cut into old wood.
Hedge cutting seasons and the frequency of cutting depends on the species, but as a rule of thumb, formal evergreens like box or privet should be trimmed around two to three times a year during the growing season (around May to September); and some fast-growing conifers like leylandii may need trimming more frequently to keep them in control. Do not cut conifers after the end of August. Stocky deciduous hedges like beech or hornbeam should be cut in late August, and if major renovation is required, do that in late February whilst the plant is still dormant.
Always remember, it is important not to cut too early in the year so as to avoid disturbing nesting birds.